No matter how much you’ve mentally prepared to become a breastfeeding mom, there’s no way to predict what you’ll feel emotionally and physically when
your newborn latches on for the first time. “The first week it was painful when my daughter ate, and when she was done, my nipples looked like the top of a tube of lipstick—kind of triangular,” says Kimberley Collins of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, who’s still nursing her 6-month-old daughter. “I was determined to make it work, so I met with the hospital’s lactation consultant, and today we’re going strong.”
If you’re committed to breastfeeding, you probably know that you’ll need to work around the clock, sacrificing your own sleep, but you may not know much more than that. In fact, you may be intimidated, especially if you’ve heard worrisome rumblings from friends that nursing is painful, or that some- one didn’t produce enough milk to nourish her baby. So, how can you become someone who successfully nurses long-term, rather than someone who gives up after a few unhappy weeks?
“Your heart has to be in it,” says Laurie Beck, RN, IBCLC, president of the United States Lactation Consultant Association. “A positive attitude and the desire to provide the infant with optimal nutrition will help during the first few weeks.”
For 21st century moms, nursing is a learned skill, and it’s never too early to start. While you’re pregnant, take a breastfeeding course. After the birth, meet with your maternity ward’s lactation consultants to fine-tune your technique. Even if it’s going well, the positive reinforcement will help.
Don’t leave the hospital without phone numbers for several lactation consultants and the nearest La Leche League group. And stock your book- shelves with La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or Amy Spangler’s Breastfeeding.
NEXT-BEST THING: Virtual help.
No local lactation consultants available? VirtualBreastfeedingHelp.com provides one-on-one consultations with certified lactation consultants via Skype video
2($45 for 45 minutes). Or watch how-to videos for free at tinyurl.com/y6vrcnb.
2. SOOTHING CREAM
Ouch! Although nursing doesn’t hurt when done correctly, you may experience nipple soreness while you both get used to it. To ease discomfort, apply a nipple cream after each nursing session—it pro- vides comforting relief and is safe for babies to consume, so you won’t need to clean it off before your next feeding.
“It’s essential to figure out, with the help of a breastfeeding educator, what’s causing the underlying sore- ness,” says Gina Ciagne, Certified Lactation Counselor and Senior Director of Professional Relations
at Lansinoh Laboratories. “In the meantime, begin the healing while continuing to breastfeed.”
Many women who quit nursing early believe they can’t produce enough milk to help their babies thrive, possibly because babies lose a bit of weight during the first week. Your milk won’t come in until your baby’s third day of life, but a newborn’s stomach can initially hold only about a teaspoon of liquid. The rich colostrum you’ll produce until then provides ample nourishment, says American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Vandana Y. Bhide, M.D., a pediatrician in St. Augustine, FL.
When you’re nursing, you can’t measure how many ounces your baby drinks. Keeping careful records of when your baby eats, and how many wet and soiled diapers she produc- es, can prove that you’re doing a good job.
“Writing everything down helped me realize I was OK and my baby was on track,” says Jenn Ormond of Quincy, MA, who recently stopped nursing her 2-year-old son. “You trusted your body to make the baby—now trust it to feed your baby.”
NEXT-BEST THING: Pump your milk, and bottle feed for one feeding a day. It will help you get your head around the average number of ounces baby
is eating each time. Plus, it will give your partner a chance to take on a feeding and bond with baby.
4. THE RIGHT PILLOW
Many women rely on breastfeeding pillows to position babies closer to the breast to avoid back strain. Samantha Slaven-Bick of West Hollywood, CA, who nurses her 7-month-old son, swears by My Brest Friend. “It helped with positioning the baby, keeping him supported, and let me have both hands relatively free, which made me feel more confident and in control,” she says.
NEXT-BEST THING: A sofa cushion.
Who says you need to shell out cash for a nursing pillow if you own something that helps you get comfortable? “The more comfortable the mom, the less strain on the neck, shoulders, back, and hips,” says Irene Diamond, a breastfeeding ergonomic specialist in San Francisco. “When you’re in less physical pain, you’re more apt to continue nursing.”
5. NURSING PADS
Until your milk supply regulates, placing pads in your bra can prevent embarrassing wet spots on your blouse. Some women like to use ultra-thin disposables for daywear and thicker washable pads for nighttime use.
NEXT-BEST THING: Hot and cold relief. Engorged or inflamed? Try breast packs for hot or cool relief and a nursing bra with hidden pockets designed to hold compresses.
6. A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER
Your husband’s role as head cheerleader isn’t done in the delivery room; studies show that women who breastfeed are more successful if their partners back their decisions.
“Clearly, the support and encouragement are beneficial,” says Diana West, IBCLC,” author of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. If the partner doesn’t want her to do it, she feels torn between him or her and the baby.”
NEXT-BEST THING: Find a partner elsewhere.
If you’re motivated but your husband isn’t on board (or you’re single), lean on a supportive mother, sister, or friend.
Eventually, breastfeeding will become effortless and second nature, but for now, resign yourself to the fact that you and your baby need time to develop a rhythm. “Mothers feel pressured to nurse their babies—to the point that many suffer guilt, anxiety, and even depression about any difficulties,” says parenting psychologist Heather Wittenberg, Psy.D., who blogs at BabyShrink.com and nurses her 5-month-old daughter. “Mothers with a more realistic expectation of the difficulties are more likely to stick with it and continue.”
NEXT-BEST THING: A just-in-case quit deadline that’s weeks—not days—away. “Learning takes time,” says Melia Gordon, a doula who works with breastfeeding women in Austin. “Give it six weeks before you give up. It gives you time to try things and learn with your baby, and it gives you a firm date, which can keep you going.”
8. A POWERFUL PUMP
Try to wait four to six weeks before giving your baby a bottle, to avoid nipple confusion. Then invest in—or rent— a quality, portable electric breast pump. “Don’t go cheap,” says Bridget Fontaine of Rochester, NY, who’s nursing her fourth child, a 2-month-old boy. “It made pumping very frustrating, as I wasn’t able to express enough milk.” Maximize pumping time with a hands-free pumping bra. It holds your flanges in place so you can type, eat, or read while pumping.
NEXT-BEST THING: A manual pump.
It’s great to keep in the glove compartment of your car for when a date night, appointment, or anything takes longer than expected.
9. PERMISSION TO PAMPER YOURSELF
Treat yourself right so you’ll produce enough milk. Sleep as much as possible and avoid stressful situations. Continue taking prenatal vitamins for the calcium and iron. Eat and drink well; now isn’t the time to diet.
“Nursing moms need about 500 extra calories a day to build and maintain a full milk supply,” says Stacey Rubin, IBCLC, author of The ABCs of Breastfeeding.
NEXT-BEST THING: Permission to slow down. Whenever you nurse, try not to multitask. Just enjoy the bonding time with your baby.
10. A COVER-UP
Some nursing moms use receiving blankets when nursing in public, but they’re awkward to hold in place, and you can’t see whether your baby is latching on correctly. Today’s nursing covers make breastfeeding in public stress-free.
There’s ample fabric for privacy, a neckline that allows you to make eye contact with your baby discreetly, and an adjustable strap for your neck so your baby can’t kick off the cover. “Don’t lock yourself in your house,” says Anna Harris of Northbrook, IL, who still nurses her 13-month-old daughter. “We eat when we’re hungry, and so should babies, no matter what public opinion may be.”
NEXT-BEST THING: Your sling. Some do double-duty as cover-ups.
You might not get your period while you breastfeed, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t need birth control. “Mom can still get pregnant, even while breast milk’s being produced,” Bhide says.
NEXT-BEST THING: The mini-pill. (progesterone only) It won’t decrease breast-milk production.
Lisa Fields nursed both of her children for 18 months each.