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Breastfeeding is something we all think about as a mom-to-be when our due date approaches. For some, breastfeeding comes naturally, but for others, it can bring on anxiety, fear, breastfeeding challenges and a whole lot of questions. Will I make enough milk? Will my baby latch? Will it hurt? Breastfeeding is one of those things you just don’t know how it will go until you try. The first time may be the most challenging, but give it a chance because it can get better in time. Having breastfed my three children in some type of way, I’ve dealt with latch issues, oversupply and mastitis, to name a few. Here’s what new moms should know about breastfeeding.
While each breastfeeding relationship is different, I can tell you that despite the challenges I’ve faced, I wouldn’t have been able to continue without support. Christine Ridings, a Lactation Consultant and Pediatric R.N. of Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego suggests surrounding yourself with family, friends or a Lactation Support Group. Ridings advises confiding in encouraging mamas who have trekked the breastfeeding trail before you. They are a treasure of knowledge and support as you journey through this new adventure. Taking a prenatal breastfeeding class can also start your breastfeeding journey on a strong path, according to Ridings.
A Good Latch
What new moms should know about breastfeeding is that it’s all about the latch when it comes to breastfeeding successfully. Ridings recommends putting baby to breast early and often to establish a good latch. It might be painful in the beginning but it will pass once you get the hang of things. If challenges arise, Ridings suggests seeking help from a Lactation Consultant early on. I found using a nipple shield helped with many of the breastfeeding challenges I faced, including latching. With my first-born, we never established a good latch, so he was fed breast milk using a bottle. I wish I had known to find support from a Lactation Consultant as a new mom experiencing latch issues.
Pumping is Breastfeeding Too
Using a breast pump is another form of breastfeeding that does not require a baby to latch. I was a nursing and pumping mom and at one point an exclusively pumping mom. Pumping isn’t always necessary, but it is helpful for moms who are going back to work or have a hard time nursing. A lactation consultant can help you be fitted for the proper flange size to ensure enough breast milk is being expressed without experiencing pain.
Take Care of Yourself
Giving birth is hard work in itself. Add breastfeeding into the mix and it may feel like there is no time to take care of yourself. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat extra calories to replenish what is used to make that liquid gold. I always drank a pint of water at each feeding or pump session and always had snack bars handy. I loved using nursing pads to manage my leakage and warm compresses for clogs, pain and engorgement. Nipple cream is amazing for dry or cracked nipples but coconut oil works great too. Having these items in a basket or creating a breastfeeding station nearby comes in handy.
Try Not to Worry
Most moms wonder if their baby is getting enough milk. Adequate diaper output and weight gain after the initial weight loss after birth are good indicators. Cluster feeding or wanting to breastfeed more often than usual is normal. Just because a baby wants to breastfeed often does not mean they are starving. Sometimes the reason points to a growth spurt or needing extra comfort. Although it is exhausting, babies will eventually eat less often and fall into some sort of schedule on their own. Try not to stress about breastfeeding on a schedule, especially during the first few months when feedings can be unpredictable.
What new moms should know about breastfeeding is that if supplementing with formula or donor breast milk is necessary, it does not mean you’ve failed. Remember that a fed and loved baby is all that matters in the end. I can tell you that by the time they are in preschool, you cannot tell the breastfed kids apart from the formula fed ones. One thing I’ve learned is that moms do not owe anyone an explanation for the way they choose to feed your baby or if breastfeeding doesn’t work out.
Breastfeeding Can be Amazing
Those moments when your baby is nursing and gazes into your eyes are truly amazing. With a giant smile and milk running down their face, it makes it all worth it. Those moments made me happy I never gave up on a bad day. Breastfeeding is a relationship that can be really great once you find what works. Setting goals helped me get through the tough days. I’d reward myself for reaching my breastfeeding goals, even if it was making it through one more day of breastfeeding.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
There can be highs and lows of breastfeeding. At a time when we experience mom shaming and mom guilt, remember that any amount of breastfeeding is good and not breastfeeding at all isn’t bad either. Don’t compare yourself to others, as each experience is truly different. Breastfeeding is a full time job, but so is being a mom. Whichever way a baby is fed, motherhood is still the hardest yet most rewarding job there is.