How to Breastfeed As A First Time Mum
As a young, first time mum, I would often tap into the search bar ” How to Breastfeed As A First Time Mum ” or “breastfeeding tips”. I would find information and articles about position, latch, and supply and all these words made me feel like I needed to take a course. It was overwhelming. This is why in this post I want to talk to you about the reality of breastfeeding. What got me through it eventually was my stubbornness and determination, and a lot of tears.
(Disclaimer: this information is based on my experiences only and if you have any questions or concerns then always consult your healthcare provider)
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Why should you breastfeed?
There are so many benefits for the mother and baby to breastfeeding which I will outline below for you, however, I just wanted to say that the reason you should breastfeed should be because it is what you want to do. Your body created and fed this baby for 9 months, and your body can continue to do this from the outside. I was determined to breastfeed as soon as I knew I was carrying both of my babies. So, if you want to breastfeed, all you need to do is believe in yourself. I believe in you mama!
Benefits of breastfeeding:
protection from bacteria and viruses
your body designs it perfectly for your baby
helps to develop a strong emotional bond
help protect from disease and obesity
reduce the risk of SIDS
adapts with babys changing needs
helps protects mothers from breast and ovarian cancers and heart disease
How cool is it that your body makes this incredible source of nutrition and comfort for your baby? it can even be used for minor infections on their skin and eyes. (always consult your doctor for anything you are worried about though).
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Baby should be positioned to face your body with heads shoulders and hips aligned. It is super important that you also are comfortable. I usually put a pillow behind my back, or I lie down on my bed and feed to give my back and neck a break.
This is, I found, the most difficult part, and the reason I think a lot of mums find they can not continue. It is exhausting, frustrating, and painful. The idea is that your baby’s nose is level with the nipple, then you can support their head to tip back slightly so they can instinctively feel the nipple with their top lip and they will open their mouth to root for it. Their chin should then be resting on the breast, allowing their mouth to open wide and latch onto as much of the area around the nipple as possible. You will eventually learn how it feels when your baby is properly latched and when they are not. If they don’t get enough of the areola into their latch, then they will only latch onto the nipple and this will feel a bit like a carpet burn (in my opinion). You can gently put your little finger on the side of your baby’s mouth to break the latch and then try again till you feel the whole latch. For the first couple of weeks, while the skin is getting used to feeding your baby, it will hurt and probably bleed. I’ve read and been told by a lot of healthcare professionals that It should not hurt. But in my op[inion, it does. It hurt with both of my babies for the first couple of weeks. If you think about learning to play the guitar, it takes a while for your fingers to toughen up to the strings, or a child’s hands when learning the monkey bars while they are building calluses. The same is with breastfeeding, the body just needs time to adjust itself. Remember, it will get better and once it gets better, you’ll begin to reap the beautiful benefits of breastfeeding.
Just like everything else with a brand new baby, be patient with yourself and your baby, and remember it takes repetitive practice. Your baby is learning how to latch and feed over and over, and she will get better every time! she is working hard! I remember how difficult this felt with my firstborn. Because you are already exhausted from giving birth and you just want to sleep, sorry no, you just need to sleep. Learning how to establish breastfeeding is one of the hardest skills I’ve ever had to learn. I remember sitting there crying every time he fed because of the pain and exhaustion. I would dread every time he was about to latch. After about two weeks, the pain started to fade, and he became so skilled at his latch, and then feeding him was such a beautiful bonding time, and super convenient. When I had my second baby, my daughter, I thought that breastfeeding would be a breeze! Oh was I wrong. The pain and exhaustion was still there and it was still a journey for my sweet girl to master her new skill. One year later though, she is still going strong and I have no reason to stop breastfeeding any time soon because she benefits so much from it.
Our bodies are incredible and they work in sync with our baby, when baby is having a growth spurt, they’ll feed more and we will begin producing more milk, and when they feed less, we will make less till the next growth spurt. All we really need to do with breastfeeding is follow our baby’s lead. I always say to breastfeeding mamas that it’s like having a superpower, especially at night when it helps them go back to sleep! I remember when I was in the hospital last year with my daughter after her birth. Every time the nurses and midwives came into the room they would roll their eyes and say “she’s feeding again!” because my daughter just wanted to feed CONSTANTLY at the beginning. And she was very smart to, because she was building the supply whilst learning all of the motion which goes into latching and suckling, while also getting all of the colostrum (the first part which your breasts produce which is highly concentrated with nutrients and antibodies to fight infection and protect your baby). By following her lead when she wanted to feed, she only dropped 1oz in the first few days and then after that she kept gaining weight at every other appointment.
Look After Yourself
Remember it is always essential to look after yourself. Eat and drink when you feel like it and listen to what your body is craving, our bodies are so clever at telling us what we need and when. If you feel not quite right then see your healthcare provider. There are vitamins designed especially for breastfeeding mamas which I find helpful to take. There are also a number of natural nipple creams on the market that can really help in the early days of breastfeeding, this is the nipple cream which I found the best. One thing I used with my first born was frozen cabbage leaves! it really helped with the soreness and healing to place them onto the breasts between feeds. Warm baths can help the healing and also helps us to relax. If you find a milk bleb (milk blister which is a clogged pore in your nipple that occurs during breastfeeding), then warm hot baths can loosen the skin, and then frequent feeding will eventually unblock it. I get these a lot with my second born and this really is the only thing that helps.
Here are some super cool facts about breastfeeding:
Including melatonin, nighttime breastmilk is rich in sleep-inducing and brain-boosting substances
When you kiss your baby, you are sampling the pathogens on her skin which are then transferred to your lymphatic system where you will produce antibodies to any bugs. These antibodies will then pass through your breast milk to your baby and boost her immune system.
Studies show that babies love the taste of vanilla, garlic, and cinnamon flavoured breast milk
So the take home message is that establishing breastfeeding is really hard work, but once you push through those first 2-3 weeks you will be glad you did. Surround yourself with supportive people, and give yourself and your baby grace. You are doing amazing things. If you lack support around you, it can help to reach out to support groups online. At Earthimama, we are determined to continue supporting breastfeeding for mamas who decide to begin and for however long their breastfeeding journeys last.
If you have any breastfeeding journeys to share then please send me an email at email@example.com and I will post them in “your stories” so we can help normalise this beautiful journey