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Beginning the Breastfeeding Journey

Most moms who choose to hire doulas are on-board with breastfeeding and have every intention of giving breastfeeding a real shot! There are ways to increase your chances of success at breastfeeding, and starting off on the right foot is an important first step to take.

First and foremost, new moms should know and understand that breastfeeding is a journey. It is similar to pregnancy in a sense: Pregnant mothers know to expect morning sickness, sleepiness, weight gain, and swollen feet.  This is par for the course in pregnancy; everyone’s symptoms vary slightly but for the most part, these are common symptoms that every pregnant mom deals with, and no one is surprised when they have these issues during pregnancy.  Well, breastfeeding also has common issues, but it seems they’re less talked about!  When a nursing mom has concern, she might feel she’s the only one in the world going through it.  Breastfeeding has its hiccups too, they’re common, and there are ways to try to work through each and every one of them.  Once a mom realizes and accepts that she and her newborn babe are on a journey together, with high roads and low roads, the complications she may encounter will be easier accepted.As in all things, knowledge is the key to success.  Before baby is born, mom should get her hands on a couple of great breastfeeding books and read through them.  She should talk to other experienced moms at a La Leche League meeting, or meetup with a lactation consultant.  Talking to other moms who have had overcome issues with latch, tongue tie, or low supply can give a new mom confidence!  Surrounding herself with supportive friends and family is crucial during the newborn period, when it can be easy to give up and offer “just one bottle.” 

An experienced mom can also share her experiences with things like baby weight loss, cluster feeding, elimination diets, and crying spells.  It’s nice to know that breastfed babies tend to not gain weight as quickly as formula-fed babies, and could potentially even be measured on the WHO’s growth chart instead of the CDC’s growth chart.

The first few days after birth, mom produces a thick, yellowish substance called colostrum.  This is liquid gold for baby!  Mom shouldn’t worry, her milk will “come in” within a few days and may experience engorgement or nipple pain.  There are several home remedies for dealing with pain mom might experience, but again it’s important to realize that this is a normal experience!

My advice for new nursing moms involves lots of yummy fluids to drink (with a straw!), gentle massage and cool packs to relieve engorgement, a comfortable shirt and easy-access nursing bra, and LOTS of prefold-style cloth diapers to clean up leaky milk!  Use your extra leaky breastmilk to moisturize your nipples, but keep them dry and out of wet breastpads to avoid infection and chaffing.  I also found that gentle, circular massage on my breasts while nursing my baby helped me to make sure my breast was emptying completely.

There are so many wonderful supportive websites to visit, a wonderful place to begin is kellymom.com, which I’ve linked to several times in this post.  Remember that every drop of breastmilk you give to your baby is amazing and absolutely cannot compare to formula!  If you have trouble breastfeeding and are in need of support, please contact a lactation consultant!  It is their job to help you and your baby be successful!  If you are unable to nurse your baby, there are alternatives to forumla including milk share and donation programs.

Beginning the breastfeeding journey is exciting!  There are so many things that could happen, but simply knowing that the journey does consist of ups and downs is certainly reassuring.  I know for me, every single “bump” in our road has been worth every effort on my part to continue breastfeeding; just knowing that I was giving my baby the very best start in life was worth every stained shirt!

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