Breastfeeding Tips from a First-time Mom

I’ve been meaning to write a post about breastfeeding for sometime now, and what better time than during World Breastfeeding Week?! I’ve listed some tips I picked up along the course of nursing my first baby below. But, first – I’ll share where my head was at before my daughter was born.

Years ago, I was immature and close-minded. And, the thought of a child suckling milk out of me was just gross. Silly, right? So, when I suggested to my husband that we attend the hospital’s breastfeeding class about half-way through my pregnancy, he was surprised but very happy about that decision. I had grown up, and was being an adult about things… finally!

Bonding time. Motherhood Maternity has great nursing bras, tanks, etc.

Bonding time. Motherhood Maternity has great nursing bras, tanks, etc.

I was formula-fed, and I turned out just fine (depending on who you ask – ha). But, I had a few reasons driving my decision to breastfeed.

  1. I read a lot of articles about breastfeeding being the healthier choice for baby and a great bonding experience.
  2. The milk’s there anyway – I might as well use it.
  3. Formula is expensive.
  4. I wanted to have huge boobs for a while (just kidding).

Whether #1 is true or not (I’m not a doctor), it was a big driving force for me. And, numbers 2, 3 and 4 are definitely true. So, we attended the breastfeeding class, and I was determined to attempt breastfeeding. But, I mentally prepared early on that I wasn’t going to beat myself up if it didn’t work out.

Miss Charlotte came and to our relief, she latched right on in the hospital, and thus began our journey at the breast. However, she wasn’t gaining weight well enough right away. Due to my postpartum hormones, I was just convinced she was going to waste away to nothing. So, when she was about a week old, I tearfully called the hospital’s free lactation consultants to schedule an appointment.

They helped me with positioning, told me she probably didn’t like the way I was pushing her head into my boob (seems like common sense, but it’s not) and they filled me with confidence. She gained 2.5 ounces after feeding on each side, so my worries subsided and I felt that my baby might just make it after all.

I breastfed Charlotte for 10 months. I pumped three times a day at work for about six of those months. My nipples were never sore, never bled and I really only ever became engorged and in pain when I started to wean her off. The point of all of this is that FOR ME, breastfeeding worked. It doesn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But, here are my tips for the breastfeeding mama based on my one set of boobies, my one easy baby and my non-medical opinions.

The first time I used my pump - once you do it once, it's a breeze. P.S. Your doctor can write you prescription for a pump in the hospital and because of the ACA, your insurance will cover the entire cost.

The first time I used my pump – once you do it once, it’s a breeze. P.S. Your doctor can write you a prescription for a pump in the hospital and because of the ACA, your insurance will cover the entire cost.

Charlotte's first bottle at about five weeks old.

Charlotte’s first bottle at about five weeks old.

1) Try to nurse right away in the hospital. This moment was so scary for me. It’s uncharted territory. Will it hurt? Will it work? There’s a lot of uncertainty. But, the sooner you start, the more time you and baby have to figure it out.
2) Ask your doctor/nurse about giving the baby a pacifier in the first two weeks. We did not give Charlotte one until she was two weeks old, as to not cause nipple confusion. I don’t know if this helped at all or it’s just a myth, but it’s a “rule” we followed.
3) See a lactation consultant in the hospital (for sure) and once you’re home (optional). Maybe you catch on quicker than I did, but I really appreciated the coaching provided for free both in the hospital and in the clinic afterward. It is a natural thing, but pointers never hurt. And, don’t be embarrassed – this is what they do for a living!
4) Get a Boppy or some sort of nursing pillow. I used a Boppy and it was great for me. This created comfort for both Charlotte and myself.
5) Be mindful of your posture. I was hunching over so much to nurse, that my back was really struggling. The lactation consultant told me to use a footstool or something fairly low to the ground to put my feet on. This helped me not to hunch so much. And, the Boppy helps as well.
6) Take care of those tatas. I used Medela lanolin cream after every nursing session for at least the first couple of months. I never really had sore or cracked nipples, so maybe that’s why – not sure:)
7) Be positive. If you’re having a hard time, stick with it and seek help. But, if you don’t get enough milk, or you get mastisis, or if you just decide it’s not for you, don’t beat yourself up. Formula will keep that little baby going, too!
8) Don’t be afraid of the pump. If you HAVE to pump, or if you just want to pump to have extra milk on hand, know that (at least for me) – it doesn’t hurt and it’s pretty easy to do. I was overwhelmed the first time I saw all the pieces to my pump, but if you read the directions and give yourself time, it’s pretty simple.
9) Do what you’re comfortable with. If you’re comfortable whipping your boobies out all over town, go for it. If you’re like me, they were only fully out for a handful of people – the hubs, close female family members and other mamas. The rest of the time, I used a lightweight nursing cover from Target. It has a plastic rim that allows you to see the baby and to get air flow. I didn’t have an issue nursing around other people, I just prefered to have a little bit of privacy. It’s up to you – do what’s comfortable for you.

Nursing Charlotte under her cover over my lunch one day. Boobies!

Nursing Charlotte under her cover over my lunch one day. Luuuunch!

10) Enjoy every minute of it! It sounds silly, but you’ll miss nursing your little one once it’s all over. There’s nothing quite like seeing your baby “milk-wasted” as I like to call it – passed out in your lap after a good feeding. For Charlotte and myself, it was a great bonding experience.

Happy baby and mommy. I almost always fed Charlotte as naked as I could get her. If she was too warm, she would just sleep.

Happy baby and mommy. I almost always fed Charlotte as naked as I could get her. If she was too warm, she would just sleep.

And, as tip #10.5 – your spouse, partner, etc. can be involved too, even if you’re straight nursing. My husband was great at bringing me water and snacks while I was nursing, or bringing we a wet washcloth to use on Charlotte’s neck to wake her up in the early months. Let them be useful:)

Good luck! What you’re doing is something mamas have been doing since the beginning of time. To me, it’s not a political statement or something weird. It’s merely the best way for ME to feed and bond with my baby. If it’s for you as well, I wish you the best:) Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

And, this is a sign that your baby is full:)

And, this is a sign that your baby is full:)

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