It was an exciting time when I saw 2 lines on the pregnancy test early in the morning. It meant I was finally going to become a mommy! Time was going really slow while I was waiting so I tried to make the most of it and learn about raising a child as much as I could. I had to be a perfect mom. In my opinion the perfect mom didn't give their baby formula but breastfed. That was my goal. I read many baby books about it so I was confident I knew everything. Even though I was going to breastfeed I wanted to be prepared for anything, so I bought expensive bottles, bottle sterilizer, bottle wormers and dummies and so much more. Just in case I needed them. When our beautiful daughter was born, I realised that in practice everything is so different and a lot harder than what you expect after teaching yourself from the books.
Most of you who are reading this probably already know the benefits of breastfeeding but I still want to mention a few. Breast milk is always pure, warm and is very easily digestive, which is critical for young baby’s stomach. Your milk is protecting your baby from various infections and many different diseases. Some cultures even call it “white blood” because it is unique and irreplaceable. Moreover, breast milk creates a magic bond between you and your baby.
It benefits the mother nether less than a child. While breastfeeding your body teaches itself to observe big amounts of calcium into your bones so you are less likely to break your bones or have osteoporosis in older age. Nursing helps your body to rest and recover after giving birth by stopping menstrual ovulations. By not having your periods you are protecting yourself from losing iron which is so important for your recovery and reproduction of your and your baby’s blood. You are also unlikely to get breast or cervical cancers. Research has shown that breastfed babies are also more protected from those types of cancers. Nursing calms you down so you are less likely to have a post birth depression. It is a lot cheaper then formula, fresh and always by your hand.
I heard people say that newborns feed every 3 hours, but in reality there were days that I was breastfeeding all day and all night long, seriously non-stop. And this is where the success of breastfeeding lies. You have to react to your baby’s needs and mother’s instincts know best what your baby wants. Lots of women think they are running out of breast milk when their child is hungry all the time and it looks that he/she can’t get enough for few days, so moms start introducing formula. This is a big mistake to make if you want to successfully breastfeed because that is not true, that just means your baby is going through the growth spurt and your body is preparing to produce more milk. Baby has to ‘order’ more milk and this is the way to let your body know it. Mother Nature does not make mistakes, your baby and your body knows the best what to do. The more your baby eats the more milk your body starts producing. Many women have said to me “oh, you are so lucky to be able to breastfeed your daughter, I did not have milk”. I am not lucky, I worked for it. It was not easy at the beginning. There are only a few woman who really can’t breastfeed, but many are lacking information on how to do it right, because there are so much misleading information everywhere nowadays. Companies need to sell their products so they pass wrong information to you so you stopped breastfeeding and started buying their bottles, formulas etc. You don’t have to go to school to learn it, all you need to do is listen to your baby, your body and your gut’s feeling. There are only a few things you have to know to be able to breastfeed successfully.
Keep swapping breasts every single feed to produce same amount of milk in both breasts. Change positions. You can tie a ribbon on you bra to remind yourself which breast you used last, every time after feeding, because we have all experienced so called "baby brain" while being pregnant and raising an infant.
Don’t avoid night feeds. They are most important for the lactation. You might think that a good night sleep for you is more important than breastfeeding a baby so why can you not get your husband to give a bottle of your milk at night, it is breast milk after all and you need a lot of energy throughout the day. This is a very big mistake to make. Night feeds are critical for milk production. If you avoid night feeds you will end up with less and less milk day by day. Co-sleeping is the best answer to it. Sleep and feed together. Most women don’t even wake up when their babies nurse after getting used to it. Human are mammals. All mammal ‘babies’ sleep with their moms. It is in our nature. Don’t go against it just because someone thinks it is wrong. Nursing women feel their babies so don’t be worried; you are not going to suffocate your baby while asleep. And it will take you a lot less time than it would take to your husband to get up, reheat the bottle, by which time your baby might be screaming of hunger and wake you up to cause you a frustration towards your husband.
Try to avoid using breast pump. Your body gets mistaken that your baby needs less milk so it starts producing less milk. The pump does not pump all of the milk out, there is always some left over so you might end up getting very sore lumps and a very high fewer. Ask me how I know it. First day back from hospital it felt like my breast were away to explode so I used a pump. It was such a relief. Not for long though. I started to use it a lot and so I ended up with a very high fever and a few very sore lumps. Doctor suggested me to rest and take paracetamol but it did not help me much, I heard some woman are prescribed antibiotics in worse scenarios. I try to avoid antibiotics whenever I can. Your baby can heal it as well. If this ever happens to you breastfeed your baby as often as you can in as many different positions as you know. Hot shower and expressing by hand also helps. You can also get rid of lumps by using a hot bottle technique (fill third of the glass bottle with wide opening with boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Empty the bottle, check if the tip is not too hot, if it is not put the opening on your breast. Soon you will see the milk starting to run inside the bottle. It is similar to breast pump but it works by relaxing you muscles instead of pumping). The best way to reduce discomfort of the feeling of having too much milk is to softly express it with your hands by doing so you are not 'lying' to your body and not recreating the suction process. What can I say, you live and learn from your mistakes.
Buy few pairs of wool breast pads. It is a shame I didn't know that right from the beginning. They are expensive but they are less expensive then disposable synthetics breast pads which only protect your clothes from getting wet but leave you with the wet feeling. Wool breast pads are natural so you will not sweat, therefore there are fewer chances to catch any infections. Use them in winter and in summer trust me you will not get too hot. Reason why I started using them is I kept getting lumps one after another. I figured out it was from getting cold. Air conditioner, summer breeze, open window. They all play a big part in getting lumps. Untreated lumps can develop into mastitis and you might have to get an operation or start using antibiotics what you really want to avoid for your baby’s sake. Buy bigger size to cover it all. Wash them with water or use wool detergent. lanolize and air dry.
Buy a comfortable nursing bra. Bra should not be tight. Again buy a natural product. It will cost you more but you will need fewer of them, they will last longer as well. Tight bra might give you lumps. For me the best type of bra was the one which unclips at the top.
Do not use a dummy at least until you and your baby is comfortable with nursing. Nursing from your breast is different from sucking on the dummy. Babies who are introduced to dummies too early nurse differently which can cause you pain and leave baby hungry. If you start to get wounds or bad pain on your nipples you should know that you need to work more on teaching your baby how to take your breast correctly. Cream might help you temporarily but really you want to teach you baby to nurse properly. Just be patience and keep practicing. It will soon pay off and you will both be happy.
If your baby does not have stools it does not mean you do not have milk. Breatsfed babies can go without having stools even up to ten days because breast milk becomes babies blood and body. The only way you can tell you are running out of milk is dry nappies.
Stop stressing out. Stress doesn’t allow your breast to release milk and that also makes the baby upset and angry.
I feel like I could write a book about it even after 3 years. But this is where I am going to stop.
I am sure I have not said everything so please share your experiences and breastfeeding tips. I will also be happy to answer any questions.