I knew breastfeeding would be a learning curve for both my baby and me. What I didn’t expect was how I would look like a bona-fide porn star when my milk came in and that my daughter’s shallow latch would kill my nipples before she and I finally got nursing down to a T. Even though it took a while for us to get on the same page, once that happened, nursing was a wonderful experience. Here are a few things you should know if you're planning to pop that baby on the boob.
1. Your Breasts Will Be HUGE
As I said, when my milk came in, my breasts were ginormous and sore to the touch. Luckily, this usually resolves rather quickly, says Nadine Rosenblum, registered nurse and perinatal lactation program coordinator at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Still, nursing can be a struggle when your breasts are twice as large as normal, says Dr Leah Millheiser, director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford University Medical Center. And if your baby isn't latching well, and you're engorged and full of milk, it's not going to be fun. Millheiser recommends pumping for relief and using warm compresses. I also used ice, which helped until my baby was able to efficiently nurse and empty my breasts.
2. The First Time Can Be Hit or Miss
My daughter latched eventually, but those first few days were basically touch and go: Some feedings went well and others…not as much. “On that first day of nursing, a woman should expect that the baby may nurse very well sometimes, but not every time,” says Rosenblum. “Babies tend to be very alert right at delivery, have a great first feeding if given the chance, and then sleep for the next several hours,” she says. Keep your newborn close—try to maintain skin-to-skin contact if possible—so you’ll know when he or she wakes and is ready to feed again.
3. Your Milk Changes Over the First Few Days
At first, I didn’t have much to offer my baby—just the colostrum, which lactation consultants call “liquid gold” for its colour and amazing protein and minerals. Rosenblum says it’s normal for new moms to not be producing lots of milk right out of the gate. Luckily, while it may not be abundant, colostrum is exactly what that baby of yours needs. Your milk will come in between two and three days post-delivery, and you'll start producing more of it anywhere between days two and five, says Rosenblum.
4. Your Nipples Will Be Super Sore
It takes time for your nipples to toughen up, says Dr Alyssa Dweck, assistant clinical professor and ob-gyn at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. In the meantime, try these tips:
Soak your nipples in warm water and Epsom salt (wiping the nipples afterwards, as baby may not like that taste).
Use lanolin cream (also remembering to wipe excess off your nips afterwards).
Try using soothing gel pads, which go in your bra and offer instant cooling.
Don’t put that breast pump on high! The pump is tougher on your nipples than your baby.
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5. Proper Placement Is Key
Still trying to ace that latch? Follow this tip: “Place your nipple towards the baby’s palate [roof of the mouth] and not between the gums,” says Dweck.
6. You May Experience Period-Like Cramps
When you first initiate breastfeeding, expect to have uterine cramps, says Dr Talitha L. Bruney, co-chair of the breastfeeding committee, department of obstetrics, gynecology, and women's health at Montefiore Health System. “These uterine cramps release the hormone oxytocin, which facilitates shrinking of the uterus and often helps decrease a woman's postpartum bleeding,” she says.
7. You Could Get a Yeast Infection—on Your Boobs
You may experience quite a few boob issues when you first start breastfeeding. These include: inverted nipples (ones that are tucked into the breasts and don’t point outward), stinging and itching (this could signal a yeast infection), a raised white area on the nipple, which is known as a milk bubble, and mastitis, an infection that causes a fever and chills, says Millheiser. I had mastitis and a milk bubble, but I was able to treat both and continue nursing.
8. It Doesn't Happen for Everyone
And that's perfectly OK. Really. Some women have a low supply of milk, some might not ever have success getting their baby to latch. And some might just not like breastfeeding. Be easy on yourself. There are many ways to bond with your baby, and your first weeks with him or her shouldn't be spent feeling guilty.