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If you’re reading here, you may be struggling with your first baby to latch or it’s been years since you’ve had a baby and need some ideas on what to try. I’m going to give advice on things that have helped me or experiences I’ve had. I have three kids and exclusively breastfed each of them. My first we went for 16 months, my second we went for 20 months, and my third we are still currently going strong at almost 9 months.
When I gave birth to my first baby, I had so much anxiety about breastfeeding. Leading up to the birth I kept wondering am I going to be able to do this??? What if I can’t get my baby to latch correctly? Will I produce enough milk?? These are all very common thoughts. Immediately after giving birth, your baby is placed on your chest and you begin your breastfeeding journey. My first definitely gave me a run for my money. I was so stressed that he couldn’t latch well. I was upset and anxious. Every time he latched, it hurt. We struggled our whole stay at the hospital with this. I felt defeated. Numerous lactation consultants came to our room to help but lo and behold we still had the same struggles from the start. He just didn’t have a good latch. The lactation consultants told me I had great breasts and nipples for breastfeeding. All modesty goes out the window once you give birth FYI. If you have small or inverted nipples (it’s common when it’s your first baby), it’s helpful to use a pump to help bring out your nipples more. When your baby latches, you put the whole nipple in as well as some of the breast. Don’t be modest with it. The more nipple and breast in their mouth, the less pain you’ll feel as well. Nipple cream will help with pain, cracking, and bleeding. This sounds terrible but the more you feed your baby, the more your nipples will get used to it. On the same note though, if you hurt VERY badly then it might just be an awful latch too and you need to practice fixing it. Look into tongue and lip ties and make sure your baby doesn’t have one. It can be revised, if necessary!
Bring your babby to the hospital. It’s helpful to have it so you can easily lay your baby down in breastfeeding position. Make sure your baby has their tummy facing toward you and not laying on their back. Also, your milk probably hasn’t come in yet so your baby is drinking the gel-like colostrum. It’s super healthy for babies!! Feed, feed, feed. With my first baby, my milk took four days, second baby it took three days, and my third baby it was seriously only a day. Our third baby’s nurse would joke with us that he had a milk mustache already.
Now fast forward to when we got home from the hospital. I gave birth on a Monday and when I woke up on Friday, my breasts were so full of milk it hurt. Add this to the latch problem and my baby had an even worse time trying to latch. His first pediatrician appointment was the same day, thankfully. We got there and I told the nurse our problem and she instantly goes in the other room and brings back a nipple shield. Hallelujah!!! I put it on and my baby started eating like a dream. It was amazing. No more struggles!! The nurse compared a breast full of milk to a huge balloon and the baby trying to latch onto the tiny knot. Funny comparison but it makes sense. That nipple shield is a life saver. (I used the Medela nipple shield. There are different sizes based on your breast/nipple size). I recommend putting a nipple shield in your hospital bag just in case because all babies have a different latch. You won’t know until you’re right there in the moment with your new baby. In our case, I feel like my baby just needed more to latch onto and a nipple shield resembled a bottle nipple and was easier for him.
Make sure you nurse often enough so you don’t get mastitis. This will feel like a hard painful lump in your breast. You’ll get a fever and the chills. It’s an infection that you’ll need antibiotics from your doctor ASAP. Massaging it and taking a hot shower is helpful. Also, look into dangle feeding. Keep on breastfeeding because the more milk you get out of there, the better!
With baby number two, I brought a nipple shield in our hospital bag but low and behold my baby had a perfect latch from the get go and didn’t need it. Our breastfeeding journey went so smoothly, that is until he started getting teeth. My first baby had the nipple shield inbetween to block me from those little bites but not any longer. If your baby gives you a bite just remove quickly and after seeing you yelp and move back they get the hint fairly quickly. I haven’t had this happen that many times. Let’s be honest though, once you’ve breastfed for so long already your nipples don’t hurt as much. Baby number three was a great latcher too so no troubles again. Yay! I feel like the longer I’ve breastfed, the more confidence I have. I was offered a lactation consultant appointment and I was like nah I’ve got this. Easy peasy. You got this, mamas! Our bodies are amazing and can make it happen. There are, of course, exception,s like if you really think you aren’t making enough milk, then PLEASE see a doctor about this. You never want your baby to not be getting enough milk.
Cluster feeding is also normal. In the first months of life, your baby will costantly want to be at the breast. It’s so comforting for them. Enjoy those snuggles and take in that precious time with your new baby. There are so many different ways to hold your baby while breastfeeding too. I prefer the cradle hold or side lying.
The best way to read when your baby is hungry is to see their rooting reflex. This is basically when they’re squirming their head to the side with mouth open looking for breast. There will be a combination of sucking sounds, hand in mouth, crying, sticking tongue out, and licking lips. If your baby stops sucking, you can gently rub their cheek and this gets their sucking reflex going. Our nurse in the hospital taught me this and it was a great tool. This happens a lot because newborns want to sleep all the time but they still need to eat too!
Other must-haves are a nipple shield carrying case. I ordered mine on amazon. Nursing pads are also amazing so you don’t soak your bra and shirt with milk. You can get either disposable or washable. My favorite disposable brand is Lansinoh. Lastly, of course some nursing bras! I bought mine at Target. Target has a lot of options that are affordable and work great. I found that underwire bras worked best for me.
If you really want to pump and use bottles instead or if breastfeeding isn’t for you and want to use formula, then go for it because fed is best. You know what’s best for you and your baby.