Breastfeeding can be one of the best parts of motherhood, or it can be a nightmare. In the end, sometimes, and no matter how hard you try and prepare for this rite of passage with your baby, it doesn’t always work out the way you envisioned. Some moms have an easy time of it, to be sure, but others will struggle to nurse. That's why preparation is the name of the game, my friends, and why new moms need help to survive the first two weeks of breastfeeding (and the rest of the weeks that follow).
I was fully prepared to breastfeed my son almost the moment after he was born. At least, I thought I was. My son’s birth was complicated and he was born sick and rushed to the NICU right after I brought him into the world. As a result, I had no choice but to pump in place of nursing. To say that I required support in those days would be a gross understatement. I was such a mess, and I became fixated on feeding my child. It felt like the only way that I could actually help him when he was in the NICU, because simply being there and staring at him didn't feel like enough. So I really pushed myself in those first few weeks to pump as much and as often as possible.
When I was finally able to breastfeed, it was much harder than I anticipated. Because of our "rough start," I knew I wasn’t producing enough milk to sustain my child. Not even close. It took everything in me not to kick myself about it over and over again, even when I realized that it wasn’t my fault. I could have used some of these tips to help me make it through those early breastfeeding days, and hopefully this reaches another new mama out there who needs to hear it, too:
It’s Not Always Easy For Everyone Right Away
While my first time breastfeeding was somewhat of a success, it also wasn’t. My son latched, sure, but I knew he wasn’t getting enough milk. It took a long time for me to finally accept that, try as I might, I wouldn’t be able to produce as much as I’d like.
You Need To Be Drinking Plenty Of Water
Of course, many mamas can help their breast milk supply issues by simply drinking more water. Not that it will necessarily increase your supply, but breastfeeding takes a toll on the body and can leave you dehydrated, which doesn’t help the process.
You Need To Rest As Often As Possible
Some new moms simply need to get more rest in order to feed their babies better. Stress can cause supply issues, not to mention breastfeeding it’s just overly exhausting, even if you’ve got oversupply. It's incredible what even a few more hours of sleep can do for a nursing mom.
You Need To Eat Way More Than Usual
Again, you’re going to need the energy. You might not even realize how much energy you'll rely on in those first weeks of postpartum potential bliss. So stock up on snacks and eat big, hearty meals. You and baby will need it to get by. Plus, eating lots of nutritious foods can help keep mood fluctuations at bay (who hasn’t seen a hungry for Snickers commercial?), which tend to be more frequent in the postpartum days.
If You Can’t Directly Feed, Pumping & Hand Expressing Are Your Best Bets
If you’re going to make it past two weeks of breastfeeding, you’ll need to realize there are additional things you can and may need to do to keep it up. I had to pump constantly in order to keep any supply going for my baby. Plus, if you can’t feed your baby for whatever reason, you’ll need to be able to pump or hand express so your boobs don’t go rock hard or develop mastitis.
You Need To Invest In Some Nipple Cream
New breastfeeding mamas need to know that cracked skin and other unpleasant painful stuff happens when you're nursing, especially in the beginning. Many moms use lanolin to protect their nip, while others simply smear some leftover breast milk.
You’ll Want To Spend Lots Of Time Skin-To-Skin
Skin-to-skin is an excellent way to bond with your newborn, but it also helps with the let-down process! Plus, it just feel really, really nice, so it will help you relax in those moments when you’re having a hard time.
You Need To Keep Your Phone Charged & Handy
I don’t know how moms used to breastfeed sans technology. Nowadays, we are lucky (maybe even #blessed?) to have so much entertainment at our fingertips while nursing. Binge-watch your favorite shows. Catch up on e-mails. Take a selfie. Play a game. Call your grandma. All while feeding your baby! And trust me, you’ll want to do all that and more after the first few times.
You Might Need The Help Of A Lactation Consultant
There’s no shame in getting help. In fact, it’s often vital when you’re a new breastfeeding mama. A lactation consultant can help determine how best to help you feed your child. They can also point you to doctors or support groups for further help.
Find Support In Loved Ones & Breastfeeding Groups
When I was breastfeeding my son, I leaned hard on my husband and my own mother. They were basically all I had. But in retrospect, I wish I had gone to a local La Leche League meeting or another breastfeeding support group. It might have encouraged me to continue trying past four months.
When Everything Is Working Out, It Can Feel Truly Magical
To get through those first few weeks of breastfeeding, all you really need to keep in mind is that it’s a truly special, short-lived experience. You determine how long you’ll nurse, and how often (because bottles are always an option if you don’t feel like you can continue breastfeeding). Especially when you’re struggling, if you truly want to keep trying, just remember that there will be instances of pure joy while feeding your baby, and that these are precious moments you can’t recreate later or put off. Hang in there, mama! You got this.
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