Let’s do a little math…
(They don’t come with instructions)
(You’ve never used them for this purpose before)
(You might never have seen any one do it)
(You don’t have full control over the other party involved <i.e. your baby>)
(Your initial efforts will follow the biggest physical feat of your life)
You tell me! How would you finish that equation?
I’ll just say, “No wonder breastfeeding can be difficult initially!”
As I stated in my first post, I believe the best recipe for successful breastfeeding is good information, early support and ongoing community. Read the post on ways to access good information and share it with your pregnant friends!
Early support is key.
Two types that are equally important: professional and emotional support.
Professional support is vital for mastering the technique of breastfeeding and overcoming problems. All the major hospitals in our area have lactation nurses. Take advantage of this resource. They are there to help you feel comfortable with this new skill. Be proactive and invite the lactation nurse to be present during some of your early nursings so that they can give you feedback on your baby’s latch. The better the baby’s latch, the more efficient your milk production system will be. His latch is also important for your comfort. Some initial soreness is normal, but a shallow or otherwise improper latch can really do a number on your nipples, so get the professional opinion.
The lactation nurses will meet with you before you are discharged to give you an overview of what to expect in the early weeks, as well as some tips. Ask questions then and make sure you have their number for when you are home. (You may even find that they call you to check in. I know I appreciated the follow-up call I got from Touro nurse Juliette.)
Once you leave the hospital, if you have any breastfeeding problems, you have several options.
- You can call your lactation department for help over the phone or to schedule an in-person consult, which is usually paid for out of pocket ($50-$60 an hour is typical)
- This is is also a good time to attend a La Leche League meeting if you have questions, or you can reach out to the local chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can visit ZipMilk to identify local International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (in addition to those based at local hospitals) that you can contact for help
- You can visit the Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition’s website for advice on what to do after your baby is born and once you are home
The early days of nursing is the perfect time to pull any breastfeeding books back out and reread them (while you nurse!) They become a lot more relevant when your baby is actually in your arms! My top recommendations are this one and also this one.
Even when you aren’t having any particular problems, the early weeks of nursing can be challenging. You are recovering from childbirth, your sleep is coming in small chunks, and your breasts are very sensitive as your milk comes in and your supply takes time to regulate (read: large, swollen, leaky breasts!) This is when emotional support is vital.
Here are some tips for supporting a nursing mother in the early weeks.
Make sure to hand your support network this list:
- Believe in this new mother and her breasts! She may be the one with the milk, but your encouragement and belief in her are important in building her confidence in this new arena
- An upset baby is not going to surmount his nursing challenge. If the baby is having trouble latching, take him from mom to help calm him down before letting her try again. Taking the baby outside or into the shower are tactics to try if the traditional soothing methods aren’t working. This not only can help get the baby in a better state, but also allows mom to regain her sanity. A calm mom is going to be better able to breastfeed
- Nursing mothers may need extra hands initially – help them get situated as they learn how best to hold and feed baby
- Nursing mothers get very thirsty so bring them water or juice
- When a mother nurses, she is on call around the clock. How can you make her life easier? If you are her partner, what can you do around the house to shrink her responsibilities? If you are a friend or family member, call her and ask WHEN (not if) you can bring food by. If your life is crazy, but you want to help, I think Ashley’s post about The Dinner Belle sounds like a great idea!
And don’t forget the actual support of your breasts!
Good nursing wear staples (nursing bras, tanks, and, if you have the budget, nursing tops) can make you more comfortable and nursing easier. ZukaBaby is a great New Orleans resource for nursing wear and will do fittings to help you get the right size. Did you know nursing items are exempt from state sales tax and can be deducted on your federal tax return?!
At La Leche League meetings and in talking to nursing mothers, many remark on when they hit their “nursing stride.” I haven’t yet heard anyone say it was in month one. (The most common time seems to be between weeks four and eight.) But hang in there. There are excellent sources of breastfeeding support in New Orleans! You can get over the initial hurdles and then you, too, will be a mom that nurses, sends emails, and eats lunch all at the same time! And better than that, you’ll be enjoying this special connection with your baby!