Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Practical breastfeeding tips for new moms.

Breastfeeding and I have a complicated history. I only breastfed my first child for five weeks due to some digestion issues she had, but I nursed my second until he self-weaned at 11 months. Now I'm on my third baby. Breastfeeding is a lot like riding a bike and it all came back to me once Clara was born. We haven't had any major hiccups this time around, and I generally enjoy it.

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.

1. Request a lactation consultant's visit shortly after birth. This is of utmost importance. Breastfeeding is supposed to be a very natural activity, but if it's done incorrectly, it can be extremely painful and discouraging. An LC will show you how to properly latch your baby onto your breast and then observe you as you do it, correcting you as needed.

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?


  1. Good good tips!! My two cents: read a good breastfeeding book in your last trimester of pregnancy. I read Martha and William Sears' "The Breastfeeding Book" and it was great. It talked about all sorts of different holds and preventative measures you can take to be in the best state of mind before your baby even gets here. I found once I read that, the breastfeeding class at the hospital was redundant and not nearly as helpful as the book.

    1. True, true! When you're armed with information, any subject seems less intimidating.

  2. I love you. In other news: nash latched 3 times yesterday and nursed for 5 minutes each time! He could be a year old by the time he figures out nursing. Ah!

  3. Great tips! I'm nursing my 3rd baby right now and it's amazing how different each kid has been. I used the Lansinoh for a bit, but when I ran out I couldn't find it at the store so I tried this avocado/lanolin ointment by NUK that has been fabulous! My advice for new moms (or moms with older kids and new babies!) is always, in any situation, to figure out what works for them and everyone else can suck it. :)

  4. I just want to say that I love that you have experienced all aspects if this: bottle, breast, c section, vBAC, epidural-free birth, and on. And I like how you support all options. Excellent.

  5. Great article! I still remember my OBGYN telling me that I shouldn't breast feed you and your twin brother and that if I did "I would feel like I cow feeding eight hours a day." I was young and dumb and decided not to breast feed you two. And even though you both were born two months early, I later found out I could have frozen the breast milk and used it for a later day. Why didn't anyone tell me I had options? I guess the baby formula I fed you made you SUPER SMART and Dad was able to help in the feedings quite often!

    1. Haha yep, I'm a genius so obviously you did something right, Mom!

  6. Great article, Jenna! I wish I would have gotten a Lactation consultant right away each time. Even though I have nursed all 3 kids, I didn't recognize that Roman had latched on wrong :( I could have saved myself a lot of pain with this tip! One thing I felt like really helped me a LOT was my beloved Boppy. I am actually buying another one to keep just in my living room. It's a necessary item for me, and I'm tired of having to run upstairs to get the one and only Boppy from Roman's room.

  7. They just came out with new nursing garments and they are amazing 1000x better and improved. Check them out! They're only a week old so I keep trying to spread the word.


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