Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Breastfeeding advice

Several of my friends have asked me for advice on breastfeeding lately, so I thought I'd share this list that my dear friend, Leah, gave to me right before I had my first baby. It was REALLY helpful to me and I hope that it will be for you! (I've added in my own notes in italics)

Leah’s Advice on Nursing

**Disclaimer: Of everything I’ve learned, the most important is that advice is just advice. Take it for what it’s worth. Some things work for some people, but not others. You can’t live up to everyone’s standard. And you don’t have to. Just take the best of everyone’s advice and do what works for you and your baby. Your baby is unique – and that’s a good thing!**

  1. Start praying now that God would give you His wisdom to make good decisions and His peace to rest in Him while you are starting out. It can get really discouraging in the first week of nursing, and you really do need His strength to trust in Him and know that He is helping you along.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your nurses and the lactation consultants in the hospital. I called a nurse in to help me each time I went to feed Samuel so they could help me get him started correctly. It’s tempting to want to try to figure it all out yourself, but starting correctly from the very beginning is a big help in the long run.

  1. Write everything down – when she nurses, which side and for how long, and each diaper you change. The hospital should give you a little chart to fill out while you are there so you can keep track of when you are nursing and when she is having wet/dirty diapers. Keep up with the chart until at least your first pediatrician’s appointment. It will help you to see what is going on with your baby, and it will help the pediatrician see that she is progressing well.

  1. Keep in mind that women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years. Long before there was Baby Wise or La Leche League, women were successfully nursing their children. You can do it.

  1. Buy a sports bra style nursing bra and a tank style nursing bra. These are the easiest to use, especially at nighttime. I sleep in these bras for the extra support. Or sometimes I sleep in a tight fitting tank top that pulls down easily. You want to go for comfort and ease in a top/bra when you are feeding at night. (I absolutely LOVE the nursing tanks at Target!)

  1. Engorgement will pass! A few days after you give birth, your milk will start to come in and your boobs will be like two rock hard apples on your chest. I wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I know a lot of women can be. This will only last for 48 hours – hang in there! When you nurse during those 48 hours, sit comfortably and massage your breast while your baby nurses. Gently push from the outsides of the breasts towards the nipple. It will help move the milk through and ease some of your discomfort. After those 48 hours, you should feel a lot better.

  1. In the first few days, after your baby nurses, express a tiny drop of colostrum from your breast and rub it into the nipple. My nurse gave me this hint and it really helped. It is supposed to be the best treatment for keeping your nipples from cracking. Do this for as long as you need – I stopped doing it after the first week.

  1. Give your nipples 5 minutes to air dry. I always left myself exposed for the 5 minutes I used to burp the baby so that my nipple could dry.

  1. Use Lanolin cream from the very start. After I rubbed the colostrum on and then let my nipple dry, I applied a generous amount of Lanolin cream to the nipple area. I did this for the first week. After that, it didn’t seem that I was going to get cracked nipples and I stopped using it. I’m not sure if I was just lucky, or if all of the above advice did the trick. (I used coconut oil instead and it worked great!)

  1. Relax and enjoy the time with the baby while you nurse. It is a sweet, sweet time and the bonding is just as important as the passing of nutrition. Your baby knows you – your voice, your smell, your touch. Use this time to really form that special bond with your baby. She is uniquely yours!

  1. Nursing does hurt at first. Those first few sessions can be uncomfortable because you just don’t know what to expect. But it shouldn’t be painful. If it is like out of this world hurting you, then something is wrong. Take the baby off and try again.

  1. When your baby is drinking colostrum, you won’t hear her swallowing a bunch. It takes a few sucks to get enough in her mouth to swallow it down. Tune in from the beginning to recognize the sounds of your baby nursing. Get familiar with what sucking sounds like and swallowing. BUT, don’t be discouraged if you can’t figure out what sound is swallowing at first. It took me a few days to figure it out.

  1. The standard advice is to nurse your baby at least every 3 hours during the day, and every 4 hours at night. If you have a sleepy baby like me, start trying to rouse her if it’s been more than 2 hours. Although, I will say that I nursed Samuel every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night for the first 2 weeks so that he would gain weight quickly in the beginning and I wouldn’t have troubles with the doctors being concerned about his weight. And it worked – he had gained a whole pound by his 2 week checkup and I didn’t have to keep going back in for weight checks.

  1. Start out in the beginning using the “football hold.” It is the easiest one to master and you can really see how well the baby is latching on when they are in that position.

  1. Learn to do the “lying down” position as soon as you can. Sometimes you are really exhausted when the baby wants to nurse, and if you can get her to nurse while you are lying down, it can mean a lot more rest for you.

  1. Drink a lot of water! This is sort of silly advice because you will find that you are SO thirsty while you are nursing and won’t need to remind yourself to drink water. But always keep a glass of water handy. I have several throughout the house so there is always one nearby.

  1. Don’t give up too easily. A lot of women get discouraged and want to quit. I promise you, if you hang in there, you will succeed. If you are getting down, call someone and talk to them about it. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone, or like you are the only one who has ever wanted to quit. Breastfeeding is totally worth it and you’ll be happy you stuck with it.

  2. The biggest question I had in the beginning was “how long should I be nursing each time?” I will tell you that the books aren’t real clear on that answer. It is true that each baby really is different. For a reference, Samuel is a fast eater. He nurses for about 15 minutes each session. Now, in the beginning, I didn’t know he was a fast eater, and I was totally freaking out because I thought it was supposed to take 45 minutes. I was so nervous that I was doing it wrong. My advice here would be to take a deep breath and try to be in tune with your baby. I would aim for getting her to eat at least 15 to 20 minutes. If she is still hungry, she will keep eating. And with the colostrum, it takes them a little longer because it takes more work getting it out and because they are brand new at nursing. This question will make you worry for the first few days/weeks because you’re new at this and you want to do what’s best for your baby. It’s okay to be concerned.

  1. It’s important to keep the baby awake in the first weeks while she’s nursing. Not awake in the sense that her eyes have to be wide open. But, she does need to eat for a full feeding. She will want to fall asleep after 5 minutes. Rub her belly or her hands to keep her eating. The lactation consultant showed Ed how to crank Samuel’s arm to keep him awake enough to keep sucking.

  1. I only feed on one side at a time. I didn’t plan on doing that in the beginning, but the nurse had me do it, and it’s just sort of worked out that way. I asked my pediatrician, and he said that was great to do because it ensures the baby is getting the hindmilk. I think most books recommend that you feed on both sides at each session so that there is adequate stimulation of both breasts. I personally like doing one side each time. If he is still hungry, I offer the other breast.

  1. It is tough to know when she has “drained” your breast. I was dumbfounded by this statement. I couldn’t tell at all. It is a little misleading to say “drained” because it implies that the breast is totally empty and nothing is coming out. But your breast is actually producing milk for the baby as long as they are sucking. I decide to switch breasts when the one he’s using feels totally flabby and he is starting to irritate my nipple.

  1. Make sure you have nursing pads on hand. You will find that your opposite breast leaks when you begin nursing. And sometimes they will spontaneously leak even when you aren’t nursing. This has been one of the most distressing things for me. When you already feel emotionally frazzled, it can be really discouraging to look down and realize that you have leaked through your bra and it is now running down your shirt. Talk about wanting to cry!

  1. Keep a safety pin attached to your bra to remind you which side you should start nursing on for the next session. I actually kept a hairband on the appropriate wrist because I kept forgetting to move the safety pin. But if you are marking which side to start on, it makes it a lot easier.

  1. Last but not least, have a good cry now and again. And lean on your husband for support. Breastfeeding can be stressful because it is so new to you and baby both. It’s okay to cry when you get stressed out. Have your husband lay down in the bed with you, cuddle you, and reassure you that you are doing a good job and that you are an excellent mother. Hang in there, babe.

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