Let's set the scene: You finally make it through delivery, and hear the hallelujah chorus after surviving labor (nice work, mama). Then they immediately hand you your puffy little bundle and after some unattractive sobbing about your perfect miracle, you try and get him to nurse. All at once you forget every single thing you memorized from your breastfeeding class, and you fumble around trying to actually get a little mouth to attach to your body. Thankfully, you're still blissfully unaware of 99% of what's going on, or else you would probably be a little freaked out at this point. But he latches on for the most part and you're able to breath a sigh of relief. That wasn't so bad. The next couple of days are pretty much the same. Then they let you bring said sucking bundle home. And you try to replicate what you did while the hospital, and it turns out that you have No. Idea. What. You're. Doing. Your milk is coming in so fast, you don't have enough shirts to change into, and your baby is hungry and screaming, but somehow unable to drink a drop. You are at a loss for what to do and start looking for some help.
If this story sounds at all familiar to you, then I feel ya mama! This is my humble tale of the first week of breastfeeding with my son, and I will say that it was NOT as easy as I imagined it would be. The purpose of this post, though, is not to discourage all you mamas from breastfeeding, but to encourage you to keep trying! Breastfeeding is one of the most special connections that I have been able to make with my son, and I'm so glad that I stuck with it. Here are the three main tips from my own experience that I hope will help mamas with newborns struggling to latch!
1. You are not alone
I think the most important tip I can give to any mama who is struggling with a nursing a newborn it is that there are SO many resources available to you to help with breastfeeding. Most insurances now actually have special programs that have hotlines, tips, equipment, and support for moms trying their best to nurse. I can say with all honestly that I would not have nursed my son if I had not utilized the services of a lactation nurse in that first week after my son was born. Reach out to your providers, or get some referrals from friends and family about resources they found helpful when they were starting out, and you will be surprised how big the booby community really is.
2. Try different positions
Remember that you and baby are learning together, and that it may take some time before you feel comfortable nursing. That's okay! In fact, that's normal! Sometimes all it takes is one good latch and nursing to make all the difference (I know it did for me). Not every baby is the same, the way every boob isn't the same, and it may take some time to figure out the best position for you both. Try laying down on your side or holding baby across your side like a football to try to encourage nursing, and be open to trying different positions to find out what your little one prefers. A good tip I got from my lactation nurse was to make sure you are comfortable first, and then baby will be more comfortable! For some great breastfeeding positions, check out our previous post The Top 4 Breastfeeding Positions.
3. We want BIG MAC babiesThe best advice I ever got for latching was this: If baby is going in with spaghetti slurping lips, he's latching wrong, and it will hurt. We want baby to have a BIG MAC MOUTH when he's latching. What my nurse meant by that, was that the mouth needs to be open wide enough to cover the whole areola (just like taking a big bite of a Big Mac), and not just the nipple (like you would slurping up some spaghetti). Try your best to encourage baby to open up wide, and then apply pressure to the back of the neck to latch on. Avoid pushing on the back of his head, because that will trigger him to push back and will make latching more difficult.
Let's get real: Breastfeeding can be hard. But breastfeeding is also so worth it. In a lot of ways it's a waste of breath to tell a new mom that she shouldn't get discouraged when her baby struggles to latch, or when latching becomes painful or uncomfortable. It's absolutely inevitable for every one of us to feel like we're doing something wrong. But we are also doing SO much right. Reach out to people who will help encourage you, and give you advice on what you can do differently to help. Be open to advice, but also do what feels best to you. You feeling content with your routine with baby is always what matters most!
Hang in there mama. You are amazing! XO
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