James and I are almost 11 weeks into breastfeeding. 10 weeks ago, I was ready to call it quits. Even 9 weeks ago I was. Here are some things I wish I'd have known (or paid attention to when other girls told me).
1. Breastfeeding is HARD. I don't like reading and hearing that "it shouldn't hurt" because that seems like a gross over-generalization to me. Don't be surprised if at first, it does. Your poor nips have likely never been sucked on by a teeny baby with a heck of a suck for hours. Keep trying! It gets better. Pinky swear. Have a lactation consultant check his or her latch. I had scabbed nipples and I cried so hard when James was hungry those first couple weeks because it KILLED when he latched on. After meeting with a LC, a nipple shield was recommended to help my nips heal. Engorgement does NOT make that any easier. If you have a pump, pump for a few minutes before nursing to help soften your boob. Now, I like the snuggle sessions and plus he's so dang cute when he eats.
2. If the nurses want you to supplement, think about using your own pumped milk before formula. I wish I had done that. I felt like SUCH a failure because the nurses made me feel like little James was starving (when in fact he hadn't even lost 7% of his birthweight when they started freaking out, and loosing up to 10% is normal-but he was jaundiced as well) so we used a supplemental nursing system of formula. Dang I wish I had pumped and used my own milk. I think it would have helped tremendously with the baby blues I experienced.
3. Learn to use the hospital pump. They are thousands of dollars and are super nice. I only used mine once (because I couldn't remember how it worked. Someone showed me but I was exhausted and Danny wasn't there to remember for me) but I wish I'd used it more. See above.
4. Research FIRST. Man I just figured I'd learn while doing it-and I did-but I wish I had done a little reading. Kellymom.com is super helpful-but be aware, it leans to the attachment parenting side of things, which is great if that's your style. It is not mine, so I disregard a lot of the information. I have The Nursing Mother's Companion and it helped a lot those first few weeks. But if I had researched before, I would have felt more prepared.
5. Get a breastfeeding pillow. Recently I read that even with a brand new small baby, having dangling legs can put a lot of pressure and tugging on your nipples-which can lead to scabbed or at least very very sore nipples, like I had. I thought it would be superfluous. False. We use the My Brest friend Pillow. Love it. It's very firm and buckles around your waist so you can (technically) get up and walk around while nursing.
6. Learn to nurse lying down! We don't co-sleep so it is super nice to have these cuddly nursing sessions, and it's way less demanding on me to lay down rather than sit up in the middle of the night.
7. There are solutions for sore nips. Hydrogel pads, breast shells (I used these the first few weeks because I had random but large letdowns, and it kept my nips from rubbing on anything), lanolin, APNO, taking your painkillers 20-30 minutes before nursing, and if nothing else is working, nipple shields. We use the shield after meeting with a lactation consultant and while it's a pain when nursing in public, it allowed my nipples to heal and it made nursing a pleasant event instead of something I panicked about.
8. Listen to your mom's, your friends', your coworkers', your lactation consultant's, and your nurses' advice. Everybody is well meaning and I am sure everybody is convinced their opinion is the most accurate, but expect to hear conflicting research and opinions. Take pieces from everyone's advice to form your own philosophy. Expect LCs to be nazi-like about breastfeeding. Don't be surprised if the nurses push formula because your baby is loosing weight-which, by the way, is totally and completely normal and expected. Write down what you are being told when you are in the throes of the first days with your baby, so tired and sore and happy and overwhelmed, so you remember. Better yet, have someone with a great memory there listening too.
9. Know IT GETS BETTER. I had a hard time believing that in the first couple weeks, but it does.
10. Get help. Meet with a LC in the first week or so just to make sure everything is going smoothly. Read breastfeeding forums just to know you aren't alone. Vent to your husband, your mom, anyone who will listen and sympathize.
11. Don't be surprised if your baby wants to nurse all.the.time. It is so tiring. If you're sure he's done eating and is just comfort nursing, there are a few options. Some moms are okay with comfort nursing. It's not my favorite thing so I give James a binky. We did at the hospital. I'd heard too many stories of babies not taking a binky because the mom waited to offer it and I wanted none of that. Or you can just not comfort nurse and let your baby cry...haha. No thanks.
12. Jaundice=sleepy baby=wake to feed. Nurse every 2-3 hours those first few weeks. I feed James every 3 hours now during the day, unless he's hungry earlier. I still wake him to feed so he is on a schedule. He typically sleeps 945-330, eats, goes straight back down until 630/7. During the day I nurse sitting up but at his middle of the night and 630 feeding I feed him laying down to help him with the difference between day and night. I nurse him on the couch at night, with just the bathroom light on in the corner to keep it dark. So far he generally can settle himself back to sleep when I put him in his swing after eating. This is the only time I let him nurse to sleep.
13. If you are going back to work, don't stress about a freezer stash. Here is why.