Since it's frequently on my mind (roughly every two hours), I thought I'd share some usable breastfeeding tips for any new moms who might be worried or aren't sure about it. These are ideas that I personally found useful in my varied nursing endeavors. They might be helpful to you, too.
Don't feel sheepish about this. You need the hands-on experience and an expert to provide feedback. These ladies view boobs the way we laypeople view knee-caps, so don't worry what they'll think of your naked chest. They won't care. They want to help you because if they don't, you could very well end up with cracked, bleeding bloody nipples like I did with my first baby. Yowch!
If after one visit you're still feeling unsure, request the LC to make a second visit. Even a third. Take advantage of the "boob guru" in the early days, especially if you give birth in a hospital where they're on staff. And don't feel incompetent if your kid doesn't latch on perfectly the second he exits your womb. That's fantasy. In reality, breastfeeding is tricky to master. It's OK to get help!
2. Buy some good nursing bras. Your third trimester breasts are about the same size they'll be once your milk supply evens out a few weeks after your baby's birth, so go out and get a few bras before you deliver (I recommend wearing one during delivery if you insist on wearing a bra). Yes, a few. Chances are, even if you wear pads, you are going to leak during the day or night. Or maybe your child will barf at your breast and completely soak your bra (and shirt and anything else you're wearing). At that point, you'll want to change bras rather than walk around smelling like spoiled milk. I'm just guessing.
And buy them new! Don't wear your sister's stretched-out hand-me-downs. One reason women give up on nursing is they feel frumpy and embarrassed by their new body. Do yourself a favor and get a comfortable, well-fitting, supportive bra that will hold your "girls" up even at their fullest. This bra is going to be your new "breast" friend -- make it count!
3. Use lanolin on your nipples. Even if your latch is miraculously perfect straight out the gate, your delicate nips will have to get used to being sucked on by a small human all hours of the day and night. During those early weeks of your baby's life, apply a lanolin cream like Lansinoh onto your nipples in between feedings. The lanolin provides somewhat of a barrier to prevent chapping. Plus, it's very soothing. If you went a while with a bad latch and your nipples are extra-painful (cracked, bleeding or blistered), ask your doctor for a prescription for Newman's nipple cream. That stuff is gold, I tell you. GOLD.
And don't throw your lanolin out once you've got the latch thing down -- babies tend to nurse like crazy during growth spurts, so you might find yourself wanting to use it down the road, too. And I hear it makes an excellent lip balm, though I've not tried it to verify.
4. Don't worry about gadgets and gizmos. If you've been to Babies R Us, you know there's a whole market for breastfeeding accessories. You could seriously go bankrupt trying to obtain all the equipment you supposedly NEED to be a milk-making success story: breastfeeding necklaces, nipple shields, cooling gel pads, supportive pillows and a whole bunch of pumps. Here's a hint -- aside from nursing pads and lanolin, you probably won't need any of it. Don't let all the gadgets overwhelm you.You can always make a trip to the store later if you want to try something out.
A word on pumps, though: I highly recommend the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump if you ever feel like bottle-feeding occasionally or want to have some expressed milk on hand for a rainy day. It's the best hand-pump out there. It's quick, efficient and doesn't hurt. I got one with my first baby and it still works like a charm.
5. When it comes to covering (or not), do what's comfortable for you. So much of the anxiety surrounding breastfeeding is wrapped up in the covering controversy, and it needn't be that way. Some people will tell you it's most appropriate to cover up and may even suggest a specific "hooter-hider" for the endeavor. Others will tell you not to worry what people think and to just whip those puppies out wherever, whenever. The fact of the matter is unless you live in West Virginia or Idaho (what the heck, people?!), you are protected by law to nurse uncovered in public. So do whatever YOU are comfortable with.
For me personally, it depends on various circumstances. I've used a hooter-hider, blanket, burp cloth and nothing. I've nursed poolside, in the chapel at church, at the mall, in restaurants, indoors, outdoors ... you name it. But I've also retreated to a private area just as often as I've nursed publicly. I rely on my baby's temperament, the top I'm wearing, how I'm feeling, the people I'm with, etc. to make my decision. Bottom line: I do what's comfortable for me and my baby and no one else, and so should you! Don't feel badly if you choose to cover or even pump a bottle for when you're out. But also don't feel bad to nurse uncovered. Babies gotta eat and mamas gotta do what's right for them, too.
6. Breast is best ... except when it isn't. I do believe human breastmilk is the most nutritious thing to feed a human baby. However, sometimes things don't go according to plan and it's not actually the best option for a particular mother and baby. Medical conditions, depression, latch issues, dietary issues -- heck, it doesn't matter the reason! If breastfeeding isn't working out for you and your little one, there is another option: formula-feeding. And it's wonderful! My firstborn was raised on formula and she's very advanced, healthy and tall for her age. She's had maybe one ear infection in her whole life and zero cavities. I quite enjoyed bottle-feeding her, and so did Dill and a host of other family members. You can still bond with your baby and you can still feel close to them when they eat. They won't grow up to be sickly, malnourished serial killers if they take a bottle.
Now, I'm NOT suggesting you give up nursing at the first painful latch or extreme vomiting episode. These things happen. Give breastfeeding a fair chance, but don't sacrifice your well-being or your baby's for breastfeeding. Listen to your body and your heart to know if you've reached your limit. And if it's just not working out, don't be scared of bottle-feeding. It's great; I promise.
Nevertheless, I wish you the "breast" of luck in all your nursing adventures!
What other advice would YOU give to new mamas who want to breastfeed?