I was told breastfeeding would be a challenge and I expected it to be! However like anything in life, you really have no idea until you experience it for yourself. Ella was born and immediately wanted to eat! Before Ella was born I prepped as best I could (see my tips below!) and at the hospital I utilized the lactation consultants to help me and felt we were off to a great start. However, as weeks progressed we hit pumps in the road… breastfeeding is draining physically and emotionally! From back pain, sore nipples, engorgement, not enough milk, leaking, fussy crying feeds to clingy want to eat all day feeds… it is a full time job feeding your little one! Now I really, really love nursing my daughter but in the beginning it was very taxing and difficult. Today I’m sharing with you some breastfeeding basics I’ve learned that I hope can help other mamas or mamas-t0-be as well as sharing my experience so far on this journey!
A GREAT LATCH
It’s so important to establish a great latch, which will help your baby drink properly and reduce pain while nursing. This video I watched provides a great example for how to establish a great latch. I also love Lactation Link for online breastfeeding guidance; I will share more details about this resource below.
The first few days you’ll produce colostrum also known as liquid gold, which has incredible immune boosting properties for your little one. Your milk supply can arrive anywhere from day 3 – 5. My milk supply arrived right at day 5. It takes about 3 – 4 weeks for your milk supply to establish and so it’s important to feed your baby every 1 – 3 hours or on demand as they request it to help build a good supply. If you find that you are not producing enough milk, you are not alone. In fact, a low milk supply is a very common breastfeeding struggle. I’ll be writing a separate blog post all about foods to eat and nutrition for establishing a good milk supply. To tide you over, hydration hydration hydration is key!! You can also consume lactation boosting supplements such as this tea or eat lactogenic foods such as oatmeal, ground flaxseeds, brewers yeast (add to recipes like lactation cookies), spinach and sesame seeds!
LEAKING & NURSING PADS
I heard that women leak breastmilk – however, I thought it would happen occasionally for example if their baby or a baby started crying. I had no idea I would leak breast milk every time I nursed and whenever my milk came in also known as “let down”. This meant that I had to wear nursing pads 24 / 7 the first few months and I would swap out for new nursing pads many times during the day so they were fresh and not damp. By month 3 I noticed I started leaking less in between feeds.
The first nursing pads I had were disposable. I loved them and still use them when I’m going to be away from home. This is the brand of disposable nursing pads I like!
I was going through disposable nursing pads so quickly, which can be get expensive that I decided to get some reusable nursing pads. I asked the HGG Mama Community on Instagram for recommendations and these were the top two favorites!
I love these ones, and wear them the most on a day-to-day basis. The only down side is they are thick so you can see a circle nursing pad through your shirt – a giveaway you’re wearing a pad! So I stick to wearing these at home – which is where I am most of the time anyways as a new mama. I love that they come in a pack of multiples because you will use them so often!
The next option are these nursing pads, they are very soft and thin – so they are great for wearing under clothes if you’re out and about and want to be discrete. However, you only get one set and you’ll fly through that in a day and then you’ll need more!
Nipple cream or butter is also a MUST have to prevent dry, sore, cracked or irritated nipples. This is my favorite brand.
Breastfeeding was and is important to me, so I made sure to learn as much as I could before our daughter arrived. If you’re expecting I encourage you to do the same because once your little one arrives it will be hard to have time to read or do anything for more than a few minutes before your little one likely will need you again! The childbirth classes my husband and I took provided some breastfeeding education, I also took a breastfeeding course at my birth center and I loved this online course from Lactation Link. Lactation Link’s online courses do such a great job at covering the basics as well as providing insight and support for breastfeeding issues you may experience. While breastfeeding is natural – it is anything but easy (at least at first!). It is brand new for BOTH mom and baby to figure out. Mom and baby have to work together as team and this can take time. One resource I found really helpful was the private Facebook group you have access to when you sign up for Lactation Link’s online courses. In the Facebook group you have access to Lactation Consultants to ask questions and I also loved reading questions from other moms and seeing the answers from moms in the group and the Lactation Consultants. I have learned a lot just by listening to other moms share their struggles! You can use code HGG15 for 15% off Lactation Link courses!! Also do not hesitate to hire a lactation consultant to come to your house or many hospitals have lactation support groups you can attend. The more support you have around you the better your breastfeeding journey will be – even if it’s hard, you will not feel so alone!
MY FIRST FEW WEEKS BREASTFEEDING
I was told it’s important to nurse your baby every 2 – 3 hours to establish your milk supply and until your baby has it’s first seedy yellow poop. Oh yes – your babies poop is going to become one of the biggest topics of conversation you and your partner have for a while, especially in those first few weeks. The first few nights we would wake up our baby to help her nurse because she was so sleepy! This was really hard on us, already being so sleep deprived and it was emotionally very hard when she just didn’t seem interested in nursing and would rather sleep!
Personally, I experienced an oversupply of milk and fast let down. This meant that when I was feeding Ella she was gulping way too much for her tiny belly and would cough, gag and spit up. This made breastfeeding really stressful for a while because it felt like nursing her was causing her pain! I learned to hand express some milk before each feeding so the initial let down of milk was not so strong and also to burp her during feeds and after. As the size of her stomach grew and my milk supply established, we experience way less coughs, gaps and spit up. Now at three months she is a very, very efficient nurser and has learned to work with mamas fast flow! Although, now I miss those long cuddly feeds because she is so quick to nurse and then over it!
Initially Ella only favored one breast, the right breast. When I shared about this with our HGG Mama Community on Instagram, I was surprised how many other women have experienced the same! The suggestions poured in to try:
- Baby chiropractor
- Feed her with the football position on the side not favored. Her head will be in a similar position as the favored side so she may latch better
- Pump the non-favored breast
What worked best for us personally was just time. It’s interesting how now she will sometimes favor the left and not the right! Everyday it seems she is changing what she wants and likes!
BREASTFEEDING YOUR BABY BASICS:
How Often: At least 8 feedings per day (every 1 – 3 hours). To note, it’s normal to feed your baby way more than this if they are giving hunger cues!
How Many Wet (Pee) Diapers:
Day One: At Least 1
Day Two: At Least 2
Day Three: At Least 3
Day Four: At least 4
Days 5 and beyond: At least 6
How Many Soiled (Poopy) Diapers:
Day One & Two: At Least 1 or 2 and the color will be black or dark green
Day Three & Four: At least 3 and the color will be brown, green or yellow
Day 5 and beyond: At least 3 large, soft and seedy yellow poops
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BABY IS GETTING ENOUGH?
If your baby is gaining weight and producing a good quantity and quality amount of poops and pees – then they likely are consuming just the right amount! Always chat with your Pediatrician and / or Lactation Consultant for concerns or questions about feeding your little one.
I was told about cluster feeding, however I had no idea it would take happen so often! Some days we would nurse eery 20 minutes! Cluster feeding by definition simply means your baby is eating more often throughout the day to “put in the order” to tell your body to make more milk in preparation for a growth spurt. Isn’t it amazing how our baby and our body communicate and work with each other? Make sure to invest in some food nipple butter or cream to help keep your nipples happy! This is my favorite brand of nipple butter.
MASTITIS, CLOGGED DUCTS, TONGUE AND LIP TIE
I am very grateful we have not experienced these (at least not yet!) I recommend the Lactation Link resource for details on these matters! Don’t forget to use code HGG15 for 15% off any Lactation Course! Also – do not be afraid to get a second, third or fourth opinion if you feel something is not right. I have a friend who met with 4 lactation consultants before one was identified her son’s tongue and lip tie… in her gut she knew something was not right! Mama… you know best, if something feels off speak up and ask for help from multiple sources!
WHERE ARE WE NOW
Ella is now 3 months old as I write this, and while nursing has improved we still have really challenging days. She is a very efficient nurser which often leaves me wondering, is she getting enough? I know she is based on her weight and diaper output – but mamas worry because they love!
We introduced a bottle at 2 months so that Aaron could give her a bottle once a day which has helped me either get a little more sleep, work or workout. This is the bottle we are using. To our luck, she took the bottle right away. But as time has progressed we have days where she refuses the bottle and only wants to nurse with me. There was one night however where she didn’t want to nurse with me (she was overtired and very upset) so we offered a bottle and she took it! I felt so sad and rejected! Ouf… Motherhood!!
I was also very emotional at the idea of giving her a bottle. Even though initially it was really hard on me to always be the one feeding her, I felt that giving her a bottle was one step towards weaning her from nursing. I know that’s not the case and we are from far that stage! It’s hard to put into words but… it was emotional for me to introduce a bottle. However, I am very glad we did because that extra hour or two I can get to myself when Aaron feeds her and she’ll take the bottle really gives me a little break that I believe helps me be a better mom throughout the day! She is still being fed mama’s milk with a bottle and I love the saying, “Fed is Best”. It’s so true, whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, mamas milk or formula at the end of the day you baby needs love and nourishment.
Speaking of bottle feeding, let’s quickly chat pumping. I may write another blog post all on this topic! First you have to figure out breastfeeding, than pumping! I got a breast pump for free from my insurance (I encourage you to do the same!) This is the website we used to figure out how to get a free breast pump through insurance. I also ordered this hand pump online which doesn’t express milk as efficiently as a pump, but it’s been really nice to have in a pinch when I need to pump quickly and I don’t want to be stuck sitting in the corner with cords. Then there is the cadillac of breast pumps, The Willow Pump. It’s completely cord-free and amazing!!
It took me a good month to find a pumping routine that worked for us. Then guess what? Ella changed her schedule which changed up my pumping schedule! That’s life with a baby though – the schedule is always changing! If you can, pump in the morning when milk supply is generally higher! Milk supply tends to dip as the day progresses.
WHAT IS YOUR BREASTFEEDING STORY?
What is your breastfeeding story? I’d love to hear in the comments below. You can also join our FREE HGG Mama’s Facebook Group to connect with other moms in our community for no-judgement support and encouragement!
Photography Credit: http://www.julieshuford.com