- Family and Parenting
How to Survive the First Month of Breastfeeding
Key breastfeeding tips can help stop breastfeeding pain and ensure continued breastfeeding
Initially breastfeeding is hard, tiring and yes painful. There is a learning curve and your experience with each baby can be quite different. The right tools combined with a little (okay a lot of) dedication transforms breastfeeding into a rewarding experience that has so many benefits for both mother and baby. These breastfeeding tips and tricks can make pain. They key is managing and reducing breastfeeding pain to make it through the first month and usually from that all the difference in your breastfeeding survival by teaching you how to reduce and eventually eliminate breastfeeding point forward it's easy sailing. You and your baby will then reap the health and bonding rewards that come from breastfeeding.
Know what to expect from breastfeeding
My breastfeeding experience
I was shocked that after my first baby was born I was transformed within hours into a brunette version of Pamela Anderson. Okay, I admit I looked nothing like Pamela Anderson except for "two" main attributes. Not only were they huge but they were exceptionally painful. I asked the nurse if she knew what was wrong. While feeling me up she asked if I had implants and I informed her I did not. She said, "Maybe your milk came in but if it did you'd know." My reply, "I guess I know..." I had heard that milk took days to come in however mine was a matter of hours. I had also heard it was painful and they'd enlarge but I didn't really have a concept of how extreme it would be. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different too. That first baby took to breastfeeding immediately with no problems. I had several friends attending breastfeeding supports groups at the hospital because of their ongoing issues and how painful it was for them. After the first couple days of painful enlargement my daughter and I were pros. I felt quite smug indeed. Then I had baby #2...
With my second child I didn't enlarge or experience the initial pain that I had with my first. I thought things were going to go even better. However I quickly learned this was not to be the case. My son arrived almost 10lbs and he was a pure eating machine. The problem? He didn't latch correctly from day one as my daughter had. I was brought to reality that I had been exeptionally lucky with my first and that the ease with which our feeding had come was something for my daughter to feel proud of, not me. It took just a couple days of latching incorrectly (which I wasn't even aware of at the time) to create such sore nipples that turned my next several months into hell. I would dread feeding time and would almost cry out in pain when he'd latch on. Once the milk starts flowing the pain wasn't as bad but it still wasn't fun. I wanted to give up desperately but just couldn't because I understood how important it was for both of us, and I remembered how great it could be from my previous experience.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding
It's important to keep in mind why you're going through the initial pain
Benefits to Baby:
1. A strengthened immune system due to antibodies passed through the milk
2. Decreased risk of childhood cancer under the age of 15
3. As adults breastfed babies have an average lower blood pressure and less heart related problems
4. Likelier to have a healthy adult body weight- Formula fed babies have a 20-30% increased chance of becoming obese
5. Less cavaties, ear infections, and less likely to develop allergies
6. A higher average IQ is awarded to breastfed babies
7. Bonding to Mother and a sense of security
Benefits to Mom:
1. Weight loss! This is a big one (pun intended)
2. It's a natural birth control
3. Decreased risk of certain cancers
4. Save money on formula- an average of $800 per year
5. Convenience- you don't have to worry about running out of formula on the go or making a bottle in the middle of the night
6. A decreased risk of Osteoporosis later in life
7. Bonding, Bonding, Bonding
This is not an all encompasing list. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding!
How to get past the initial pain of breastfeeding
The hard part of breastfeeding is if baby starts with a poor latch it can negatively affect your experience for weeks and even months to come, even after the problem is fixed. The reason is that your nipples become so sore and beat up that even a feeding done the proper way continues to agitate and inflame them. They need time to catch up and heal without further aggravation. My son's latch problem was corrected relatively quickly. However they were so sore I was literally bleeding for about 6 weeks after we were doing things correctly. The two things that helped my nipples get the break they needed and fully recover so that I could enjoy breastfeeding were:
Soothies Gel Pads for breastfeeding pain relief
The hard part of breastfeeding is if you start with a poor latch it can negatively affect your experience for weeks and even months to come, even after the problem is fixed. The reason is that your nipples become so sore and beat up that even a feeding done the proper way continues to agitate and inflame them. They need time to catch up and heal without further aggravation. My son's latch problem was corrected relatively quickly. However they were so sore I was literally bleeding for about 6 weeks after we were doing things correctly. The two things that helped my nipples get the break they needed and fully recover so that I could enjoy breastfeeding were:
I held off at purchasing these pads because I thought they were a little expensive since you can only use each set for a couple of days. In retrospect I wish I hadn't been so cheap. These single-handedly were the most important tool I used in healing myself so that breastfeeding was no longer painful. They really work!
This Nipple Cream also works really well. Though it's a small jar you only need a small amount. It would probably last 4 or 5 pregnancies! While I thought the gel pads were the most helpful, this is a way to finish the healing that the pads start without spending an arm and a leg. A much cheaper option going forward once you get the initial relief you need.
Signs your breastfeeding pain might be something more serious
It is normal for breastfeeding to be painful at first however sometimes the pain can be a sign that something else is going on and the pain won't subside until the underlying problem is fixed.
Mastitis is a breast infection caused by bacteria. In addition to pain in the breast symptoms include: breast lump or enlargement on one side, itching, fever, flu-like symptoms, nipple discharge, redness or warmth on the breast and swollen armpit lymph nodes. If you have any of these symptoms see your doctor. An antibiotic can clear up the condition quickly and get you on the road to a pain-free breastfeeding experience. Applying moist heat to the area for 20 minutes, 4 times per day can also help relieve the pain.
Thrush is a yeast infection that spreads from baby's mouth to your nipples. Symptoms include: Red, itchy nipples that might be cracked. They can have a burning sensation and shooting pains during or after a breastfeeding session. It can often be accompanied by a vaginal yeast infection. If you have symptoms of thrush contact your doctor. They can prescribe you an anti-fungal cream or medicine that will get rid of the thrush quickly. Baby's thrush will need to be treated as well and they will also need to see their pediatrician.
When breastfeeding become fun
Once you get past the painful stage however long or short, breastfeeding is truly wonderful experience. It will bond you to your baby like nothing else and you'll miss it once it's done. However it continues to be a big commitment since you're the only one who can feed the baby. At some point after the baby is born you're probably going to want to start getting out for a date with the husband or getting together with the girls. If you don't pump then you really can't be away from the baby more than an hour or two particularly at the beginning. Pumping was the best decision I ever made in my breastfeeding life because it gave me freedom. I still mainly breastfed but if I needed or wanted to leave I was able. Plus it helps build up your supply which is a common problem. Breast milk to me was liquid gold! Another benefit is if you'd ever like to have a cocktail after going 9 months without a drink, pumping enables you to do that as well. Just make sure you have some milk saved up before you drink and then pump and dump the first feeding after you drink.
The best of pumping - Maximize the amount of milk you can save for your baby
A good breast pump is crucial to ensure that you don't have to be tied to baby night and day. If you pump others will be able to help with nighttime feedings and relieve you sometimes during the day. A high powered pump will be able to extract more milk and do it more quickly.
This is the pump that the hospital initially loaned me and it worked great. It does get more milk than the Ameda because it's higher powered and hospital grade. Ongoing the Ameda was fine for me but if price were no object I'd recommend this unit.
Bottles for pumping and storing breastmilk
If you decide to pump you'll need bottles. There are so many on the market it's hard to choose. You may want to test a couple out and see what your baby prefers. These are the kind that both of my babies loved and though I tried several others, these are the only ones I really used. They are BPA free and made in the USA.
Originally I was shocked how much time I spent breastfeeding particularly for the first couple of months. It seems like if my children weren't sleeping they were connected to me. This makes having a nice pillow essential so that both you and baby are comfortable since you're going to be spending a lot of time this way! You do not want the strain on your arms constantly. Using a pillow can enable you to watch tv or read a good book while baby happily feeds away.
One of the less pleasant surprises of breastfeeding was to find out that you can't control your let-down, at least not at the beginning. Just hearing someone else's baby crying, or really nothing at all can make your milk come. It will be pretty apparent to the world as it quickly soaks through your shirt and is very embarrassing. You must have nursing pads at least at the beginning! I started with reusable ones because I thought it would be a cheaper way to go but ended up switching to these disposable ones. When they get wet it's not really something that you want to have to carry around with you. I like being able to throw the disposables away while on the go. I also think they're more comfortable and these didn't bulge under my clothes like my resuable ones did.
Good luck on your breastfeeding journey
I hope you love every second of your breastfeeding experience and that's it's as special for you as it has been for me. I truly hope that my tips and product recommendations can make your journey easier. I've listed a couple items below that were absolutely must have products for me. They made the transition to my new life much more seamless. Whether you're in the comfort of your own home or out and about these will help increase relaxation, reduce embarrassment and overall just make your life better.
Breastfeeding Cover Up
Even if you plan on doing a combination breast and bottle it's not recommended that you introduce a bottle for 6-8 weeks to avoid nipple confusion. Unless you don't plan on leaving the house during that time it's crucial to have a nice breastfeeding cover up because you're bound to need to feed at all sorts of awkward places. It's important to have one that breathes so baby (and you) don't overheat. I really like the ones that have a wire top so that you can still see baby without having to constantly pull the material away. It also helps with ventilation. They come in a variety of really pretty colors and patterns and some have extra features like pockets.
Which is best? Breast vs Bottle
Do you believe breastfeeding or bottle feeding is right for you?
© 2012 Melissa Miotke