Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms

Are you thinking about breastfeeding your new baby?  Are you worried, confused by everything you hear, or just plain overwhelmed?  You are NOT alone.  If you have read any of my blog so far or just read the title I am pregnant with my fourth boy.  I have breast fed for various lengths of time with all three of my boys and have learned through each one new things.  Through the years my family has grown and so has my extended family and each time the subject of breastfeeding comes up.  Inevitably there are questions, concerns, fears, and general confusion.  So I decided to come up with the 5 best tips for breastfeeding.  These aren't all from me, some are from friends and other blogs but I have tried all of them and wish I had known them when I first had Conner.

1.  You are BOTH new at this.

     If there is one thing I can tell all new moms starting to breastfeed it's reminding them that you are a new mom learning to do things as you go and guess what?!  So is your newborn.  He or she is new to everything and learning as he goes along.  He will get frustrated as will you because lets face it, the first few weeks everything is a huge learning curve.  Can you imagine what he is feeling going from a safe warm place right next to your heart to a big LOUD world being shoved into clothes, diapers and having to learn to eat instead of being fed through his umbilical cord?  The world scares me now as an almost 31 year old so I can't imagine what a huge shift it would be from comfy and safe to hearing, seeing, experiencing new things as a newborn.  Good thing we don't remember any of that!

2.  The first two weeks you will nurse way more than you think you should and wonder if baby is          getting enough.

     At first you will nurse and only colostrum will come out.  This is a magical yellowish substance that is full of nutrients for your baby.  It is often referred to as liquid gold and you don't produce much because your baby's stomach is the size of a shooter marble in the first 1 to 2 days and day 3 to 4 just the size of a ping pong ball.  After 4 to 8 days your milk will come in and then WATCH OUT!  Your breasts will possibly become engorged, this is normal and will even out once your body has adjusted to how much your baby needs.  Your body is an amazing thing, it takes a couple days to a week for it to adjust but he will get as much as he needs.  In the meantime you will nurse often and your baby may seem hungry but keep going.  He is getting enough but is also having to get use to actually feeding himself since for 9 long months he was being fed through the umbilical cord and not having to do any work for it which brings me to my third point.

3.  Your baby is getting enough milk.

     Most new moms are concerned with how much your baby is getting and if it's enough.  I cannot say this enough to new moms, he is getting enough.  There are a few exceptions to this and I want to be very clear with what they are; If your milk never comes in and if you are not exclusively breastfeeding.

My mom tried with me and her milk never came in.  Her pediatrician urged her to nurse and then give me a bottle but that is exhausting and she decided to skip it and just switch to formula.  When she had my brothers she skipped breastfeeding and went straight to a bottle.  This does NOT mean you are a failure, please do not put that kind of pressure on yourselves.  We have enough as moms to feel bad about without adding one more thing.  It happens and you never know if it will happen to you but if your baby is not making wet diapers and not gaining weight these will be your signs to call your pediatrician or lactation nurse but you will be at the pediatrician a lot in the first few months so don't be afraid to ask your pediatrician or stop in and talk to the lactation nurse.

If you stop on demand feeding and start supplementing with formula you are telling your body that your baby doesn't need as much so it will stop making enough which is counter productive and will be very frustrating for you and your baby if you want to move back to exclusively breastfeeding.  The easiest way to solve this is to skip the formula and nurse on demand.  Your baby will eat more frequently until your body starts making more milk.

If you are on demand feeding are still worried about if you are feeding your baby enough keep in mind that the first day your baby's stomach is the size of a shooter marble, day 3 a ping pong ball, and by day 10 a large egg.  The first two weeks your body and  your baby are adjusting to each other as well as the world so keep that in mind and relax as much as you can.

4.  Find someone to talk to about breastfeeding.

     This was the biggest downfall for me with my first.  I didn't really have anyone to talk to.  I was 24 and most of my friends were just getting married and didn't have kids yet.  I was on a very helpful board of mommies who were all due in May that I became really close to and we are still friends today but I was afraid to ask at the time.  I felt pressured by family and friends to stop because it was too hard and giving him a bottle was easier.  I can't do things over again but if I could I wish I had asked or found someone to support me through it.  If you are like me learn from my experience and don't be afraid to ask questions!  Find someone, anyone that will help you through the first through weeks and months because you will need it.  Maybe not for actual questions but sometimes we just need to vent, cry, or be heard.  With my second I was determined to breastfeed for a year but when Noah was 2 months old he developed yeast which is a beast to get rid of and its painful for both you and your baby.  My nipples were cracked and bleeding which made nursing torture.  My wonderful OB nurse at the time helped me through and encouraged me not to stop but to take steps to heal my nipples and keep going.  I did and made it to 6 months when we both got it again for the 3rd time and I cried to my husband who supported my desire to quit.  It may have not been the best option but I was tired, in pain and had made it 6 months and felt accomplished.  With Evan I made it 1 year!  I was so proud and didn't have one issue which was a huge blessing but he was my third!  I had gone through 2 previous children learning new things with each.

My family will call me the breastfeeding guru but that didn't happen over night.  It was hard!  I made mistakes as will you but I kept going and found support in the breastfeeding community.  Which brings me to my last tip.

5.  Ignore the negativity surrounding breastfeeding.

     This may not be the most important tip for everyone but it's one that I want everyone to know.  There is so much negativity surrounding breastfeeding and what is truly sad is that the US is the only country where breastfeeding is the exception and not the norm.  We have slowly drawn away from it as being the natural way to feed your baby because formula is so easy.  Formula brings its own sets of problems and is manufactured.  Why would you not want to at least try and give your baby exactly what your body was made to feed him?  Your baby benefits from any amount of breast milk so even if you have to go back to work and can only nurse for 6 weeks, go for it!  Pumps are expensive and can be difficult but it is still possible to pump.

If you have seen anything in the news recently there is a big issue on breastfeeding in public.  This infuriates me!  Why is it unacceptable to breastfeed in public but Sports Illustrated can sell magazines with women in barely there bathing suits or half naked women all over TV.  Now don't get me wrong I use a cover while in public.  I just don't want my breasts hanging out for everyone to see and they are not small by any means but even covered up there is a stigma.  Oh and let us not forget that if you choose to breastfeed for longer than a year you will be considered a hippy or just plain odd.  Again this isn't for everyone, I choose to stop at a year but more power to you for breastfeeding longer!  Oh and NO nursing your child for longer than a year will not mentally scar them no matter what society tells you.

Just like most things in life you can Google and find numerous articles supporting your decision to stop or not to breastfeed but just because someone else says jumping off a bridge was safe for them doesn't mean it's going to be safe for you.

With all of that said, you can only do what's right for you and your baby.  My beautiful niece is on formula and my lovely SIL tried to nurse but her milk never came in and she made the choice to stop.  I don't blame her nor do I look down on her for it.  Just like it bothers me when people are negative about breastfeeding moms it also bothers me when people are negative to formula feeding moms, we are all moms and shouldn't judge each other for making our own choices about how we raise our kids.  As moms we all learn that the best we can do is try our best and find what works for us and our kids.  What's right for me or works for one mom and baby may not work for another.  I raise my children much differently than a mom that lives down the street but that doesn't make one person right or wrong.

So for all new moms, remember there is a learning curve for you and baby.  Get help and don't be afraid to ask questions!  Relax and don't be too hard on yourself no matter what choice you choose.  All babies are different but one thing remains the same; they each need love, clothing, and food.  You are going to be a wonderful mom and if you are worried if you will be a good mom then remember that if you are worried now then you are going to be a great mom!  I am on number 4 and I still worry if I am doing things right.