This part of my breastfeeding series will be focusing on the mistakes that I made during the first couple of weeks/months after Baby E was born. Currently she is almost 8 months and nurses with no end in sight. Even though things are very successful right now, the beginning wasn’t as beautiful. So here are my top 4 mistakes, in no particular order, and I hope you learn from them!
Update (1/19/17): I ended up nursing Baby E successfully for 13 months!
Mistake #1: I didn’t ask for my husband’s help.
I strongly encourage all new mothers to utilize their support system(s). Whether it be a close friend, your mother or grandmother, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc., definitely ask for help with breastfeeding! I assumed that since it was my body doing the feeding, I didn’t need his help. I knew that he had to work and I didn’t want to disturb him. I later realized that we are all in this together! Breastfeeding is not only physically demanding but also very emotionally demanding. You shouldn’t have to go through each nightly feeding alone if you don’t have to. So how can someone help? Well, in the beginning, positioning the baby and the breast can be really difficult for new moms. Ask them to assist you in getting yourself comfortable and then getting the baby comfortable. You will also probably need food and/or water, so ask for those things as well. At this time, you can stay seated and hopefully relaxed with full focus on your feeding. While your support person is awake and helping, you should also talk to them and just vent or release any feelings. I think that just having that companionship can also be very helpful.
Mistake #2: I didn’t practice.
By practice, I mean that I didn’t practice how I would nurse in public. I had every intention of doing it but it wasn’t the easiest thing to do at the time so I chose the lazier route (of just wearing no shirt all day). When you practice, you can either do it by using a nursing cover or wearing a similar outfit that you’d wear in public but at home. This is great idea for mamas who are always on the go. You’re going to have to nurse in public one day so you might as well try to perfect it (especially if you’re as awkward and clumsy as I am). My first time nursing in public was stressful. It made me and Baby E very uncomfortable and unhappy. I think I ended up going to my car to finish her feeding. Nursing in public doesn’t have to be an awful, awkward, uncoordinated experience so definitely practice while you’re at home with your little one.
Mistake #3: I didn’t thoroughly educate myself
Being a registered nurse with lactation specific education, I assumed that I had this down! I thought that I was going to be a pro. Wrong! Teaching breastfeeding versus actually breastfeeding is such a huge difference. I highly recommend taking a class or researching breastfeeding before the baby is born. Doing this will not only eliminate a little stress once the baby is present but it will also help you set goals and realistic expectations. Although breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it doesn’t always come naturally for a lot of women. There are several obstacles but fortunately, modern medicine and social media has made it so that almost every mother can breastfeed successfully. There are several resources that provide breastfeeding classes. Reach out to your hospital (this may cost some money but worth it) or try typing in “breastfeeding” in the search box on Pinterest (completely free) to get more information and education.
Mistake #4: I got too stressed out.
Because my expectations were slightly unrealistic, I think that I got overwhelmed by reality. This led to an increased amount of stress. Yes, you will definitely be stressed during those first couple of weeks but you don’t have to be over stressed. This mistake basically comes from my lack of education and asking for help. Stress is a major inhibitor of milk production. Not only does it affect your milk supply but apparently the baby feeds off of your negative energy. This only makes the situation more stressful because now the baby isn’t latching properly and he/she is scream-crying and now you’re most likely crying. It’s a downwards spiral. My advice: take it easy and be patient with yourself and your body. As stressful as it all can be, try to think of the bigger picture (feeding and satisfying that tiny little human). I realized that I just wanted to make sure that Baby E was fed and nurtured and peaceful in my arms. Once I was able to release some tension, I noticed that feeding became more relaxing for the both of us.
So now that you know what my mistakes were, I hope that you can take from my experience and build on that. My advice to all new mothers or even veteran mothers hoping to breastfeed their next child is this: get help, practice, study, and don’t stress. It sounds like school work, right?! The thing is, it isn’t easy. It’s natural but also such an unnatural feeling. The only way to make this work for you and your sweet baby to work on it! In the end, when that baby is nursing away, gaining weight, and you’re breastfeeding while doing 5 other things, you’ll think “wow, this is so easy”. Just remember, it wasn’t always that easy, you’ve just gotten so much better!
Did you make any mistakes in your breastfeeding journey? If so, what were they and how could you improve?