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Dr. Anna's Breastfeeding Journey - 10 Lessons

Disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant, an IBCLC or an expert when it comes to breastfeeding.

This Blog is also a Webinar! Watch it here!

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I AM very experienced at feeling all of the raw, real and rewarding feelings that go along with learning how to breastfeed, experiencing struggles and overcoming them. When I was pregnant, I knew that breastfeeding was going to be a part of motherhood for me. I was not aware how difficult or how big of a role it would play early on. Looking back now, it’s so easy for me to see the areas that I neglected to prepare for. Breastfeeding is the biggest one. This is what has inspired me to share these tips, in hopes that you can be more prepared and have a smoother beginning to your breastfeeding journey.

Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned during late night feedings, panicked phone calls and texts to my midwife, and amazing tips from friends and loved ones:

1. Nursing to sleep

This is your super power. Don’t let anyone convince you it’s a “bad habit.” It is biologically normal to nurse to sleep, that’s why it’s so easy for babies to sleep at the breast. In the first few days and weeks you may have to try to keep them awake so they can fill their bellies, but when you know they’ve had their fill it’s wonderful to let them drift off to sleep.

I nurse to sleep all the time. It minimizes the stress of bedtime and actually makes it enjoyable. It works really well for my husband and I. When I am not there to nurse him to sleep, my husband and other care takers have had great success getting him to sleep in their own ways. Other things you need to master when you nurse to sleep:

  • Transitioning baby from your lap to another sleep surface
  • Surrendering to being trapped with a really cute baby on your lap.

2. Baby position when feeding – line up hips, shoulders and ear, body work

When you give birth to your baby, ideally you’ll feed that cutie right away. When you first attempt to put them to your breast, you may be amazed at how strange it feels. In order for baby to be comfortable, you’ll want to roll babe onto their side (facing your chest) and keep their hips, shoulders and head all in line. This is important because it’s surprising hard to swallow if your body is twisted. Try it! Turn your head 90 degrees over your shoulder, take a big drink of water and swallow it. Doesn’t that feel awkward? Our babies feel the same way if we try to turn their head to the breast instead of rotating their whole body.

Once you get good at this, encourage babies arms to hug your breast, one arm under and one arm over. At the beginning, you’ll feel like you don’t have enough hands. Keep trying, you’ll find what works for you and your baby and then it will feel natural.

If you’re having issues with baby nursing on one side, having a major difference in latch or seeing baby struggle at all, it’s a huge sign that baby needs help! This is where body work comes in.

Birth is really hard on the body. It’s hard on Mama’s body and really tough on babies. Those contractions were really strong and pushed your baby head first through the birth canal. That can certainly cause a pain in the neck. Not to mention the

3. Your position and posture while nursing baby

Support your back, elevate your feet, and find a good breastfeeding pillow. When first learning how to breastfeed, the last thing I worried about was how my body felt. All I cared about was making sure my child was getting what he needed. After a few days, it began to take a toll on my body. The furniture in our house, including the new glider in our nursery, don’t quite fit my body. I found myself hunched over awkwardly, with my feet up on my tippy toes. My back hurt, I began getting headaches and cramps in my calves.

Pillows to the rescue! I used a lot of pillows to support my back. I even used a pillow to elevate my feet which made a huge difference. Get creative! All of our bodies will need something a little bit different.

As you try to figure out how to nurse your baby, your posture and comfort will be the least of your concerns. This is why it is really important to get adjusted! Without my adjustments, my body would be a wreck. This will help you feel more comfortable nursing while helping your to heal from delivery.

4. The hamburger, taking advantage of reflexes and getting a deep latch

The rooting reflex: Use this to your advantage. Stroke your breast on babies cheek, moving towards the mouth. This stimulates the rooting reflex and baby will turn their mouth to the nipple. Click here to see a video of the reflex. Also, stroke from the tip of the nose down towards the mouth. This will encourage baby to open their mouth nice and wide. Then place your nipple aiming towards the roof for their mouth.

“The Hamburger”: This is where you hold your breast With your thumb on top and 2-3 fingers below your nipple. Squeeze, a bit harder than what is comfortable, then offer breast to baby. This helps them get a deeper latch.

Nipple shields: Ray was 4 days old when my sister in law came over to meet our baby. They have a baby who had just turned 1 and she had been successfully breastfeeding the whole time. I was telling her about some of our challenges and she offered to watch me nurse him and offer tips. This was one the reasons we successfully continued feeding. She offered a handful of tips (most of which I’m sharing with you in this blog) that really helped us. One of the big ones was to use a nipple shield. I didn’t know these existed. It is a thin silicone shield that suctions onto your nipple and provides an easier surface for baby to latch onto.

I’ll be honest, I hated using it. It was annoying to carry around, annoying to put on and I was really worried that I was going to have to use it forever. Out of stubbornness, I kept trying to get him to latch without the shield. At least once each day. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it would make him more angry. Then finally, after our 4 week appointment where Ray got cranial sacral therapy, followed by a chiropractic adjustment, he latched beautifully! It was an amazing deep latch and he nursed his little heart out, on both sides! I was blown away. When it came time for his next feeding, I tried without the shield and he did it again! We never used the shield again after that day!

I accredit this to his body work and the fact that my nipples were really changing! The nipple shield helped to pull out and expose my nipple. Over time, they were starting to stay this way, making it much easier for him to latch on.

Check out this video about the hamburger/sandwich and getting a deep latch.

5. Your body is seriously amazing.

Without us ever thinking about it, our body is making breastmilk. In that breastmilk is the perfect balance of nutrients to help nourish and allow your baby to grow. Your breastmilk is ever changing. It’s different in the morning than it is at night, when you encounter bacteria, viruses and other harmful things, your body creates antibodies, sends them into the milk and delivers them to your baby. When your baby latches on, his/her saliva comes into contact with your skin. Now your body has information about what is going on in babies body and makes exactly what is needed to support them. Breastfeeding helps baby develop a circadian rhythm, your milk contains the melatonin and other sleepy hormones needed to go to sleep.

I could go on, and on and on… Here’s a great article highlighting many of the benefits.

6. Breastfeeding is a form of parenting.

If we didn’t stick with the breastfeeding challenges, life would be so different for our little family of three. When Ray is hungry, I nurse. If he is fussy, nursing calms him. When he is tired, I nurse him to sleep. Mamas, nursing is our super power. Take advantage and do NOT feel guilty. If you’re concerned about bulding “bad habits” or wondering what will happen when your baby is cared for by someone besides you, looking into biologically normal infant feeding. Your baby is SMART! He/she knows that things are different with dad, grandma, daycare, etc. They will adapt to those situations. For example, my Mom can get my little guy to take a pacifier. When I give him a pacifier, he gets SO angry!

To read more about this, click here!

7. Find Support ASAP

Postpartum Doula, Midwife, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant, Chiropractor, Cranial Sacral Therapist, awesome Sister-in-law, etc. All of these people are there to help you! If you’re currently expecting, find someone now who can support you when baby gets here. If I didn’t have the support system I had, our story would be WAY different. Our midwives and postpartum doula were amazing. They listened to our concerns, and supported us on finding the right way to do things for our family.

Our amazing midwives (AKA Ray's fairy godmothers!) at our 6 week appointment!

Our amazing midwives (AKA Ray’s fairy godmothers!) at our 6 week appointment!

8. Cluster feeding has a Purpose:

Oh, Cluster Feeding… It’s a tough gig. In those first 3 months, baby is trying really hard to figure out what this outside world is all about. It’s bright, it’s cold, their wearing a diaper and clothes all the time, they’re thirsty hungry! What is that feeling? They never experienced hunger in the womb! So, they cluster feed. This type of feeding is associated with comfort, establishing your supply, nourishment, quenching thirst, etc. Let go of schedules. Get familiar with your babies hunger cues. This will relieve a significant amount of stress and anxiety.

When you think or hear someone say, “They can’t possibly be hungry AGAIN can they?!” Yes, they can. Nurse that baby. Remind yourself that this phase is SO short and enjoy your baby cuddles.

9.  Your body will change.

I knew my body would change during pregnancy, but I had no idea how much it would change afterwards. Obviously there’s the changes that come with carrying a baby. What I didn’t expect were the constant changes that would occur to accommodate breastfeeding. When I first began breastfeeding, I learned that I have small, nearly flat nipples. This posed a pretty big challenge for us. Those first few days were really, really stressful. In order for me to feed my baby, I had to stimulate by hand or with a pump in order to get my nipple ready for baby to latch onto. Couple that with the engorgement that occurs when your milk comes in and it’s like trying to latch onto a basketball.

My nipples went from being very difficult to latch onto, to now being ideal for my baby. He latches on without any assistance. I barely recognize that area of my body but I am so grateful for the drastic changes it has gone through.

10. Have your supplies ready.

Pump: it’s helpful to have it set up and have a good understanding of how to use it before baby comes! I spent my 2nd night with baby, breasts completely engorged, unable to sleep, trying to figure out my pump to help relieve some pressure. Not a good situation! I used my pump mostly just to get my nipples ready for baby to latch onto. It worked great for that! I was told to avoid pumping for as long as possible as this can really affect your bodies ability to regulate your supply.

Haaka: Technically this is considered a breast pump but it deserves it’s own category. The Haaka is amazing for when your supply is getting established. If your leaky, you can just put the haaka on and it will relieve some pressure, all while collecting that liquid gold. When baby is latched onto one side, use the haaka on the other to catch the let down. I had no idea that both breasts would let down at the same time. They do, and it will get you or your baby all wet! We were able to start collecting milk and building a freezer stash right away because of the Haaka.

Hot pack: This feels amazing when your body is establishing supple. A hot pack and some breast massage will keep clogs and mastitis at bay.

Pillows: A breastfeeding pillow, other pillows to support your body, different pillows to try when the breastfeeding pillow doesn’t feel quite right, a pillow to elevate your feet. All necessary items.

 

Finally, trust your Mama intuition. If something feels off, it probably is. I was told many times that I would “just know” certain things. As annoying as it was initially, it was so true. I hope this blog provided even one tid-bit to make your breastfeeding journey go more smoothly.

What tips would you give new moms based on your breastfeeding journey? Share in the comments below!

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