My first pregnancy was the most challenging and rewarding time of my life. So many firsts were happening to me. All celebrated with such ignorant bliss – I literally went through labor and delivery with no clue that I actually had choices I could make – and then embarking on the most single rewarding task – that of becoming a mother. What little I did know – I chose to breastfeed.
My son, my first child – was certainly a learning experience for me. I have twenty-twenty hindsight now and wish I knew then what I know now! I was blessed, so I was told, to have a lactation consultant for a pediatric nurse with my son. Please know I am not bashing lactation consultants or the like. With my son’s birth, I felt I received suggestions that frustrated me – leaving me in tears and ready to give up. I do have a very good friend who is a lactation consultant and she gives wonderful advice. I truly wish I could have had her then! But, just in case you receive advice from someone who is well-meaning – but who leaves you ready to throw in the towel – I have a few suggestions from my own experience.
The trauma of birthing a child is certainly something that takes a little while to recover from. Unfortunately, mothering and breastfeeding are not going to wait. They pretty much begin immediately. The number one piece of advice I can give to all new mothers embarking on breastfeeding for the first time is to relax. It’s when I finally relaxed with my son that I was able to properly breastfeed him. This occurred about 5 days after he was born – when I was on the verge of completely giving up breastfeeding.
While in the hospital – I was taught how to “hold” the baby – in the football hold – cross lying hold – with pillows, without pillows. It was enough to confuse me. What worked best for me was to put a pillow in my lap – this worked well with my daughter after a cesarean too – and to lay the baby in my arm crossways and with my free hand to help the baby to latch on. I usually put a pillow under the arm holding the baby. This was most comfortable as I could see the baby and nurse easily.
I had, with both children, a nurse to come in and inquire if I had “pulled” my nipples before placing the baby at my breasts. I had to laugh with my daughter – because, quite frankly, I did not. I see no need – at least unless you have inverted nipples to pull on them or to prepare them before beginning to breastfeed. Nature has a way of working things out – if you follow your instincts. The baby will know what to do when the time comes.
At first, you may need to “tease” the baby with the nipple – enticing him to latch on – sometimes you may need to gently pull his chin down and help to place the entire areola into his mouth – he will begin sucking. One thing I would like to talk about is “sleepy babies.” This occurs if the mother has had IV injection of a narcotic such as Stadol. This does pass on to the baby and for the first couple of days the newborn is very groggy and may need a lot of coaxing to nurse. I had this with my son – which further frustrated me. With my daughter, a cesarean, I only had a spinal and epidural – and she was more awake and latched on right away.
Many women give up because they think that if the milk does not come in within a few days of giving birth – then they are not producing enough. With my daughter, who was born at 36 weeks and by a cesarean, it took my milk a good five days to come in. My pediatrician voiced concern that I was starving my daughter – yet I did not give up. I knew that being pre-term and with the cesarean – it could take a little longer for the milk to come in. A newborn baby can go really well for the first week or so on nothing but colostrum – the first milk produced. I relaxed and took warm showers and massaged my breasts to help my milk come in. Finally – 5 days later, my milk came in heavily and my daughter to this day is a thriving 2 1/2-year-old.
Another point I would like to touch on is the length of time you allow the baby at each breast. I have heard 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes; but the truth is that the baby can stay on a breast a lot longer – as long as you are comfortable and the baby is sucking. The breast has the ability to constantly reproduce – just keep this in mind.
So, my resounding advice – derived from experience (I nursed my son for 12 months and my daughter for 19 months) is to relax and not give up. Listen to the nurses – but don’t get frustrated by all their well-meaning tips. Babies are born with the ability to latch on and in most cases do not need to be taught to do so. Do as I do and smile and nod and then do what you feel is right. If you haven’t a clue – then try some of their suggestions and by all means – enjoy this wonderful time with your new baby.