When I was pregnant, I just knew I was going to breastfeed my daughter once she arrived. But when I had a C-section 10 weeks early after being diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, I had no idea what breastfeeding really required. Every mom's story is different, but there were things I wish I would've known about breastfeeding before going into the OR (I had no clue the short-lived journey would start just a few days after).
Whether it's the power of pumping, methods to boost your milk supply, and of course getting the little one to latch, there's so much that goes into learning how to breastfeed, and it can be a bit overwhelming and tempting to give up. To help with that, we've curated a guide for you to dig in before your breastfeeding journey.
When To Start Breastfeeding
Once you decide to breastfeed, it's vital to mentally prepare right away, because your life will change for quite a few months ahead. A couple of days after her arrival, I was still in the hospital and hadn't yet seen my baby girl when the lactation consultant wheeled in a pumping machine. I told her I wanted to ultimately breastfeed and she immediately showed me how to pump (if you have a full-term newborn, you could start breastfeeding as soon as an hour after giving birth, according to Medela). The gist is, it's vital to start as soon as possible.
How Often Should You Breastfeed?
Breastfeeding in the first 24 hours can be a wildcard. You and your bundle of joy are working on finding a rhythm together, and each baby will be different. When your liquid gold (a.k.a. milk) makes its arrival, your newborn could eat up to 12 times a day (yes, even in the overnight hours). While it's a well-known fact that getting up to feed a baby at two in the morning every day is exhausting, this can also serve as a beautiful time for you to bond.
Breastfeeding sessions can last between 10 and 45 minutes. While your little one might not get on a schedule right away, they'll get the hang of it over time.
Does Breastfeeding Hurt?
A rule of thumb is that breastfeeding will be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be too painful. Fortunately, there's nipple cream that doubles as a lifesaver. While I didn't breastfeed like I hoped (ultimately, my supply was just too low but that's another story), I did pump my breasts until kingdom come, and I don't know what I would've done without nipple cream. Since everyone is different, it's best to see a lactation consultant about any concerns you have.
How Much Breastmilk Is Enough?
It's understandable to wonder if your newborn is really getting the nutrients they need. If you're staying consistent with feeding every 2-3 hours, they should be just fine. A couple of signs that a baby isn't getting enough breastmilk include:
- Your baby not gaining weight,
- Your baby taking too little or too much,
- Latching goes beyond discomfort and is extremely painful.
Because we like to celebrate wins too, signs that a newborn is getting enough milk include:
- Your baby gaining weight,
- Regular pooping and peeing (at least 6 to 8 wet diapers a day after their fifth day of life),
- Latching every two to three hours,
- Hearing your baby swallowing while breastfeeding and seeing breast milk in their mouth,
- Your breasts could also feel softer and less full compared to before feeding.
How To Boost Your Milk Supply
Hydrate girl! Drinking lots of water does wonders for boosting your milk supply. As new moms, it can be hard to even find time to get a sip of water, let alone enough for the day. But knowing that it can help increase your breast milk supply could be enough to stay motivated.
Other ways to increase your supply include: keep feeding on demand (every two to three hours), switching back and forth between breasts (this is especially helpful if the baby falls asleep while eating), pump between feedings, and getting as much rest as you can. There are also a few nifty products out there like lactation cookies.
Breastfeeding Vs. Formula Feeding: Which Is Better?
Any way a mother decides to nurture her child is her decision. Once I came to terms that breastfeeding wasn't going to work out the way I hoped, I realized that #fedisbest and what really matters is that she's getting the nutrients she needs.
Breastfeeding does have undeniable benefits, from boosting a newborn's immunity to helping with brain development. But if formula feeding is your only option or just the one that works best for you, it's not a bad one. It just might not be ideal. For me, I didn't have the capacity to breastfeed, and my little one came home on a high-calorie formula. It took a while to come to terms with this being our journey and getting over the guilt of not being able to breastfeed her once she was developed enough to latch, but after almost three months of being home, she's doing just fine (and sis doesn't play about her meals).
Whatever you decide, don't give in to the pressure to go one way or the other. Know that you're doing your best and the person who knows what's best for your newborn is you.
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