1. Breastfeeding hurts. The degree varies, but even good latches can be, at best, uncomfortable. Aside from Lansinoh, build up a stash of wound gel pads (the hospital lactation consultant should be able to give you some). They are lifesavers in the early weeks. You may also want to use Neosporin on any open wounds (in fact it’s more effective than Lansinoh if you do have wounds), but remember to wash it off before you breastfeed.
2. Don’t rush the latch. Take the time to get the latch right no matter how heart wrenching your newborn’s cries are.
3. Babies can mess up a good latch no matter what you do. It takes two to breastfeed and not everything is in your control. Sometimes, you’ll just deal with a bad latch because you’ll know if you pop her off that she’s just going to konk out and then she won’t eat at all. Despite what the LC’s preach, you can’t always fix a bad latch. Breastfeeding isn’t perfect all the time.
4. Newborns are really sleepy. It’s a fine art to wake them up enough to eat. Try blowing in their face, nudging them under the chin, stroking their heads, tickling their feet, and putting cold hands on their feet.
5. The football hold is the best one to start out with. Be familiar with it and don’t worry about the other positions until later.
6. Boppies are, depending on your height, hard on your back and neck. Test your boppy. If it doesn’t sit just below your breast, it is too short. You will either end up breastfeeding like the hunchback of Notre Dame or need a bazillion pillows to get the baby up to your breast. Try a My Brestfriend pillow instead. While it’s a bit of a pain because you have to fasten it around your waist, it does allow you to control the height and customize it for your frame.
7. Due to number 6 above, you can expect more than your nipples to be sore. Remember to relax your shoulders and neck and don’t contort your hands into weird positions. Have your spouse give you backrubs on a regular basis for the first few weeks.
8. If your hospital/area has a breastfeeding support group run by a Lacatation Consultant, go. Usually they have scales so you can weigh your baby and be sure your supply is on track. Ask the LC while you’re in the hospital about hospital run lactation support groups, they’ll fill you in on when and where. La Leche League is another place to find support.
9. Newborns eat frequently. Expect to do almost nothing but breastfeed the first six weeks. It’s important that you make the breast available on demand during the initial newborn period as this is what establishes your milk supply. Stock up on movies and books (if you can manage to read and breastfeed) because you are going to be sitting a lot. Try to remember that this is temporary. It will pass and you’ll gain more freedom as time goes on.
In addition, just when you think you can’t take it anymore, keep in mind the more your baby eats, the faster they gain weight and once they hit ten pounds, most babies tend to sleep longer at night. So, you’re not just feeding your baby, you’re working toward a good night’s sleep.
10. Keep in mind growth spurts when planning trips and other events. Growth spurts can be so demanding that you spend more time with your shirt off than on. In fact, you’ll wonder why you even bothered to get dressed. So, avoid big plans for the third and sixth week of your baby’s life because, you’re already booked.
11. Take a breastfeeding class before the baby comes and have good reference books on hand. Breastfeeding is an art as well as a learned skill and you will have lots and lots of questions. Education and support is the key to a successful breastfeeding experience.
12. Always change your baby’s diaper before a feeding as newborns tend to fall asleep on the boob and you don’t want to wake them up with a diaper change. Especially at 2 am.
13. Know the signs of low milk supply. It’s rare, but, of all breastfeeding challenges, this is one to keep an eye on because your milk can dry up fast and you don’t want the baby to become dehydrated. If you are at risk for low supply (i. e. you have PCOS) at least buy some Fenugreek and have it on hand. Time is of the essence when it comes to low milk supply. Not every store carries Fenugreek and you won’t have time to go looking for it.
14. Drink lots of water. Water makes breast milk. Proper hydration ensures a bountiful milk supply. Aim to drink half a liter of water every time you sit down to nurse.
15. Rest as much as you can. The bulk of breast milk is produced primarily at night while you are asleep, so don’t stay up late cleaning the house (or engaging in other such tomfoolery) while your baby is sleeping. Naps are also important. Rest, rest, rest, and drink, drink, drink your water
16. If you or your baby were given antibiotics while in the hospital, ask the hospital LCs about your risk of thrush (a type of yeast infection). Ask them to evaluate your breasts and baby for signs of thrush. Thrush is painful and can be difficult to eradicate, so catching it early is important. Both mom and baby must be treated even if one or the other shows no symptoms. OBs are not terribly familiar with thrush and you may have to be a bit firm when communicating your needs.
17. Before you sit down to nurse, make sure you have everything you need. A burp cloth. A drink. The remote. Nothing is more frustrating than to realize you’ve forgotten the remote after you’ve started nursing.
18. Set up a nursing station. A small bookshelf to keep basic necessities within arm’s reach is a lifesaver. Put a laptop on the bookshelf for one-hand internet surfing while nursing. Be sure to stock tissues and other necessary items like Lansinoh and nursing pads. More importantly, a nursing chair that not only rocks and reclines, but also swivels will come in handy because, no matter which side you’re nursing on, you can always spin around to grab a tissue (or continue surfing the net) with your free hand.
19. Pumping is a whole different learning curve. Not quite as difficult as breastfeeding, but it has its own set of rules and equipment and know how. If you’re going to be pumping at work, take some time to read up on the subject.
20. You can do this. Don’t give up. Take it one day at a time. Difficult is normal, so don’t assume, if you’re having a hard time, that you can’t breastfeed.