Nursing, for those who are willing to try, has been worth the pain, stress, sleeplessness and sacrifices. No judgement to those who decide otherwise, because it has definitely not been easy trying to ensure that my children are exclusively breast fed for as long as possible before I go insane. I made it to 5 months with each child before introducing semi-solids, and to a year with my son before I introduced another cow's milk (yes, I am the first cow in this scenario).
It is a thing of mathematical insanity though at this point to ensure that I pump more than I feed her when she gets bottles and there are days she gets many as I am up and about with my son at school, in classes and at birthdays, either dragging her along just so I can nurse her both ways in the car, or leaving her at home with bottles. Whichever way you cut it, nursing is a commitment of time, of your body, and most of all - of patience.
There are numerous things you can do to ensure that you are keeping your "supply" up and trying to give your child the most (and best) than you can. Below are some tips to take some of the guess work out of your nursing relationship.
For tips and tricks on labor and delivery, or on newborns click here.
25 things every mom should know about nursing:
2. Colostrum: is the early milk (more like yellow clear liquid and more commonly called "liquid gold") that your child gets before your milk actually "comes in". It is full of antibodies and is extremely healthy for your baby. It may not seem like a lot but it is heavy and can keep them feeling full at birth (keep in mind that their tummies at birth are the size of a marble, and will grow with each day, as will your supply). It is generally on day 4 after baby is born (after the 72 hour mark) that your milk kicks in, but it can be a little sooner or later as well. Sooner, is more likely the second or third time around (third time is not an experience I will ever have, but it's the word on the street in third time mom circles).
3. Latch, latch and latch again: The way to let your body know what your child needs is to keep latching your baby. It is important to wake them atleast once in 3 hours and put them on in the early days, even though it's not easy to get it in to their tiny mouths and even tinier tummies, your supply will be established based on how often (not how long) your child latches. So put them on and at this point it is important to make sure they get at least a few minutes on each side before they doze off again. If they are doing short feeds (15-20 minutes or less), then start them off on one side and then switch sides, leaving them to stay on the second side for as long as possible. Then at the next feed, let them stimulate the side they last fed on for a few minutes, and then switch (leaving them to drain the side they did not feed on last for longer). This is a little unorthodox but it will ensure that both sides are stimulated with each feed. If you have shorter gaps between feeds (they feed on the hour for example), then you can just alternate sides and not worry about it. You will have to judge your baby as each baby is unique however, as a rule of thumb, they tend to sleep a lot in the first 24-48 hours as they are also exhausted from labor and delivery and from all the sights and sounds in their new world.
About your baby:
In all this confusion though I forgot the most important thing: my baby and her cues. They will let you know if they are getting enough and they will scream and refuse to sleep if they are not. Apparently, babies born earlier need to stock up a little more, and then they settle, and it took about 4 months for her feedings to become a little more normal, but then she was sleeping well by the end of 6 weeks as she was full and satisfied. So follow their cues, and if you are worried, talk to your doctor or put them on a baby scale, putting your mind and ease will help you get the rest you need to make that milk.
About your milk:
22. Red Raspberry leaf extract and satavari: Once you start pumping you will get a good picture of how blessed you really are in the milk department. However, if you do feel you need a little push - red raspberry tea extract and shatavari powder are two natural supplements that give you a little boost. There are many different tablets that have indredients from these. Red raspberry is also known to make your letdown start faster (and less painfully for those who have that issue), and shatavari tablets are known to boost supply (there are multiple forms including powder, however, when I tried the powder during my last pregnancy I found that I was also getting uterine contractions with them and was quite uncomfortable). However. I took the tablets initially in this pregnancy to help with those 9 hours of feeding and I did not have any trouble with them (it's all available on Amazon).
Pump and save:
I have also intentionally left out weaning, as I have covered it before (for tips on how to wean click here) but more so because when to wean is a personal choice. They say that one year is when the baby gets the most out of mom's milk and doesn't need it anymore - but sometimes babies need the comfort for a little longer, and some times moms need to put their needs, ability and sanity on the table too. I have close friends who only chose to feed for a few weeks or months and it did not alter my opinion of love for them a bit, and I have friends (fewer in number) who crossed the one year mark like I did which is no easy feat but is also not one that should be met with judgement either but rather with an acknowledgement of the fact that nursing takes time, patience, commitment, unselfishness and dedication. While the anonymity we are afforded on the internet gives us a platform to pass judgement, I find it helps to offer understanding instead and sometimes even a deaf ear. Even more so when all you need is love and support and faith - in yourself, your body and your own decisions.
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More to come!
P.S. The many who reach out to me know that I am always available to help with questions and quick tips when possible. Those who do not - feel free to know that there's someone in the internet space happy to give you support if and when you need it, or if you have questions you need answered.