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How to Survive the First Month of Breastfeeding

Updated on September 8, 2014

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:

Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads for Breastfeeding Mothers, 2 Count, Instant Cooling Pain Relief for Nursing Mothers, Reusable and Vegan
Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads for Breastfeeding Mothers, 2 Count, Instant Cooling Pain Relief for Nursing Mothers, Reusable and Vegan

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!

 

Nipple Cream

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:

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:

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.

Medela Lactina Select Hospital Grade Breast Pump - BPA Free #016SC01
Medela Lactina Select Hospital Grade Breast Pump - BPA Free #016SC01

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.

Breastfeeding Pillows

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.

Nursing Pads

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?

See results

© 2012 Melissa Miotke

Do you have a recommendation on how to reduce breastfeeding pain?

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    • Andromachi profile image

      Andromachi 3 years ago

      I am a mother of two beautiful children. I have breastfed my daughter for 17 months and my son I am now breastfeeding for 14 months and up. I really enjoy it and my children love it. I don't intend to stop any time soon. I will let my son decide when he is ready.When I was breasfeeding my daughter I wish I were more informed about it, because if I knew the things I learnt now with my son through mom's forums and sites I would have breasfed her more. So for all the new moms out there who wish to breasfeed thank you for sharing your experiences here. keep up helping us.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      Such a beautiful mom and baby! You know, I've never had the pleasure of breastfeeding other than when I was a baby and enjoyed my mom. This is an important topic and you have done it justice.

    • profile image

      KidsCancers 4 years ago

      Pregnant women who eat regular servings of cruciferous vegetables like Sauerkraut, cabbage, and broccoli may help improve their child's resistance to cancer, a recent study says.

    • mommyplus3kids profile image

      mommyplus3kids 4 years ago

      I love breastfeeding my kids. It is a beautiful experience.

    • profile image

      cancerdefect 4 years ago

      Sometimes conventional methods are always better as they have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Breastfeeding is just so, so wonderful. I loved doing it, although I certainly had my challenges. I felt the oxytocin rush like a legal high - "la, la, all is well with the world." I am almost a breastfeeding consultant, so I have many scientific things I could say about it - but really - I just think it is great!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Breastfeeding is just so, so wonderful. I loved doing it, although I certainly had my challenges. I felt the oxytocin rush like a legal high - "la, la, all is well with the world." I am almost a breastfeeding consultant, so I have many scientific things I could say about it - but really - I just think it is great!

    • hankhill lm profile image

      hankhill lm 4 years ago

      very helpful and informative. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I guess I was pretty lucky with getting tips from the nurses at the hospital and my Mom with the first baby and was just remembering that first pain but it was worth it because about the third try it came naturally and no problems with the other two that I can recall. I did switch to a combination of breast feeding and bottle with all 3. This article would have been such good preparation, I hope many benefit from it! :)

    • profile image

      fifinn 4 years ago

      breastfeeding will form a proximity between mother and child. Do with love, so everything becomes feels lighter.

    • TACTCI LM profile image

      TACTCI LM 4 years ago

      My wife always had a hard time in the first month, so great advice for those new to breastfeeding, every child seems different, and a little perseverance and patience goes a long way!

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      One tip I was given was to allow hot water to stream down my back in the shower, to help engorged breasts start to flow. The baby couldn't nurse, either, to make matters worse! My advice comes from the '80s, though, so maybe there is a better solution today. Being engorged was one of the worst things imaginable! I am sure your advice here will help many new moms! SquidAngel blessed! B : )

    • Mamabyrd profile image

      Mamabyrd 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens I hope it encourages other mommies to breast feed

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I often think that first time mommys are not educated anough about this topic. When I was pregnant I thought that I know it all, but then when I really started brestfeading I had so many questions. Luckily organisation La Leche League International is doing really great job here in Slovenia, so I often asked their advisors for help and they did a great job. It is great that you decided to write a lens about this topic, since there is never enough information about breastfeeding. Wonderful lens, a big squidlike.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
      Author

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @Rosetta Slone: Thank you for sharing your experience. Good for you that you're still going after all the troubles and thrush. Breastfeeding can throw any number of curve balls... But you're right, pushing through the pain of breastfeeding is so worth it in the end!

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 5 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      Oh, the picture of the Lactina brings back memories! My baby wouldn't latch for the first 3 weeks, so I pumped and fed him by syringe a million times a day and night. It was hard, and once he finally latched I had breast thrush. Eventually it got better, and he's still nursing at 11 months. It's truly worth the pain. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
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      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @TaraWojt: Good for you for making it through 3 months of difficulties and not giving up! That had to be tough but it's so worth it in the end. It's great to hear other stories of breast feeding winning out in the end:)

    • TaraWojt profile image

      Tara Wojtaszek 5 years ago

      Such a great lens! I'm still breastfeeding my daughter (9 months) and hope to do so until she's two. The first month was a struggle since she wasn't gaining enough weight but fortunately my hubby was home so I was able to feed her and then pump while he gave her a 'top up bottle' that I pumped at the previous feeding. By 6 weeks she didn't need the top up bottle anymore but it wasn't until about 3 months that I'd say we both became an efficient feeding team. There were times in the early days that I was so tempted to give her some formula but I'm so glad that I persisted. It was definitely worthwhile and it got so much easier over time. Thanks for sharing your story and putting this lens together.

    • StewartClan profile image

      StewartClan 5 years ago

      This is a fantastic resource, I think all women should breastfeed. Yes, I know it is painful and difficult to begin with, let's not make any excuses, it truly is. But once you are past those six weeks of pain, the absolute bliss of being able to feed your baby anywhere, at any time, without having to worry about bottles and sterilizing, combined with the fact that you are actually giving your baby the very best start ever, it is all worth it. LOVE this lens!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
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      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @Auntie-M LM: Thank you so much!

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 5 years ago

      Wonderful perspective for new mothers! Blessed.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 5 years ago

      I nursed all 3 of mine for a year, but I was lucky - it was easy for me. I don't know that I would have persevered if I there had been pain. Kudos to you for sticking with it!

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 5 years ago

      I breastfed my son for an entire year. I can definitely relate to a lot of the things that you mentioned in this great lens. It was totally worth it though. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
      Author

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @SteveKaye: Thank you I wish you the best as well too.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
      Author

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @Heidi Vincent: Thank you so much!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
      Author

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @Pam Irie: Yes I always feel badly for women who want to and can't. Yes nipple products really help. Kudoos to you for making it without!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
      Author

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @verymary: That is a really great tip! I'm glad you share my love of breastfeeding:)

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Chicago area

      BF was one of my very favorite things ever -- but sometimes it really doesn't work out, and in those cases I would never judge anyone. What I remember helping heal/toughen best was actual b. milk (express a little and rub on nipple). Learned that in a BF class before baby #1 & ended up having to use it .... sure enuf it worked! *blessed*

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I breastfed both my kids, but I hold no fault for those who don't. It does take some real effort, but the rewards were so worth it to me. I wish they would have had those nipple products back in the day. Sure could have used those! :)

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      Great lens with a personal touch!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I came here searching for a lens with the Polka Dot theme (in case you're wondering). Thank you for publishing this important and human info that I'm sure will help many. Wish you the best.

    • profile image

      leonasharon 5 years ago

      Wonderful suggestions,I would implement that pumping idea someday when the time comes.Thanks for sharing.Got to know these things before time.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I had a difficult latch the first time as well and gave up after a few weeks. Second time was the miracle for me - it happened perfectly, naturally as you describe too. Then with my third I was able to work with it when there were bumps in the road. (haha, bumps in the bed maybe! :)

    • profile image

      Tarra99 5 years ago

      I loved nursing...but yes, some pain with it...great tips shared here. I used the Lansinoh cream to help, it's amazing! My best tip is don't fall asleep with baby latched...we took a 3 hr nap together...I was soooooo soar (but well rested) after that. ;o)

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      Great tips! The first few weeks are always when you need the most encouragement. As I've told many moms, it's not always easy but is definitely worth it!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 5 years ago

      Great lens. I breastfed 2 of my 3 babies. The hospital gave me a good tip for sore nipples (from feeding), which was to put a bottle teat over the nipple and let the baby feed that way, it certainly cut down on the pain.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great information for new mothers! I breastfeed both of my kids. I always tell people that the first couple weeks can be rough, but after that it's a breeze! I loved not having to heat up bottles in the middle of the night. **Angel Blessing!**

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Love the benefits you listed.

    • profile image

      NoSugarMom 5 years ago

      oh it's great you have the bottle option. i breastfeed and my baby does not want to feed from the bottle, especially when he's already too hungry. i enjoyed your lens!

    • Millionairemomma profile image

      Millionairemomma 5 years ago

      The Medela machine pump is pretty awesome. My baby got so chubby because that breast pump works really well. Wonderful lens!

    • alexis84 profile image

      alexis84 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Interesting lens! You've included a lot of very useful pointers for new mums looking to breastfeed! Great job!Alexx

    • profile image

      james-bobula 5 years ago

      This is something that new dads should also read to be attentive to mom's needs during those early, trying weeks.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image
      Author

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      @flm_online: Thank you! I hope it helps her and that things go smoothly for her! Let her know she can contact me if she needs any advice:)

    • profile image

      flm_online 5 years ago

      Awesome article. Can't wait to see what my cousin thinks. She is having her baby in 3 weeks and is afraid of breastfeeding. This is so going to help her. Thanks!