Breastfeeding – Wise up. It’ll help when you lose your mind.
I wouldn’t be the best when it comes to being prepared. What I mean is, I tend to just roll with stuff to a large extent and not spend too much time worrying about details. For example, I had intended to do a refresher pre-natal class with my husband, but I never booked the thing and in the end just convinced him we didn’t need it. As a result of this general laid backedness (it’s a word), it took a bit of effort for me to research breastfeeding while I was pregnant. Having almost backed out right up to half an hour before it started, I did eventually attend a breastfeeding class held in the hospital, and I’m glad I did because there were a few nuggets of information that really stood to me.
It’s pretty simple in the beginning… Your baby is going to be attached to you and feeding almost constantly. “OH JOY” I hear you shout. If you’re not shouting that sarcastically, then I suggest that you change that tone immediately young lady (insert disapproving finger wag here).
Yes, it’s a beautiful thing to have your baby with you 24/7. Unfortunately it’s the industrial strength magnet between your nipple and their mouth that causes the problem. But breath easy, it’s insanely wonderful all the same, and here’s why:
Skin to Skin. If you think about it, it’s completely logical that your brand new baby would want to lay as close to you as possible. Your baby has been a part of you for nine months and understandably won’t want to break that bond just because they’ve entered our world. For protection and comfort, you will most likely feel better holding baby close too. Skin to skin contact is thankfully highly promoted in hospitals now, and it’s encouraged that both parents should get some time bonding this way with the newborn in the first few hours of life (or at any stage to help settle baby). If you lay a newborn on their mothers belly and leave them to their own devices, they will miraculously manage to make their way upwards towards the chest and even latch on unaided. Incredible!
With skin to skin, a mothers body temperature will adjust by a couple of degrees in either direction to help regulate a newborns body temperature. It also helps stabilise baby’s heart and breathing rates – A big help for a baby in the shocking moments after birth.
Tummy size. There is an amazing communication between your boobs and your baby. Your body responds to the direction given by your little one, so it’s important to allow your baby to “speak” to your body. Supply and demand work hand in hand and your baby’s suckling not only provides them with milk, but also tells your body exactly how much to produce.
Although there is colostrum in your breasts when baby is born, it can take up to five days for your milk to fully come in. On day one your baby will feed less and sleep a lot. Enjoy it, because after that nursing will be long and often to encourage your supply. If your baby sleeps for too long it’s advised to wake them every two hours and offer the boob. Your newborn has a teeny-tiny tummy which can only hold a teaspoon of milk in the beginning, and it digests quickly too. It’s easy to get discouraged or to feel like your baby isn’t getting enough because they constantly seem hungry, but this is completely normal.
Cluster feeding. In the evenings your baby will cluster feed and they will feed often during the night too. The reason for this is to encourage more milk production for tomorrow, when they will be bigger and hungrier, and therefore need more – simples! It’s amazing when you think about it but that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re exhausted in the early weeks. At least if you know there’s an explanation it might help you cope.
The hospital I attended in Dublin has a great breastfeeding booklet available online here. I’ve extracted the chart below because I found it really useful, especially in the first few days for putting my mind at ease. Caleb dropped more than 10% body weight and it was suggested I should top up with formula, but this chart helped me know he was doing everything right, and gave me the confidence to make my own choice (read about it here). If your baby follows this chart then you’re doing great.
So in short, baby’s feed a whole lot when you’re breastfeeding. It’s demanding, and tiring, and sometimes it feels non stop. There isn’t a set routine, or a timetable to go by, but never be discouraged. Trust your body and your baby. Learn to relax, enjoy the downtime of feeding, and know that your body is one hundred percent providing everything your baby needs. To read more on getting through those early days, check out my other awesome post here.
Know this. Your nipples will sting, your boobs will ache, your eye lids will feel like sandpaper against your dry eyeballs. You will become a puke stained, poop smelling, feeding machine. The addition of this tinchy winchy human into your family, might take more than a tinchy winchy piece of your sanity. But when it’s all over (and that will be sooner than you think) you can rock a red satin cape with a giant “S” emblazoned on the back, because you are an absolute Superwoman.