Breastfeeding tips and lessons learned

by Britta Petrich
June 9, 2011

To the Mama’s: This information, tips and lessons, is based on my experience breastfeeding Lance and personal philosophies that emerged from when I first made the decision to nurse him until now. I am grateful to say, I was able to nurse Lance from January 6, 2011 – April 16, 2011, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences and best gift I have been able to give him. I hope you find some of the information useful. Best wishes, and good luck with nursing your baby!

Roadside nursing session

Tips:

1. Trust your baby — he/she will immediately know how to latch on. Although, it may feel awkward or even a little painful for you in the beginning, trust that it will soon be old hat. Within a few days, it will become second-nature.

2. Be patient with yourself in the beginning and when you have bad days. This goes for anything, but especially with breastfeeding because you may want to quit and think that bottle feeding is your easy out. But the truth is, breastfeeding is efficient, healthy, and much less of a fuss than bottle feeding. Let your body do what it is intended to do as naturally as possible. Your body will self-regulate, and if it does not, seek out the help of your doctor’s office.

3. Rest in between feedings. This is literally your only chance to rest in the beginning because it will be intense and feedings will occur every 2-4 hours. During the “rest” times use other people to help snuggle your baby and/or let your baby sleep.

4. Stay hydrated and eat plenty, but do not be afraid of having a glass of vino and indulging yourself in the things you are used to and enjoy eating. Your baby is getting all of the nourishment it needs solely from your breastfeed milk so make sure you are nourishing your own body in the process. A glass of wine is not the end of the world.

5. Make friends with the lactation consultants at the hospital before, during, and after you have your baby. Let them help you and do not be self-conscience. Ask them questions when you have them, listen to them when they offer suggestions, and above all, let them support and encourage you. Everyone needs to be championed and these women are wonderful people for that — let them do their jobs and trust them when you stumble. Of course, trust your own instincts about what and how to do your job, but I am telling you, you will need help so let people help you.

6. Relax and enjoy the experience. Once you get the hang of it (remember: baby will immediately know what to do), you are going to love it if you embrace the job. It will not and should not hurt and it is one of the most beautiful relationships you will probably ever have.

7. Both you and baby will benefit. And do not forget this. Nursing is not just for the baby. It will help with mood swings, regulate your body and ease you back into your pre-baby form. If you do it right and eat right, your baby weight will practically melt off.

8. Do not give up too early. Even though some pain in the beginning is probably inevitable, do not give up too early. Get help, find support from other women, and remember that word patience. Just because you might have a few rough patches or have to overcome some obstacles early on does not mean you have to quit. On the flip side, you should not forge ahead with unhealthy pain either. After all, baby needs to eat and you need to maintain sanity so it is true that breastfeeding is not for everyone. But stick with it, especially if you wanted to breastfeed during your pregnancy. If you want to be successful, you will.

9. Drag yourself out of bed and go to your nursing “spot” and try to enjoy the ride. You will be tired, but if you are trying to avoid the co-bedding route, this will help your baby get used to sleeping in his/her cradle or crib. Doing so will also pay off in the long-run. Even though you will be utterly exhausted, try to get up for feedings. It will not last forever.

10. Write down the times of your feedings for the first two months in a breastfeeding journal or log. It will keep you sane and provide a good place for you to look for patterns, which will help you mentally prepare for the next feeding and watch for baby’s cues. You will be able to figure out what/when your baby needs to feed. Let baby dictate the schedule at first. At two months (or thereabouts) you will have a pretty good handle on baby’s schedule and it will be like clockwork. From that point, you can try to control the schedule a little more. Since baby is bigger, immediate feedings are not quite as important. So if you need a schedule (like me) this will help you learn to hold baby off for a few minutes or encourage baby to eat if it has been awhile. After two months, do not feel obligated to put baby to breast at every whimper. Crying might not be hunger related. Again, you can try to control the schedule with flexibility. Do not be too rigid and watch out for growth spurts.

Lessons Learned:

1. In the beginning, nursing Lance was a huge challenge for me. It hurt, I did not know what I was doing or feel confidant at all. But I stuck with it and soon learned that it was pleasurable and rewarding for both of us.

2. If you want to be successful at breastfeeding, you will. I learned this from my cousin and it is SO true. If you are willing and able and can establish a good relationship early, you both will benefit. Try to make it your goal to breastfeed as long as your baby wants to. In my case, I am certain Lance would have continued longer, but unfortunately my body could not sustain it as long as I intended. My take away is to do it as long as either you and/or your baby wants to nurse. Try not to give yourself unrealistic goals. My goal was to make it to six months and although I did not reach that goal, I have learned to be happy with the amount of time I did have to nurse Lance. Another take away – if you do not reach your initial goal, re-group and move forward… 🙂

3. I use the phrase “rest in between feedings” instead of sleep because I found it very difficult to sleep in the beginning. I constantly felt “on” and I had to force myself to try to rest as much as possible. Although the “sleep when your baby sleeps” theory is a good one, this simply did not work for me. Try to figure out when you can rest and, yes, SLEEP when you can. Unfortunately, in my case, sleep deprivation was a big turning point in my Mommy meltdown.

4. While I was breastfeeding I drank a ton of water. In addition, I would have a cup of coffee in the morning and a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Several nights a week I would have one glass of red wine. It was cold and wintertime when I started breastfeeding Lance and red wine appealed to me. Some foods that I tried to limit myself on were onions, curry, broccoli, caffeine, and fake sugar (found in diet sodas and non-fat yogurt). Instead I drank Gingerale and ate regular yogurts. Some of the most common foods I ate consistently were eggs, peanut butter, dairy, and whole wheat breads. I probably should have eaten more fruit, but again it was wintertime and the fruit selection was sparse. I did eat quite a few Clementine oranges, but I often questioned whether or not they were too citrusy. I ate dessert at least once or twice a day, too — love my sweets, including chocolate! In general, I tried to eat a balanced diet everyday with a variety of foods from all of the food groups.

5. To this day, I am still in contact with my favorite lactation consultant. This woman was invaluable to me. I met her during our childbirth class and instantly felt a connection with her. I stuck with her and trusted her to help me and answer my questions throughout the whole process. Through her, I was able to connect with other nurses who helped me a lot while I was in the hospital. Whether it is a lactation consultant or a nurse — connect with a woman in the hospital who will help you. I did not have my mother or any close friends nearby during  labor and delivery so I knew I would have to connect with another woman in a way that I knew would be helpful to me. Jan was a wonderful, supportive spouse throughout the delivery, but I will be forever grateful to the women who helped me in the hospital. Do not be shy about anything during your experience no matter how gross… or funny… or ridiculous… or gross/funny/ridiculous it might be. In other words, try to laugh your way through some of the pain and tears that will no doubt ensue at some point.

6. I loved nursing Lance. I wish I could have done it longer, but that is a moot point. Overall, I am happy with how much we did get to bond during nursing and know that I gave him three and a half months of nutrition and my antibodies. In the beginning (for the first two months at least) I nursed him 9-10 times per day on both breasts. I read a lot while I nursed in between gazing at him and talking to him. I always figured the milk was for him, the book was for me, and the special snuggle time was for both of us. I tried NOT to talk on my cell phone and usually nursed in the same one to two spots in our house each time. This was pretty easy for me since our house is small, but it is important to have and use a nursing “spot.”

7. After I had Lance I thought I would be stuck with extra baby weight, but I am convinced that nursing him helped me get my figure back. Double bonus — he was benefiting, and in addition to the health benefits for me, I was also losing the weight. Breastfeeding is a natural and normal activity. Keep that at the forefront when you have company and are in public. Or when you are around people who think is gross or weird. Ignore them — they just “do not get it” and probably never will.

8. Not long after Lance was born I remember reading somewhere that one of the biggest pitfalls of breastfeeding is that women give up too early. Yep, I can see how that can happen. I had a rough go in the beginning. Plagued with a spinal headache, I had a hard time sitting up long enough to nurse so I had to learn to feed lying down right away. This was painful in itself because I had a C-section and the incision made it very difficult to turn onto my side and back to my back. Another hurdle I had was that Lance spent his first night in the nursery on oxygen, due to fluid in his lungs, and then had to stay in the nursery for 24-hour observation after getting off the oxygen. Despite the incredible head pain, I was in, Jan wheeled me down to the nursing in a wheelchair and held an icepack to the back of my head while I fumbled my way through those first nursing sessions. Yes, I had my challenges and I have not even mentioned the word “nipple” yet?! Indeed, I experienced nipple soreness, nipple pain, nipple what-ever-you want to call it. I was lost and not sure I was doing things “right.” But alas, and in the end, the troubles passed and soon I was breastfeeding with no trouble at all… and that is when things got good. No amount of pain was too much for me. I was determined to breastfeed and I did, and for that I am grateful.

9. I found getting up in the night was the route for me. Jan and I switched sides of the bed so I was now closest to the door and could basically roll out of bed and stumble across the hall to a hungry Lance. Once I was semi-awake and started nursing, I never seemed to mind those nighttime feedings. Yes, I was tired at times, but other times I was wide awake and thoroughly enjoying watching him suckle away and then sweetly fall back to sleep in my arms. I had the same routine every night and by the end of March he was sleeping through the night in his own crib. We used a newborn sleeper for the first two months, but easily transitioned him out of it and into his crib where he still happily sleeps through the night. We have managed to keep our bed for us and his bed for him. Aside from family weekend mornings when we all sleep late and snuggle in our bed together, Lance sleeps alone and in his own bed. We get better rest that way and still have some semblance of our an adult relationship in our bed. This works for us.

10. Keeping a nursing log in my journal really helped me. I was very in tune with his feedings and really got a sense of when he ate and the progress we were making with regard to his weight gain. I did it for the first two months and then after that I did not feel the need anymore. So the length of time you keep a journal will probably very, but it is definitely a good idea and will give you peace of mind that your baby is eating enough.

In closing, I wish you all the best. If you have any questions or comments for me, please let me know. I have much more I could probably share — including the fact that my left breast always produced more than my right and my experiences pumping so I could go out and about with worrying about his next feeding. BUT, alas, those are other topics for another day.

Best wishes.

About britta326

blogger, picture-taker, diaper-changer, runner

6 thoughts on “Breastfeeding tips and lessons learned

  1. Nicely written, Britta. I couldn’t agree more about the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom. I am still nursing Eli at 15 months and our breastfeeding relationship is such a joy to us both. He knows the baby sign for “nurse,” and when he makes the sign and smiles at me, my heart just melts! I sometimes stress about when (and how!) to wean, but I’m confident that I will know when the time is right for Eli and/or me.

    • Thnx for your comments, Sam. Great to hear you are still nursing and absolutely enjoying the process. I really wish I could have done it longer. Keep in touch and keep reading! xoxo

  2. Great post Britta! I found myself agreeing with everything you said. I am still breast feeding Owen at ten months and so glad we have made it this far. Since his birth went nothing as planned or hoped for I was determined as all get out to breast feed. It was so horrible for the first three months. I cried almost every time he would nurse from the pain. Finally it stopped and it’s been wonderful ever since. I can understand how easy it is to give up too and my right side makes so much more than my left! Haha. I want a wine cooler now and then but I’m too scared to try! Can’t wait to read the rest of your blog! Cori

  3. This is such a great resource! Thank you! Choosing to breastfeed was literally one of the best choices I ever made. I love meeting others who are equally as happy in their breastfeeding relationship, with their little one. There is nothing better! 🙂

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