Breastfeeding is the number one concern many of my doula clients have as they prepare for their birth. Many people are worried that they won’t be able to breastfeed. Many have heard horror stories or were given advice to prepare to breastfeed. I personally was told to scrub my nipples with a rough washcloth to “toughen” them up. Please don’t do this! You don’t need to damage yourself or stress ahead of time about breastfeeding. Less than 5% of people are truly unable to breastfeed due to various medical reasons so the odds are in your favor. Here are some tips to help you as you prepare or continue on your breastfeeding journey.
Tip #1: My biggest suggestion is to have the number to at least two different lactation specialists prior to giving birth. When you’re in the newborn haze is not the time to research this or try and get yourself and your new baby out of the house to make it to your local breastfeeding support group. Ask your care provider, pediatrician, doula, friends, yoga teacher, etc for recommendations. You may be surprised by how many people you know who have sought professional help for breastfeeding. While you’re at it, you may wish to also find your nearest support group for when you’re feeling ready to get out of the house with your new little one. These groups may help ease any anxiety you have about nursing since many will have a scale that allows you to weigh your baby pre feed and then again after a feed so you have an idea of how much milk they are taking in. Breastfeeding is this huge leap of faith since you can’t measure your output that is going directly into your baby like you could with a bottle For some parents, the scale is reassuring that baby is taking in enough milk. You may also make some new parent friends as well!
Tip #2: Bras and nursing pads. For some reason, with all of my knowledge and vast circle of lactating friends I was totally surprised by how much I would leak. All. Of. The. Time. For the first several days while I had colostrum only, the leaking was fine and minimal but once my mature milk came in, the flood gates opened! This isn’t the case for everyone but be prepared ahead of time in case it is true for you. I recommend having several nursing friendly sleep bras and nursing pads to prevent leaks showing through your clothing. These ones from Milkies are soft and reusable. I prefer a reusable pad for nighttime since they are a bit thicker, softer and cuts down on the refuse of parenthood. For the daytime I like a disposable pad since I sometimes need to replace them as they get full and I’m on the go. My number one go to for a sleep bra is this one from Kindred Bravely. I love it. It’s soft, comfortable and inexpensive. They also make really great nursing bras for the daytime as well.
Tip #3: Make the leaking work for you. While you nurse on one side, the non nursing breast will also experience a let down (release of milk). I used the Milk Saver at first and then the Haakaa to collect this milk. I was surprised by how much I was able to start storing away for my stash without actually pumping! I was even able to donate some of my excess milk that I wasn’t going to use.
Tip #4: Pumping. There are so many questions about pumping and the answers will vary person to person, depending on your needs. This is a great time to ask that lactation person who’s number you got back when you were pregnant for help formulating a plan tailored to you. Many people want to begin pumping to build their stash for returning to work. When you pump, how often and how long will vary person to person. If you have some time before returning to work you may wish to wait to start pumping and stashing. Your little one needs less milk that you probably think they do and if you’ve been using the Milk Savers or Haakaa you may have enough to get you through an unexpected need for milk for a feed or two.
Tip #5: Seek help before things get rough. If you’re experiencing pain, cracked nipples, sloped nipples, blisters, bleeding or baby is having issues with weight please seek immediate help from a professional. Google will not help you the way a trained lactation professional will. You may need guidance on latching, positioning or baby may even have a lip and/or tongue tie. Only a professional can accurately help you with some of these. And since you did your research already, they are just a phone call or email away. I always check in with my clients in the first days after baby and want to get to them before things are too intense.
Remember, you and your baby are both learning. They are adapting to life outside the womb and to use their body in a new way. You’re healing from birth and to this new life of sleeping in hour and a half increments (if you’re lucky!! For many it’s shorter than that!). Have patience and take things feed by feed, day by day. It’s a natural process that takes time and practice to get the hang of but you will get there.
*Disclosure: I was provided product by the brands mentioned in exchange for a post. I only share products that I have personally used and loved.