Is there a book out there that tells mamas exactly what they will go through when they have a child? Even if there is, who has the time to read it? When I was preparing for my baby I spent a lot of time reading about babies but very little on what I was about to go through.
So I knew nothing about nursing, milk supply, mastitis, you know, all the good stuff! Even though I had lots of people around me to bounce questions off of, I still had to go through it on my own, and boy did I learn a lot.
When Does Your Milk Drop (it like it’s hot)
If you’re already a mama, then you can skim through this part, because you’ve been there done that. New mamas, get ready for some knowledge droppage.
When you first have your baby your body will produce something called colostrum, or as my nurses called it “liquid gold”. Colostrum can look thick and yellowish or thin and watery but it is super important for your baby. It’s nutrient-rich and is filled with antibacterial substances and immune-boosting substances that aren’t available in formula.
Your milk doesn’t actually come in for a few days, but colostrum should be enough for the baby for the first bit. If your milk hasn’t come in after 3-4 days, let your doctor know because your baby might need more to eat. But don’t fret as some people take longer for their milk to come in.
One way to encourage your milk supply to come in is to breastfeed often and pump when you’re not breastfeeding. Make sure to save anything that you pump!
When my baby was born he had some issues and had to go to the NICU. It was scary, but I was so grateful that he had 24/7 care from people who knew what they were doing. I was also grateful because that meant I had lots of nurses giving me advice on breastfeeding.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Be patient, with yourself and your baby. It’s a learning curve for both of you. Baby will fall asleep, or won’t latch correctly and you might want to rush it, but it will all come together in time.
- Buy some sort of nipple cream (Lansinoh is safe for mama and baby). Your nipples will hurt. This was a huge shock for me. It can be paaaaaaiiiinful! Your nipples can crack and bleed, but I promise you it doesn’t last forever.
- Bring your baby to you. Let me explain what I mean. I had tons of neck and back pain because I was leaning into my baby (or hunching over) instead of bringing my baby into me. Which leads me to…
- Buy a good nursing pillow. Boppy pillows are great because you can wrap it around your waist and let baby rest on it. You can also use this for a baby lounger when they are just chilling.
- It helped me to keep track on a notebook at first. There are multiple ways to nurse. Some women nurse only on one side the entire time and then they nurse on the other side the next time. I would nurse on each side. It helped my baby wake up in between (when I would burp before switching sides) and it also helped me not to get super full on either side.
- Wear some sort of marker to remind you which side to start on. I would start nursing on the side that I ended on last. The reasoning behind this is your baby’s latch is usually stronger on the side they start on, so your ending boob might be more full, thus is the side you start on next. I wore a bracelet that I would switch wrists to remind me where to start.
- Find time to pump at the same time daily. I failed at this. Newborns usually eat every 1-3 hours so when I wasn’t nursing the last thing I wanted to do was pump! Pumping is great for so many reasons. It helps your milk supply, especially if you pump at the same time every day. It helps you stock up on breastmilk in case you need to work or just to have some time away from your baby (this is huge for self-care).
- Enjoy the time. This might sound silly but nursing is such a special bonding time with your child. Once you get past the learning curve and the pain, soak in all the snuggles and sweet moments with your baby. It is really relaxing for mama and baby (and I found it was a great time to start reading again).
How To Milk Your Milk Supply
Our bodies are amazing. The fact that your body naturally produces milk for your baby is not only convenient but it’s so so good for your baby (and for mama too). In order for your body to take care of you, you need to take care of your body.
Here are some ways to help keep your milk supply high.
- Diet. Nursing can burn up to 500 calories, so mama you need to eat! Nutrient-dense foods are super important, like fish, seafood, meat, nuts, fruits, and veggies.
- Water. Nobody had to tell me to drink water because I was thirsty ALL.OF.THE.TIME. When nursing, your body releases more of the hormone oxytocin, which makes you thirsty, and helps your milk to start flowing. Drink up!
- Rest. Wouldn’t we all love more rest? Notice that I said rest vs. sleep. I know how hard it is to sleep with a new baby. But you can try and take it easy on yourself. Your house can get a little messy, exercise can wait, and you can kick those feet up for a bit. Do what’s best for you!
- Pump. I know I’m a broken record but if you are really committed to maintaining your milk supply then you need to find time to pump daily. Not only will it help you build up your milk supply but it will signal your body to keep producing milk.
Nursing is hard. There I said it! But it’s worth it. Nothing beats breastmilk for your baby, and I’ve been told it can help you lose that baby weight (I’m still waiting for this to happen for me 🙂 ).
As with everything else that comes with the “mom” title, you can do it! It takes time and energy but you will get the hang of it. Consistency is key.
Before you know it your baby will be running out the door and you will be missing the days when they fell asleep in your arms, so milk it for all it’s worth ;).