Breastfeeding "BASICS" You Need to Know
For anyone who has breastfed their baby, they can probably tell you a gazillion things about their experience. What they did that worked, what didn’t work, how challenging it was for them, or maybe how easy it was. There’s figuring out whether the baby is latching well, how and when to pump, how long can it stay out on the counter, what kind of nursing bra to buy? So.Many.Things.
And I’m here to tell you that a lot of it gets learned as you go. I know. Something that’s so important such as your baby’s sustenance, gets learned as you go!?! Seems crazy.
Kind of like not knowing how to drive a car, and then getting behind the wheel of a ~3000 pound machine for the first time and “learning as you go.” And we all learned to drive, right? It may have taken some of us longer than others, but in most cases, with time, effort, patience and support, we did it.
The same goes for breastfeeding.
So how can you prepare for what lies ahead, if a lot of it is learned as you go?
Here are my "BASICS" of breastfeeding for you, designed to give you some things to start thinking about now to help you prepare and get yourself in the right mindset about. Because honestly, that’s half the battle.
B - Be Patient
Your milk (not colostrum - that's there when baby’s born) will come in usually within 2-5 days. Many women stress out about this - which b t dubs does not help the flow of the hormones needed to help “drop” your milk. So, breathe, be patient and trust your body. Also, be patient with learning “how” to breastfeed. It can take time, for both you and your baby. They have an innate desire to suck, but they’ve never met your breast before! It’s a new relationship, so give it time.
A - Affirm Your Awesomeness
Oooh girl, if ever there were a time to bring some positive affirmations to the party, this is it. Remember how I said above that stressing can hinder the hormones needed to help produce and drop your milk? Reminding yourself what a powerhouse, badass, milk-making Mama you are is completely appropriate and well deserved. Be gentle and kind with yourself during the first few days, weeks (and beyond).
Reminding yourself what a powerhouse, badass, milk-making Mama you are is completely appropriate and well deserved.
S - Soothe Your Breasts
Again, this is all new. It’s new to your nipples to have a tiny little human sucking on them for what may feel like 24/7 at first. They may be a little sore at first. There are many nipple creams out there that can help soothe your milk-providers; be sure they are safe for baby as well. (MotherLove and EarthMama have incredible options).
It’s important to remember that soreness is normal, but lasting pain and/or cracking or bleeding can be an indication of an improper latch or something else. Be sure to utilize the hospital, birth center or lactation counselors to ensure you’re supported. Your breasts are also going to grow quite a bit at first when your milk comes in. Research treatments for engorged breasts and have some of those on standby if and when it happens.
I - Information and Intuition
As an educator, this is my jam. I believe that information is such an incredible way to feel empowered and to set ourselves up for as much success as possible. Now, I will say that we live in a world of “over-information” so know yourself and what serves you and your overall well-being. Here are some options to gather information and support:
Online groups - If online groups feel good to you, go for it. If they overwhelm the crap out of you and make you doubt yourself with too much information - don’t do it.
Find local in person breastfeeding support groups, and check them out even before you have your baby. Get to know the vibe of the group, the leader, etc and be sure that it aligns with you and your goals or beliefs. It’s less than helpful to go to a group when you need some help or support, get there and totally not vibe with the person leading it.
Find a couple certified lactation counselors and give them a call to learn about them and their views. Feel their vibe out too. Many make home visits which can be a game changer if you’re experiencing some challenges. Have them at the ready for support if needed.
Information on the 3 L’s - Latch, Logistics and Leaking - these are a few of the most common questions or things that Mamas wonder about.
Learn some of the characteristics of a proper Latch - and then let it go until you and your baby have met
Logistics - i.e. positions - cross-cradle, football hold, leaning back, cradle, side-lying - do some research on these - and then - let it go until you have a babe in your arms to practice with
Leaking - many women leak a lot in those first weeks as the milk flows, so think about things such as reusable or disposable breast pads, comfortable tank tops, having lots of burp cloths and blankets available. Ask your besties or other Mamas what they used.
The most important thing to balance information with, is your intuition. Sometimes, we can lose site of our intuition when we overwhelm ourselves with info. Learning to trust your intuition as a Mama and when it comes to your babe will happen over time. Make room for your intuition by finding time to sit, be with yourself and your baby, to step away from Google and just be.
C - Comfort
It’s time to settle in, get comfy and find your happy place. Especially in those first few days at home and in those first few weeks. Know where you think you’d like to hang out in your home. Is your bedroom your zen and comfy space? Is it the baby’s room? Maybe a comfy spot on the couch in the living room or all of the above?
I recommend that you think about those places, and then supply them with the things you’ll need such as snacks, water, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, etc. Buy some packs of nuts, trail mix, crackers, etc and some water bottles and have them loaded up ready for you at each of these spots. They'll be a game changer for when you’re posted up with a newborn nugget on your boob and those hunger and thirst pangs hit you!
If you can, give yourself permission to stay in those first few weeks to get some of the logistics down that I mentioned up above. This is such a tender and sweet time and sometimes going out can cause stress and overwhelm when in these early stages of breastfeeding (and Momming).
S - Serenity Now.....
No, but really....
Learning how to soothe ourselves, find peace in our minds and our hearts definitely helps breastfeeding. It helps us become calmer, which helps our babies be calmer and it helps the hormone drop (hello again oxytocin) to let the milkies flow.
Intentional and conscious breathing (just like I teach in my birth classes) can help to calm your nervous system and bring you back to a grounded place. Also, rocking in a rocking chair helps to release endorphins in the brain which can improve mood and reduce stress and pain! So, sit in that rocking chair with your sweet babe (or by yourself) and bring yourself back to serenity...now.
PS - the work you do now to help yourself find serenity, will help you down the road in parenting and for all that lies ahead.
One last thing to add to the BASICS of breastfeeding
And that is, be kind to yourself and give yourself A LOT of grace, Mama. This is such a tender time, and how you treat yourself during this time will stay with you; it will help to build the foundation of your relationship to yourself as Mama. It’s one of the most important gifts you can give yourself.
I hope that these “BASICS” help you feel more prepared and provide a foundation for you to begin your breastfeeding experience from. A wise woman once said to me, “just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s easy.” Find support, believe in yourself, laugh (a LOT) and give yourself permission to enjoy the journey as much as you can.
Tell me in the comments what resonated for you! And if you’re already a breastfeeding Mama, tell us some of the things you did in those first few weeks to support yourself and your breastfeeding relationship.