Baby Talk: New Mamas Guide to Breastfeeding
Being a new mom is an amazing experience that comes with a unique set of challenges, and one of the first is breastfeeding your newborn if that’s the feeding choice your family makes. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby and provide essential nutrients for their growth and development. However, it can be challenging for you, especially for first-time moms. How do you figure out the best way to make it work while dealing with the changes your body goes through? This guide aims to provide essential advice for the first-time moms struggling with the realities of breastfeeding.
Don't Hesitate to Ask for Advice
As the mom of a newborn, your body has just gone through huge changes, both emotionally and physically. It's common to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to breastfeed, if you're doing it right, or if baby is getting enough milk. Don't hesitate to ask for help from a lactation specialist or your preferred health provider as many times as you feel like you need. We know it seems like another thing to add to your crazy new schedule, but they are there to help at this time in your life. Veteran moms, breastfeeding support groups, and maternity centers are other great resources. They can provide you with everything from tips and tricks to emotional support. This is also something you can research before delivery, which can take the pressure off you later.
Invest In Comfortable Nursing Bras
You will be wearing these A LOT post-partum (maybe you already are towards the end of your pregnancy!) so it’s worth shopping around for YOUR best fit. Comfort and support without underwire is your goal, easy access will be baby’s. For you, you want your preferred coverage and a band that fits snugly, but doesn’t dig in. Your milk ducts extend from your nipples out as far as your armpits, this is why it’s suggested to avoid underwire as it can put pressure on these ducts and lead to inflammation or even mastitis. Also, your rib cage may have expanded in pregnancy, so your pre-baby bra size may only be a guideline. Finally, look at different ‘access’ strategies, one-hand clips or stretchy bralettes are two of the main ones. And if pumping is going to be part of your feeding journey, there’s also dual pumping/breastfeeding styles that are available.
Be Prepared (with Breast Pads, Nipple Cream and Nipple Shields)
Breast pads might not seem like a big deal, but they are crucial for moms when your milk supply is regulating in the first three months of babies life (or the fourth trimester as it’s sometimes called). They sit in your bra and help soak up any excess milk that leaks from your breasts. It's ideal to have enough breast pads to ensure you are not caught off guard if this becomes the reality for you. So have a few on hand when baby is born so your prepared. Bonus, have someI extra ones on hand in your diaper bag, so you can switch them out if you’re out of the house.
Nipple cream is the unsung hero of the beginning breastfeeding journeys, we recommend having one in your hospital bag when the time comes! Remember both you and your baby are learning a new skill and your newborns’ latch isn’t going to be perfect at first. Having a nipple cream on hand from the beginning can keep your skin in better shape which helps keep you more comfortable.
Nipple shields are another aid for breastfeeding moms, typically for temporary use when baby has serious trouble latching or for inverted nipples. You may not need these; it's suggested to only begin using nipple shields under the guidance of your healthcare professional, but they are a great tool for new moms in the wild ride of breastfeeding.
Learn to Relax and Find Your Comfort Spot
Breastfeeding can be an emotional experience, and it's common for new moms to feel anxious or stressed when it comes to breastfeeding. Finding a comfortable place to nurse your baby is important, especially when you're in public. Try and find a quiet and comfy spot in your home or workplace where you can relax and bond with your baby. If you're out in public, don’t be afraid to ask for a private space to breastfeed. Once you have your space, watch out for any involuntary shoulder hunching or straining of your muscles during feeding.
Maintain a Balanced Diet and Stay Hydrated
What you eat is what baby will drink, so maintaining a well-balanced, nutritious diet is key when you're breastfeeding. You need to consume enough calories to fuel your body and supply your baby with the necessary nutrients. Try not to think about the baby weight dropping off, it’s a bit of a myth, but frame it as nourishing your baby. Drinking enough water is also crucial for milk production. Staying hydrated will help maintain your milk supply throughout the day and night.
Breastfeeding is a journey, and it's important to remember that everyone's experience is different. Being a new mom comes with its challenges, but it's important to approach breastfeeding with an open mind and a positive attitude. You and baby are learning a completely new skill together, be gentle with yourself. With patience and practice, breastfeeding can be an enjoyable and bonding experience for both you and your baby. And if it’s not, that’s totally ok too. You love your baby and bonding is a personal experience unique to every family and parent. Remember, don't hesitate to ask for help, and prioritize your well-being as well as your baby's. You got this, mama!