Why breastfeeding is not so different from sex: tips and tricks
That got your attention, didn’t it?Obviously, there isn’t anything sexual about breastfeeding. However, there is one thing they share: they’re both natural. We seem to think that things that are natural, come easy to us. However, just like with breastfeeding we’re born with the ability to have sex but not with the advanced skills. Good sex needs practice and so does breastfeeding. My first weeks of breastfeeding Elliot were tough and honestly – despite staying positive – it stayed difficult right till the end. I often thought to myself, how is it possible that something natural is so damn hard? Well for lots of us it is hard, and there’s no shame in that. Also in the case of breastfeeding: practice can make perfect. And these tips will help too:
Get the information before you give birth
Ask around for a good midwife and meet with her in your final month of pregnancy. Have her explain the ins and outs of labor (sorry for the pun!) and ask her to give you advice on exactly what you should do in those first moments with your little one.
For example, it is very important to hold your baby to your chest, preferably skin to skin. That is of course if the course of events permits it. This “skinning” jumpstarts your milk production. Your midwife will also prepare you mentally for the first few days of “feeding” without actually being able to give your baby more than a few drops of milk. No need to panic. This is normal, but you have to keep latching on your baby as much as you can. Everytime you do, it’s like you are plugging in the battery and cranking up your milk production. Day three or four, you will experience engorgement – your breasts will fill up with milk and ache quite a bit but this will pass. For me this discomfort nicely coincided with the babyblues that typically hit on the third day and that’s exactly when I was sent home from the hospital. Nice timing!
Anyways, there is soooooo much to find out about breastfeeding before you actually have the baby. It will give you patience and self-assurance those first days and weeks.
Have strangers touch your boobs
You will soon find out that not just you will have to learn about breastfeeding, so will your baby. The way a baby latches onto your breast is really important. If done incorrectly, it can cause you discomfort and even serious pain. Some babies are naturals, others are too eager and need some guidance.
You will now enter a world where it is completely uneventful to have strangers hold your breast and shove your nipple in someone’s mouth, strangereven: you will even ask them to this a few times a day. A good latch really is everything so if you have any shame left after having shown half of the hospital staff your vajajay, then let it go and pop open your blouse for some more strangers to fondle your boobs.
What’s your favorite position?
There are many positions in which you can breastfeed and everyone has their own preference. So try them out for yourself! I especially liked having Elliot and later Amelia sit up and lean towards me. They would burp easier and that consequently seemed to prevent cramps.
Surround yourself with support
Breastfeeding demands commitment. For a long time, especially the first eight weeks or so, you will completely live by your baby’s rhythm. In most cases that makes a sleep deprived mom. Add some hormones and insecurity to the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster. Take your husband with you to the talk with the midwife and have him listen to every word of advice the midwives give you at the hospital. It will be his job to remind you of what to do when something isn’t working for you or is freaking you out. Also inform your relatives and friends about breastfeeding to respond to annoying comments like “didn’t he just eat half an hour ago?” with confidence: “Well, this surprised me too, but our midwife explained to us that a baby should be breastfed on demand. In a few weeks or so the time in between feedings will stretch naturally.” Have your husband back you up in conversations like these.
As a new mom I was extremely sensitive to comments like these and it was B. who reminded me of all the things we had only just learned about breastfeeding and to interpret what people said as friendly concern.
Try not to focus on numbers
My midwife gave me the best advice, namely not to fixate too much on feeding times or weight gain. Her rule of thumb was to keep an eye on wet diapers. If liquid is coming out it’s also been going in well. Obviously, this relaxed attitude isn’t possible in all cases but I have seen many of my friends experience real stress and anxiety about how many times a day they needed to feed and weigh their babies after each feeding. There are better ways to spend your time as new mommy. Keep a record of feeding times the first few days and then rely on your breasts and look for feeding signs from your baby. I liked using the Baby Trackerapp now and then though to see how much and how long I was actually feeding for. Especially when I was ready to tackle the massively interrupted nights we had been having. Second time around I also liked wearing a bracelet that I switched to the side I had finished feeding on so I’d know which breast to start feeding with the next time.
Pregnant me was an obsessive nester: I was constantly thinking of ways to improve our home and pinning one nursery idea after another. I was dominated by getting the nursery done in time which is actually kind of useless because our babies slept in our room for the first months. Better to spend some time on thinking where you will feed your baby at night. We just used the stroller carry cot. This had its advantages, we could easily move it throughout the house to keep the baby close to us. But I’ve heard great things about co-sleepers.
I didn’t enjoy feeding in bed, my back started to ache and quite frankly my boobs aren’t big enough to feed comfortably lying down. So with Amelia, I prepared a snug breastfeeding corner in our bedroom. By chance, my mom had an armchair at her house everyone wanted to get rid of and we gave it a new home. For me it became the perfect place to cuddle up with Amelia at night. It was a big robust English cottage style looking thing but with some cushions and a footstool it was perfect. I put a stool next to it as makeshift side table with a (dimmed) nightlight and always had some supplies: a bottle of water, some crackers and a good book (tried to limit using my phone because I suspected it from making it harder to fall back asleep). It made waking up much more comfortable and spared my neck and back. Moreover, with the arrangement of the pillows I could safely dose off while breastfeeding Amelia.
Eat a lot and eat everything!
Breastfeeding sucked the calories right out of me. It is a such a commitment for your body to feed a little human being that this for sure isn’t the time to diet. People often laugh and say that you have to eat “for two” when pregnant, but that is not the case. However, it really is true when you’re breastfeeding. Breastfeeding uses up some five to eight hundred calories a day! So be sure to eat anything you feel like.
Many women follow special diets to spare their babies from food allergies to allergens they would be passing on in their milk. My doctor assured me that this is only necessary in serious cases of extreme allergies. There is no need though to leave out dairy, peanuts, onions, spices and all those other things people often talk about, without doctor’s orders. Except for alcohol of course. (although there are ways worth googlingJ)
Having trouble keeping up your milk supply? I did a lot with Elliot. Every time I was sick or too sleep deprived, my milk supply dropped and I had to give it my all to crank it up again. The thing I did constantly anyways but did even more at those times was “skinning”. Holding your undressed baby close to your naked chest kicks off a range of spectacular motions in you and your baby’s brain. It really is something worthy of Avatar. So get yourself some carriers (read my other blogs to find out more about my passion for babywearing) and cuddle your baby as much as you can.
Breastfeed without compromising your sense of fashion
I don’t know about you but I find all those special breastfeeding clothes quite unfashionable to say the least. Before I knew anything about breastfeeding, these unflattering wraparound tops almost kept me from wanting to breastfeed. Then I found out that there is no need to spend money on ugly clothes, with some specific shopping you can easily tweak your wardrobe to live up to breastfeeding requirements.
The most important of those requirements is boob access. Then comes – for me at least – ability to cover up. Thirdly, you might want to avoid tight clothing when you’re wearing nursing pads – in case you leak in between feedings or like me have a boob that wants to join in while feeding with the other. These pads tend to show through a thin bra and shirt. Finally you want to be able to hide inevitable stains. All these things can be done quite easily. I always wear a nursing bra (these are worth investing in) and a tank top that I can pull down. Over that I wear a wider t-shirt or button-down which I lift up,draping the fabric over my breast. You can’t see your tummy because of the tank top and you can’t see your breast because of the shirt and your baby’s head. This also beats the purpose of carrying an extra scarf or swaddle around everywhere. If you leak while feeding, there’s no stress for showing stains because your shirt will cover them.
Downside: no dresses, jumpsuits or overalls. Upside: normal clothes you can also wear post-breastfeeding and subtle feeding.
Tip for breastfeeding while also caring for a toddler
A tip I found useful when we just had Amelia was to fill a box with toys for Elliot he could play with on the couch next to me while I was breastfeeding his sister. The box was only to be played with at feeding times and was filled with new toys, books and activities. It was a lifesaver in those raw first weeks of being a mommy of two.
The last resort that saved my breastfeeding experience
Like I said, I struggled with keeping my milk production up the first time I was breastfeeding. By Christmas I was ready to throw in the towel. I was so tired and a stomach flu had made my supply drop once again. Elliot became frustrated during feedings and I spent all of the Christmas celebrations constantly feeding a distraught, hungry baby in family members’ bedrooms, away from the party. I felt like I was failing. I wasn’t ready to give up breastfeeding but felt like I had to tokeep my sanity. I didn’t have the energy to stimulate my production again. Then my doctor suggested to take domperidon for a few days. After one, literally one pill, my breasts were about to explode. It took some commitment to follow up this major milk production and avoid mastitis but I was happy to fill up some extra bottles pumping and Elliot became the happy baby he was before. Some doctors aren’t in favour of this medicine, others are. Gather information and decide for yourself. For me, it was a lifesaver.
I’m not a lactation consultant, but the fact that this job exists shows that there is no shame in having a difficult time in finding your way in breastfeeding. In many other cultures women teach each other about breastfeeding but where I’m from it’s more of a custom to leave a new mom be a while except for a polite visit to meet the baby. A shame really because the best tips are often the ones you get from mom friends. So open up about the hard times too and find relief thanks to relatable experiences from your friends.
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