adoptive mothers who were able to breastfeed babies that aren’t theirsThis post contains affiliate links, which means by clicking on and purchasing from any link, image or banner on this page I may receive a small commission, with no additional cost to you! Read the full affiliate disclosure here.
If you’re about to have a baby and trying to prep for breastfeeding or you’re currently struggling with the first six weeks of nursing your newborn, let me share some very helpful advice with you!
I have been breastfeeding for over 3 years straight (two different babies) and here is what I have come to know about those first, very challenging six weeks. First, hear this, you can get through those first 6 weeks and will have created an unbreakable bond and memory to last a lifetime!
In my experience, to get the best start, try to take advantage of a Lying-In period with your newborn. This is a time to heal from childbirth and give your breastfeeding journey the best start! I wrote a guide for planning this Lying-In period, including how your family and friends can help you the most during this time.
I want to begin by saying that unless you have an actual medical condition, not being able to breastfeed is extremely rare! There are even cases of adoptive mothers who were able to breastfeed babies that aren’t theirs! And so, you should go into this with that kind of mindset and not a fear of whether or not your body is capable of it, because–unless there is a medical condition–it is. Now I can say that because I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve listened to a lot of doctors give presentations on the topic. I’ve read a lot of studies done on groups of women and I can’t remember the percentage but the vast majority of women do not have a defect with their body that hinders them from being able to breastfeed their babies.
With that being said a lot of factors do have to line up, at least in a form of a line, in order for your Breastfeeding Journey to be able to be called a success. Mostly, it is about determination and having the sense that mothers simply must feed their babies, bottom line. No excuses.
Okay, A Brief Intro To My Breastfeeding Journey
I knew that I wanted to breastfeed, but I had no guidance. My mother tried to breastfeed all three of her children and for various reasons did not make it past 6 weeks with any of us. My husband’s mother did not breastfeed longer than 6 weeks either. My friends all told me about how horrible and difficult breastfeeding is, but the ones that did breastfeed and make it past 6 weeks chose not to go beyond six to eight months. I’m going to focus here on those first six weeks, but I do plan to write another post focusing on why extended breastfeeding is a wonderful idea.
Ok, now really, let’s check out my tips for successfully breastfeeding in those first 6 weeks!
First, get your mind right
So many of my dear friends say they wanted so badly to breastfeed but because their mothers or aunts or grandmothers or whoever-because those people were planting little seeds of doubt, they built up so much fear that they hindered themselves and “failed”.
Be warned! You will get a lot of negative, discouraging and fear-driven “support”. You will hear things like, “oh breastfeeding is amazing if you produce enough milk”. And “Hopefully you’ll make enough milk to feed the baby. Better pump!” Or, “Make sure your bottles have those little ounce measurements so that you can measure how much you’re pumping”. Or, you’ll get the scary stories about how painful it is when your milk comes in. And how you need to be ready with some cabbage and formula! Ugh!! So much is wrong with all of the advice you will probably get.
First of all, there really is not much thought that needs to go into nursing your baby to begin with. I know that this sounds over simplified, but literally your baby nurses and you produce milk. So the moment your baby is born he or she automatically wants to find your breast. They are designed to kick & crawl their way to your boob, latch on and start suckling. That is nature’s way of not only helping baby survive, but also establishing the mother-child bond and telling your body-okay let’s get some milk going.
I’m going to address the whole milk production dilemma soon, but for now I’ll say that it’s important for you to try to ignore the negativity that you’re likely already hearing. Just like you’re body is designed to birth children, your breasts are designed to produce milk!
The baby latch dilemma ?
Okay, this is one that I feel like the phrase “too many drivers” comes into play. I know that those soft-spoken, kind breastfeeding consultants in hospitals or birthing centers mean well and are there to encourage and support women who wants to breastfeed their babies. However, their approach is a tad invasive and in my opinion also a tad controlling. Wait!! I have had wonderful experiences with lactation consultants. I am merely saying, do not hold too tightly to every pointer and opinion they give you either. They are well informed, but in my experience not all consultants have the same training and therefore this can sometimes cause confusion. Rule of thumb: Go with your gut, what feels right to you and your baby?
When I had my first child, over 3 years ago, I was so determined to breastfeed that I clung to every piece of advice and word that those consultants told me. Ironically, it wasn’t until I ignored some of their advice and everyone else’s that I stopped having problems breastfeeding my son. Imagine that!
There is so much focus put on the mom to get the latch correct. It is so annoying. In my opinion, forcing the baby to lay at a certain angle, turn his head a certain way, put his lips a certain way, hold your tongue a certain way is just unnecessary. Furthermore, it adds an enormous element of anxiety, pressure and tension to something that is supposed to be natural and come naturally.
Again, this is a time to mostly ignore the advice of others and trust in yourself and your baby. If he isn’t latching well, one of 2 things will happen:
1. He’ll notice and move. Wow! So simple.
2. You’ll notice he isn’t solving the problem himself and you’ll move. Again, so simple.
At about my fourth week I was still bleeding. Meaning my nipples were bleeding and scabbed and hurting bad. So I came across a YouTube video that suggested just laying down and letting the baby lay naturally on top of you and let him come to your breast. What? No football hold with the 45-degree neck tilt?And low and behold, it worked! So that was our go-to position for the next two months. After that, nature made necessary adjustments and we could nurse in any position without worry and over thinking it.
The takeaway here is, natural is best!
Lip and tongue ties
Both of my babies had tongue and/or lip ties and we still managed to breastfeed. I don’t really know the severity because the only way I was going to let them cut tissue in his mouth was if it was absolutely necessary and since they were gaining weight appropriately and the nipple pain eventually stopped, it didn’t seem necessary.
For some, the tie can be so bad that it really interferes with the latch and so if you’ve tried to let time and nature run its course and you can tell that your baby just can’t latch then maybe you should have a doctor look at it. You’ll know that the tie is really impeding nursing because you’ll hear a clicking sound every time they try to suckle. I have had a couple of friends who had to get the corrective surgery done for their babies and they went on to breastfeed just fine. So the takeaway here is maybe it’ll be an issue maybe it won’t but there is a solution if it is impeding nursing!
Take advantage of the extra milk!
You may, if you’re like me, produce a ton of extra milk in those first few weeks after you’ve given birth. People will tell you all about when your milk comes in and it will scare you! Breathe, it isn’t awful if you are prepared for it! Which I will also address in another post!! 😉
Anyway, this is the time to save the extra milk you would otherwise lose! When my son was nursing on one breast the other one was stimulated to empty too!
Thankfully that was right when these cups came out and I ended up building a huge supply of breast milk in my freezer. All you do is let the little cup suction to the breast that you’re not feeding on and then while your baby is nursing that cup will fill up. You can pour that into a bag to freeze and before you know it you’ll have hundreds of ounces of extra milk. They are very affordable and like I said, totally worth it. Here’s the food grade, silicone, BPA free “breast pump” (don’t worry, no real pumping involved) that saved me so much extra milk! You’ll also want these milk storage bags.
Remember that your sacrifice is worth it
Breastfeeding benefits the baby now and later, and you now and later. The benefits of breastfeeding your newborn, growing baby are so numerous and so important and I would even say critical to the health of your baby for the remainder of his/her life!
Benefits to baby:
- Gives baby the exact nutrition he needs. All the right vitamins and minerals and everything else. It’s amazing that my body calculated what baby needed and boom, there it is.
- Provides antibodies to keep him well and possibly prevent ear infections, diabetes and a whole list of stuff. Deadly infectious diseases that very young babies are susceptible to, breast milk offers superb protection from those too.
- Provides a protection that keeps them healthy later too! We’re talking decades later! There’s even some studies that show a person who was breastfed as a baby is better equipped to fight cancers later in life! What!
Benefits to mother:
- You’ll lose the baby weight fast, in most cases. I sure did!
- Decrease likelihood of postpartum depression.
- Protects mom from diseases like diabetes and arthritis, to name a few.
I can definitely attest to the benefits of breastfeeding and its correlation with being least likely to have postpartum depression. I’m sure I had some PPD, but nowhere near how severe my mother said her’s was. And in my opinion, as a person who suffers from seasonal depression, that benefit alone is well worth it. Depression is no joke and it is not fun and I would avoid it at all cost!
Yes those first six weeks are the toughest, especially when the cluster feeding begins full-force! Believe me, I feel your pain. And yet, it is the greatest bond you may ever form. It’s the best thing I’ve probably ever accomplished. I’m such an advocate for breastfeeding, but not because I like to say breast is best. Because it was one of the most rewarding and satisfying challenges I have ever been through in my life!
The early months are the most common time for breastfeeding mothers to experience mastitis! Know the early signs and symptoms, how to treat mastitis at home and the best ways to prevent getting it in the first place. I highly recommend putting together a Breastfeeding Survival Kit to be prepared for treating these complications as soon as they begin!
I’m not an expert and I haven’t got any certifications as a breastfeeding advocate, but if you have read this and you would like to connect with me please comment below. I am absolutely passionate about helping people get through the struggles of breastfeeding. I hope you enjoyed this post! Look for more post like this in the future!
Best wishes on your journey of parenthood!