I knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed. It was a choice I made for the overall health of our baby as well as being much cheaper than formula. I tried to breastfeed my first daughter but lacked commitment and gave up within days of her being born.
This time around, I was determined to breastfeed. It’s only been ten days, and I am by no means an expert in breastfeeding, but I have a pretty good idea what I’m doing at this point. I want to share with you what I’ve learned in the first week of breastfeeding.
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1. Even If You Have Flat or Inverted Nipples, You Can Breastfeed
There are products on the market to help women with flat and inverted nipples. Breast Shields are great tools to help babies latch on. Many of them are made with ultra-thin silicone and are designed to provide optimum skin-to-skin contact. With the use of breast shields, your nipples will be pulled into the shield and eventually stick out on their own where you won’t need to use the breast shield.
2. Don’t Buy a Bra While You’re Engorged
I made the mistake of buying a bra while I was engorged because none of my other bras fit and I badly wanted to wear a bra. Sadly, within a few days my engorged breasts reduced in size and my brand new bra was much too big. My best advice is to wear a super stretchy sports bra or get comfortable in tank tops with built in shelf bras for a few days until your breasts reduce in size.
3. Hot Showers Are Your Best Friend
When you are engorged, your breasts feel like bowling balls and are tender to the touch. Even with your baby nursing every couple hours, your breasts will be large and sore. To relieve some of the pressure, jump in a hot shower with your back towards the water. Allow the hot water to run over the front of your chest. This alone will help with the soreness. To further relieve your aching breasts you can attempt to hand express. Watch this video for instruction on how to do it.
4. Get Some Nursing Pads and Use Them Religiously
Otherwise, you run the risk of having a large and embarrassing wet spot on your shirt. All it takes is for your nipple to brush against something or rub on your shirt the wrong way and you will be leaking breast milk. Trust me. It happened the other day in the grocery store and I ended up with a quarter size spot on my sweatshirt. You can get reusable/washable nursing pads or a large pack of disposable nursing pads.
5. Your Breasts Will Not Be Huge and Sore Forever
I was on the verge of tears when my breasts were engorged. I pleaded back and forth with the idea of giving up and wondered how other women did it for as long as they did. At the time I didn’t realize that the swelling and tightness would go away and my breasts would once again feel and look like my breasts. If you are struggling with the pain that comes with engorgement, look into these cooling/warming gel pads that can be applied to the breast to help relieve discomfort and even help with blocked ducts.
6. But, it Takes Time for Your Nipples to Toughen Up
I am 10 days in and my nipples are still tender. Every once and a while when Baby O latches on I cry a little on the inside. Your nipples will be sore. They may even crack or bleed, but there are some really great options to relieve the pain. When I was in the hospital my nurse gave me these soothing gel breast pads. A friend of mine also recommended lanolin breastfeeding salve. Both products have made the first week of breastfeeding much more comfortable.
7. Babies Can Take 20 Minutes to Nurse, or They Can Take 40 Minutes
Be prepared for varying nursing times. If you have an appointment in the morning, err on the side of safety and allow at least 40 minutes to feed your newborn. Depending on how alert and awake they are will help determine how long they will feed. Sometimes they will feed off of one breast and after being burped will want to feed on the other side. You don’t want to be rushed or feel frustrated with feeding your newborn, so give them adequate time to get satisfied.
The first week of breastfeeding is taxing both physically and emotionally. Remember, it’s a learning process for both you and baby. Stay patient and remind yourself why you chose to breastfeed. If you can, get some of the above-listed tools and aids to help get you through.
Mommas, what helped get you through your first week of breastfeeding? And mommas-to-be, what is your main reason for choosing to breastfeed?
Be sure to share this article with anyone who is pregnant and planning to breastfeed.