Breastfeeding as a First Time Mommy
Written by: Jamie McKimmy
The questions come flooding in the minute that pregnancy test comes back with a little plus sign or “pregnant” written on it. Hundreds of things come to mind whether it’s about pregnancy itself, birth, skin to skin time, first bath, or how to nurture your new little one. Breastfeeding can be a bit daunting when you’ve never done it before. A common misconception about breastfeeding is that it is just something “you know how to do” when in reality it is learned by both mother and baby.
It’s okay to ask for help - Giving birth is exhausting, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. For me, it was just as much a physical exhaustion as it was an emotional exhaustion. I felt like I was expected to latch my son the minute after he was born, when in reality I did have a good amount of skin to skin cuddle time first. When the nurse came in and asked “did you try latching” and I hadn’t done that yet the pressure was on. In all honesty I was pretty self conscious because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. My nurse was wonderful and explained a few different positions and helped guide my son's mouth onto my breast. Once she left my son had a bit of trouble so I asked my mother in law for some assistance as she knew a great deal more than me. It was hard to ask for help at first, but it really did pay off in the long run. I was able to successfully breastfeed my first son for 16 months. I am currently still breastfeeding my second son who is 13 months old.
Breastfeeding positions - When latching my son for the first time I just assumed that I would cradle him like you would for a bottle fed baby. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work for him to learn how to properly latch onto my nipple. Both my son and I benefited more from a football hold the first few days after birth. Once he became more used to it and my milk supply came in he was able to transition to a cradle hold with a slight incline to prevent reflux. If I could go back in time to my old self I would have learned about various positions to make the learning process easier on both baby and myself.
Breast pumps - Most are FREE! I didn’t know this until I was close to giving birth to my first son. This is a huge benefit and worth looking into to see if you can qualify too! I had little experience with breast pumps and was not educated on the benefits of certain brands compared to others. I chose a more portable pump for my first son but realized that it didn’t have the power of the less portable ones. It worked well enough but if I could do it over I would have chosen a Spectra for both of my boys.
Importance of hydration - Staying hydrated is key to keeping your supply up. The minute my son would latch I would have a dry mouth almost instantly. My husband would joke that I would sit down, get all comfortable, latch my son and “forget” I needed water just so he would have something to do. In all honesty, I forgot constantly that I needed to have a glass of water with me while I’m nursing. Seems like a no brainer but always drink a big glass of water while you're nursing, it does help!
Ways to increase breast milk production - Water, water, water! Seriously water is important, but so are certain foods and breastfeeding habits. Foods that aid in breastmilk production include: oats, whole grains, lactation cookies, mama's milk tea, and honestly having a beer every so often. I found the hops in beer would help just as much as a store bought lactation cookie. Some habits that are worth doing consistently include: making sure your little one empties both sides fully, nurse often, and power pump.
Remember breastfeeding is a journey and it is different for each child. Just because it was hard with your first, doesn’t mean it will be hard with your second OR the opposite could be true. For me it was more challenging for my second son in the beginning because he had trouble controlling my letdown. I ended up seeking more assistance with him and he has been successfully breastfeeding for 13 months!