We all have our ideas about how breastfeeding will go for us, especially if we haven’t breastfed before. There are many idealized images and even religious ones that we absorb into our unconscious. A beautiful goddess with flowing robes and beautiful hair, with a glowing infant tucked into her breast and a golden halo behind her. Whether she is Mother Mary or Bast, the message is clear - you should be lovely, your infant should be blissful, you should both glow, and your breastfeeding should be effortless.
Well….the reality is usually much, much different. And there is not that much glowing. There are latch issues, and fussy babes, and tired mamas, and sore nipples, and everyone is worn out and cranky and in need of some food and a nap.
And you know what? More than likely, with the right help and support, it’s all going to be okay. You WILL get to a point where, in between talking to your partner and talking on the phone, you will be able to distractedly latch baby on and nurse like it’s no big deal. So, let’s talk a little about some of those things that might come in between you and that blissful, glowing mama you have imagined in your mind.
It Will Probably Not Come Easily
Even for experienced nursing mamas, each baby is different. Each baby is bigger or smaller, their mouths are shaped differently and are different sizes. They have good or not so good latches. If they are earlier than full term their muscle coordination and strength can be a little weak, which can affect their latch.
For a first-time mom, you may expect to just be able to put the baby near your breast, and baby will just start suckling, and all will be good. Right? Well, not exactly. This is why it is so very important for you to get lots of information before your baby is born and make sure you have a solid plan in place for help after the baby is born.
It Might Hurt Some
Pain that lasts all through a nursing session is not normal. If you are experiencing pain that continues the whole time you nurse, please talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation expert to figure out what is causing the problem.
However, in the first few weeks of nursing, it is normal to experience some pain when the baby first latches on and begins to nurse. This pain should pass as the baby continues to nurse and the rest of the nursing session should be pain free. You can help to ease this pain with our herbal nipple salve. Your nipples will soon get used to the stimulation of nursing and it will no longer be uncomfortable when you nurse.
It Will take a Few Days for Your Milk to Come In
Your milk will take a few days to come in - this is totally and completely normal. Your babies body is perfectly designed and prepared for it. The first little amounts of colostrum that they get are exactly what they need until your milk comes in and their constant desire to suckle and be close to you tells your body to bring your milk in. It can take anywhere from between 2-5 days for your milk to come in. Keep drinking plenty of fluids, eating nutrient dense foods, getting plenty of rest, and nursing your baby whenever they show a desire to, and more than likely, everything will be just fine.
Unless there is some unusual medical condition, there is no need to pump or supplement in those first days. Your baby and your body know what they are doing.
Your Baby will Want to Nurse All the Time (I am Not Kidding)
There is a look most moms have at the 24 hour home check-up that I do. They answer the door wide-eyed, looking harried and a little concerned. Often they are in the same clothes I left them in 24 hours before. They will say something along the lines of, “I didn’t know she would want to nurse SO much…..”
What they mean, of course, is the fact that newborns will nurse all the time. They sleep and they nurse. They get a little fussy and they nurse. They need a new diaper and they nurse. They don’t understand what is going on with this big world and they want to nurse. The sounds are weird and they want to nurse. When they are little the answer for almost everything is nursing. Remember that their stomachs are tiny and your breastmilk is the perfect food for them, so they digest it very easily - which all means they need to eat often.
Their constant want to be close to you and suckle works together with your bodies ability to provide for what your baby needs. A good baby carrier can help to eliminate some of the sore back and arms that can come from carrying your baby around all the time.
Engorgement is a Real Thing - It will Pass and It is Not a Reason to Pump
Your breasts may become uncomfortably hard and full of milk to the point where it is hard for your baby to latch on. This is called engorgement and believe it or not, this is normal. It is okay to hand express or pump just enough to soften the end of your breast so your baby can latch on, but please don’t pump your breasts to the point of being empty. This will just signal to your body to make even more milk! Let your baby nurse as often as she wants to and the engorgement should pass within 24 hours or so.
You Do not Need to Pump to Bring Your Milk In
Let your baby nurse as often as she wants to, and you will be fine. No pumping required. Remember the points below too, though. Eating and drinking plenty is also very important.
You Need to Eat More Than When you Were Pregnant
When you were pregnant, you were growing your baby inside your body, and providing 100% of what your baby needed. Now that your baby is born, if you are exclusively breastfeeding, you are still providing your baby 100% of what he needs, but your baby is continuing to get bigger and bigger, which means that you still need to maintain at least the same calorie intake as when you were pregnant, and probably even a bit more. Now is not the time to diet.
You Need to Drink a Lot of Healthy Fluids
Making milk takes a lot of fluids and you may find yourself thirsty in a way you have never experienced! Keep a full drink with you at all times, alternating between water, and nourishing herbal teas that can support and help your breastfeeding efforts.
So, you may not have the golden halo, but more than likely, you will be able to nurse your baby without issues. It may take you some work to get there and there may be some bumps along the way, but you can do this. Let your love and milk flow!