There are so many aspects of breastfeeding that I had no idea about. No one in my family had really done it and it seemed a little taboo so I didn’t really go around asking questions but I wish I had! I did a little research on breast feeding while I was pregnant but I honestly thought it was just one of those natural things that both the baby and I would know how to do right away. Well it’s not! I felt awkward holding the baby and trying to hold my boob the right way for him to latch on and the pain I experienced? Well I figured that was normal so I didn’t really complain much but after a while it was pretty unbearable.
I bottle fed my oldest and nursed my youngest 2 kids. Nursing my 1st kid was an experience I will never forget! It is certainly a beautiful experience like everyone says but it was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever done including giving birth. At least when I was in labor there was a light at the end of the tunnel, I knew the pain would subside eventually but with nursing it was 6 weeks straight of me in tears and bleeding. Don’t let that scare you out of nursing though, the second round of breast feeding with my daughter was a breeze. She was there to eat and that was it! There was no hanging out on the boob for an hour or 2 like with my son, hardly any pain or bleeding and rarely any cluster feeding.
When I first started breastfeeding it was extremely challenging. I went to the lactation consultant multiple times and she was so sweet but I just could not get the hang of getting him latched on. I would sit there and cry and had to hold on to something while he was trying to latch. We were literally to the point that I started crying when he did because I knew it was going to be miserable. To add to the discomfort he wanted to stay on for 1-2 hours each time because he would fall asleep or he needed that comfort and would scream if I took him off before he was ready. He was definitely my needy child!
I googled so many blogs, websites, and nursing aids and tried pretty much everything I could find but they didn’t help a whole lot. The worst part was that I didn’t find many people saying more than “hold him like this and it will be better”. I felt like I was doing something really wrong.
I mean I saw all of these photos of women nursing their babies with huge smiles on their faces and here I was trying to put off feeding my baby because it was horrendous.
It took about 6 weeks and I honestly don’t know what it was that changed. Maybe I finally figured out the correct way to latch him or his mouth finally got a little bigger and made latching easier. All I know is I never would have made it through that month and a half without my husband. We are complete opposites in so many ways but he was seriously my biggest cheerleader. He would get up in the middle of the night and sit with me and rub my back while I was crying and trying to feed the baby or would just tell me what a good job I was doing and we would get through it.
I wanted to give up so badly but I kept and I am so grateful that I did.
Please remember, every baby and situation is different. It is totally ok if you just don’t want to nurse or if you are finding it too painful there is no shame in switching to formula! Some women literally cannot produce milk or struggle to make enough. You have to do what you feel is best for yourself and the baby. There’s no point in making yourself and the baby miserable just because you think this is mandatory. It makes a big difference if you have a support system at home but if you don’t there are so many resources and breast feeding communities available. The hospital was a great resource for me since they promoted nursing so much and the consultants there were phenomenal.
Another one of those things that I had no clue about was a “letdown”. I did not ever come across much of anything pertaining to my milk coming in other than the baby gets colostrum, which is full of antibodies and high protein, from you until your milk comes in. So when it happened the day I got out of the hospital I wasn’t sure what on earth was happening! I was taken by surprise by the almost painful sensation. We had been home from the hospital for a couple hours and had a couple of people over to visit with the baby and in the middle of a conversation it happened. All of a sudden I got this weird and really uncomfortable full feeling in my boobs! It is the strangest feeling but you will get used it. It will happen every time you have a “letdown” which is where your milk comes in really fast usually after the baby has been latched on for as little as 30 seconds to as long as 20 minutes. There’s no specific timeline for a letdown so be patient! Also just a note, in the beginning you will randomly have letdowns when you are not nursing. It can happen just because you see or are holding your baby and even when you hear a baby cry, whether it’s yours or not. The body is an amazing but weird thing!
I don’t remember having what the call after birth labor with my first kid but I vividly remember with my 2nd. After delivery the uterus continues to contract for days after birth and you feel more pain with it after the more kids you have. I really don’t like taking medication so I refused pain meds after delivery but I soon regretted not letting them give me Tylenol. I was in a tremendous amount of pain the second night in the hospital after having Grayson, from those after labor pains and breastfeeding made the contractions stronger. With my daughter, our 3rd child, I took meds right away and honestly the pain wasn’t bad at all.
I wish there had been more out there regarding nursing a few years ago when I was struggling so much, so I wanted to compile a list of the ideas and advise that I found really useful and I hope that someone else will find is helpful. Some of these are products that I have provided a link for, if you click on the word in bold print it will take you to Amazon so you can see the product itself. There’s no obligation to purchase these items but I find it really hard to look for a product in the store if I have no clue what it looks like!
This is a supplement that is suppose to help increase your milk supply. I don’t recommend taking this until you’re at least a week or more postpartum. You have to give your milk time to come in and it will regulate itself according to what the baby needs. The more the baby nurses that usually means that they are trying to get you to produce more milk. Eating Oatmeal made with real oats helps increase the milk supply along with adding flaxseed to other things that you eat. There are lots of recipes for yummy lactation cookies too. Up until last year I could not find Fenugreek hardly anywhere! I would go to the vitamin store and about half the time they were out of it and it was like $20 for a bottle of 100. Now all of a sudden I see lactation supplements everywhere. Target has a section dedicated to it and A Meijer store near you they do B1G1 a lot with their vitamins and supplements.
This is a supplement to help prevent clogged milk ducts. A clogged milk duct is really painful and can quickly lead to mastitis which is an infection in the breast and will make you extremely sick if not treated quickly. A couple of warning signs of a clogged duct is a painful hard spot on your breast, milk doesn’t seem to coming out, and I personally would sometime feel like a string was being pulled when the baby was sucking if I had a plugged duct. Some signs of mastitis are a red spot that is hot to the touch on your breast and or flu like symptoms. If you have any of these signs or are not sure then it is a good idea to see a doctor soon as possible! Don’t feel like you are overreacting or being silly either, it is extremely difficult to take care of that sweet baby if you are down for the count. When I had my 3rd baby (2nd that I nursed) I packed the lecithin in my hospital bag and took it just a few hours after having our daughter. I could always tell when I didn’t take it like I was suppose to. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any medications or herbal supplements as they can interfere with medications you are currently on.
Plugged Milk Duct
If you do end up getting a plugged duct and more than likely you probably will experience one at some point, there are ways to get them out. rubbing the spot that is plugged while nursing or pumping is the best way that I found to get rid of a plug. Standing in a hot shower with the water spraying on you or with a hot wet rag on your chest helps soften things up a bit before you use a pump or feed the baby.
Drink tons of water!!!!
You will not produce enough milk to satisfy the baby and keep yourself going if you are not drinking enough water. I found it really helpful to buy a couple of the 32oz water bottles like this Pogo water bottle and I would drink 4 throughout the day. I know it seems like a lot and you will have to use the restroom A LOT! But it will benefit you so much. I made sure I had one of these filled right before I went to bed at night and would drink it every time I got up to feed the baby.
I found this herbal tea at the grocery store and pretty much everywhere carries it. It is priced around $4-$5 but I did notice a difference when I did or didn’t drink it. I tried to drink 1-2 cups a day with organic raw honey in it but if you can drink tea without sweeteners good for you!!! I just can’t do it I am not a tea drinker at all, bring on the coffee! If you click the link above it will take you to the exact one that I used, Target runs sales on them a lot for $3.99 or so but I wish I had known more about Amazon when I was nursing it would have saved me a lot of running. It’s nice to buy in bulk sometimes if you know you like the product and especially when you have little ones at home so you can make less trips to the store.
Call your insurance company and ask if they cover breast pumps! There may be a few hoops to jump through but so many insurance companies cover it and it is worth it to save a $200-$300! Over 3 years ago when I was pregnant with our second child our insurance wouldn’t cover it but last year during my last pregnancy I called and they covered it 100%. I had to get a prescription from my OB and find a medical supply provider to order it from. It took some time and several phone calls but we finally got it. It is a good idea to start pumping as soon as you can regardless of whether you will be going back to work or not. You never know what can happen and if you are not able to breastfeed for a week the sudden change in milk will give the baby a really upset stomach. I ended up on medication for a week with both of my kids that wasn’t safe for me to nurse and I had to take them it. Of course I ran out of milk within a day and it was a disaster till I could start nursing again.
Have nutritious snacks and meals
This is a lot easier said than done since you do not want to get up and cook meals or grocery shop in those newborn days. I did a lot of freezer cooking before I had my babies in order to prepare for not wanting to cook. There are tons of different meal recipes out there, some of them I did not like at all but others were pretty good! I could manage to thaw a bag of food and put it in the crock pot. If you are fortunate enough to have family or friends that offer to bring you a meal or come over and cook for you take them up on it immediately and thank your lucky stars!!! There are also meal delivery services available such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, these send you the ingredients and recipes and they are usually really easy to make. I find them to be pretty expensive though but if you are going to be eating out a ton instead of buying groceries it will probably be more cost effective and much healthier. Stock up on some healthy snacks to have on hand at home. I really liked the Nature Valley Protein Bars I would keep these and a bottle of water by my rocker to have during these middle of the night feedings.
This is a really hard one! It is so next to impossible to get any sleep much less getting anything else done when you are taking care of a baby 24/7. I made it a priority to take a nap when my baby was sleeping during the first week at home. I was fortunate enough that Mike was able to take a week off of work to help me out at home. The week that he was home I would feed the baby and give a quick diaper change then put them in the swing in the living room and go laydown in our room. My babies were noisy sleepers and Emmy was really restless so I wouldn’t be able to sleep if they were in there with me during the day. I also made myself go to bed at night instead of staying up enjoy the quiet or watch a show. I needed as much sleep as I could get!
A nursing pillow
This was my saving grace with my 2nd baby. They can be kind of pricy but they are totally worth it! I tried the Boppy Pillow which was ok but I loved the My Breastfriend Pillow that my lactation consultant had in her office. I bought the green one because that’s all I could find at the store but it looks like there are tons of options available now. It will help with positioning of the baby during feedings and your arm won’t be so tiredThey can rest more on the pillow and it will hold them up pretty high in front of you. This particular pillow comes with a buckle in the back so it doesn’t slip down and has pockets to hold snacks, the remote, your phone, or a bottle of water. How handy is that!!!
A nursing cover
In my opinion it is optional. Hear me out before you scoff! With the 1st baby that I nursed I was so intimidated that I would go hide in another room or in the car so a Nursing Cover was essential. However, when my daughter was born I was chasing a toddler so running to the car or hiding somewhere wasn’t always an option. Honestly, I found a cover was more work than it was worth at that point as well. She didn’t want to be covered so I was fighting with her to keep it over her head and it was hot sometimes if we were outside. I finally got to the point that I would sit somewhere, I tried to be out of the way, and I always wore tank tops under whatever shirt I had on so I had something covering my stomach and my top shirt could easily cover the rest of me. I was able to be pretty discreet about it and I fortunately never had anyone say anything to me about it.
Nursing bras and tanks
Theses are a must since you just unsnap it in the front and your ready to feed a hungry baby! I bought inexpensive ones from Target or Walmart and they did the job just fine but there are really pretty ones from Jessica Simpson’s line. I would recommend buying a size or 2 bigger than what you currently wear because once your milk comes in you are going to be bigger and really uncomfortable in a bra that no longer fits. Once your milk regulates you’ll want a size a closer to what you typically wear.
You will need a big box of Nursing Pads ! They fit right in your bra and are not noticeable! You will go through a lot of these in those first several months so stash some in your purse and diaper bag! Make sure you wear them to bed as well because the baby will eventually sleep for longer periods and your body will not be prepared for that and you will have extra laundry to do in the morning. Trust me, I made this mistake several times!
This is a cream that promotes healing and really helps with the discomfort that sometimes comes from nursing. I personally liked this one from Medela the best because it came out really soft and applied easily but there other brands available. A lot of time you can get samples from the hospital, doctor’s office, or lactation consultant.
Recorded shows or Netflix
This is not a necessity but I liked having shows recorded or being able to watch shows on Netflix to pass the time when I was up at 2 am trying to stay awake while feeding the baby. There are lots of option since you can normally find a free 30 day trial of Netflix! I would suggest reading a book but I could never multitask that well trying to hold a book and a baby.
Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for some of the companies that I recommend. I may receive a commission if you purchase an item through my links at no additional cost to you : ) I don’t recommend anything that I don’t use my self!
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