The first six weeks of breastfeeding are undoubtedly the most difficult. Before I had kids, I figured breastfeeding is natural so it couldn’t be that hard. I was so wrong. In the first six weeks, you are not only responsible for feeding your baby, but you are also recovering from giving birth, your hormones are out of whack, and you’re running on very little sleep. It’s tough! Here are some tips and advice that will hopefully make the first six weeks a little easier.
Take Advantage of Lactation Consultants
Breastfeeding starts almost immediately after you give birth. A lactation consultant at the hospital will help you navigate the world of breastfeeding. The lactation consultant can show you how to get your baby to properly latch, and the best nursing positions. Even after you are discharged from the hospital, you can still contact the lactation consultants. For example, Flagler Hospital offers assistance 24 hours a day.
How Do You Know If You’re Breastfeeding Correctly?
Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re nursing correctly, especially with your first child. Keep in mind that breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times, but as time goes on it should get easier. If you’re in extreme pain while nursing, then try changing nursing positions or working on the latch. Kelly Mom has a helpful list of latching and positioning resources.
If you’re unsure if the baby is getting enough milk, then you should keep track of wet diapers and weight gain. According to Kelly Mom, your baby should have 5-6 wet diapers a day. If you suspect any issues, contact the pediatrician. A pediatrician will also let you know if the baby is gaining enough weight.
Managing Your Breast Milk Supply
Many mamas experience low supply. I struggled with this when I nursed my son. Staying hydrated and eating a lot helped keep my supply up. If you have a hard time staying hydrated trying using a hydration app on your phone or switch things up with flavored sparkling water or diluted sports drinks. Make sure you have some snacks nearby while you nurse. If you’re still having trouble with your supply, you could try making lactation cookies and/or take a Fenugreek supplement. Pumping after nursing sessions also helps build your supply.
Other moms might experience an oversupply of milk. Since I had a low supply I was always envious of moms who had this issue, but I know it can be very painful and make breastfeeding difficult. Your first instinct might be to pump to relieve the pressure, but that could make it harder for your body to regulate your milk supply. Try a hot shower or compress to help relieve pressure and try drinking sage tea. If the problem continues, contact your lactation consultant or doctor.
Make the Most of Nursing Time
During the first six weeks, your baby is going to eat so much. You and baby are going to be joined at the nip almost 24/7. Plan ahead and make the most of this time. Pick a show to binge watch, stock up on magazines and enjoy the baby snuggles. Enjoy this downtime because it will fly by.
If you have other kids at home this time can be tricky. Stock up on stickers, no mess marker coloring books, puzzles, play dough, etc. to keep them busy while you nurse. Ease up on screen time restrictions. If you have mom guilt about this, make sure to stick to educational shows and apps.
Find a Breastfeeding Support System
If you don’t already have a support system, check with your lactation consultant for support groups at the hospital. Another great resource for meeting moms and asking for advice is the St. Augustine Moms Blog Neighborhood Group on Facebook. Even if you don’t have a breastfeeding issue, it’s so helpful to talk to other moms going through the same thing you are. While you are breastfeeding during the first six weeks, you might feel isolated. Connecting with other moms will help you stay sane.
What Do I Need to Buy to Breastfeed?
Wander down any baby feeding aisle at Target or Wal-Mart, and you’ll find a plethora of breastfeeding products. Do you really need all of the creams, pads, shields, teas, covers, and supplements? The short answer is no. Each mom is different, but it’s pretty unlikely you will need a lot of additional products. You will need a breast pump, which is covered by your insurance. Instead of a pricey nipple cream, try using coconut oil. Bonus, you can also use coconut oil instead of diaper cream. A Boppy, nursing pads and bras are also helpful. Check out another local mom’s top 5 nursing accessories.
Give Yourself Some Grace
With both of my babies I’m so happy I stuck with breastfeeding even though it was mentally and physically challenging. My son was in the NICU for about 24 hours after he was born, and I allowed him to have a bottle of formula during that time. I continued to supplement throughout our 13 months of breastfeeding, and I felt so guilty about it. Fast forward three years later and I would love for my daughter to take a bottle so mama can have a break! Breastfeed, bottle feed, formula feed; do whatever keeps baby healthy and your sanity intact. If your breastfeeding journey isn’t going as planned, check out these two mamas’ stories here and here.