There are many things they don’t tell you about breastfeeding a newborn: how hard and painful it can be, for example.
And how gratifying, rewarding, and purely blissful it can be once you pass that hard stage.
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Disclaimer: information in this post is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor regarding your child’s feeding habits and your own health. Never listen to information found on blogs over the advice of a medical professional. I am simply a mom like you sharing my experiences.
Good things come to those who work for them. Nursing your baby is no different.
And while not every mother is blessed with the ability to breastfeed, while the main thing is that your child is FED, there are hurdles that can be overcome when it comes to breastfeeding a newborn. My mission is to share them with you so that you can survive the difficult days and move on to the days where you’ll look forward to those moments and be grateful that you fought for it.
How to survive breastfeeding a newborn in those first few days:
The first week or so presents a challenge that can be hard to get past, but really only lasts that little bit. This is the transitional stage – when engorgement sets in, when your nipples need to learn to accommodate their new job, and when you’re still recovering and may not even be able to sit up straight yet…
1. Engorgement: Apply ice packs.
I remember my misery while breastfeeding M – I was inflamed and sore to the touch.
With Baby Y I fixed it using these hot/cold packs that you can basically wear. They were truly a lifesaver, and actually helped reduce the pain enough that I was able to sleep.
2. Cracked/sore nipples:
There are a number of fixes for this, the most common and easiest one being lanolin – a cream that’s safe to use. If this doesn’t work, scroll down to where I chat about thrush below…
Another cool trick I learned was to use these pads – especially during those first days. I’ve also used a nipple shield, which especially helps if your cracking is due to poor latch (which is often the case.) I’ve tried a few, but this is the one that really worked for me.
3. You’re just too tired…
When comparing what worked and what didn’t, I find that placing my two experiences side by side is what really helps the most.
And one of the biggest tricks for when I could hardly lift my baby was to use a nursing pillow (you can get it for free, just pay shipping – use code ENBABY). This was possibly the best investment I made in nursing my baby, and in the first few weeks with Baby Y, I couldn’t without. Now that he is close to a year old, we still use it for bottles, and we’ve used it in between for tummy time, sitting up, and more.
Another important tip for when you’re too tired: call in help!
Don’t let yourself get to the point of desperation! Whether it’s a family member, a neighbor, or hired help, if you desperately need that nap, the best thing you can do for your baby is to get it.
4. Baby won’t nurse
I’ve discussed my experiences with M in this area before, but I’ll emphasize: make sure you visit your doctor, and that you follow his or her guidelines for your baby’s weight gain. The main thing is a FED baby not a BREASTFED baby.
Both my babies survived breastfeeding with the help of my handy dandy pump (which your insurance may cover! – I got this one for free.) Having a small stash of frozen milk got us very far when the road got bumpy…
Tip: create a free baby registry and add the recommended products to it! There’s no reason you can’t put essentials on your registry (they make the best gifts!) – and you can even create one after your baby is born!
How to continue on your journey breastfeeding a newborn:
5. Breastfeeding through thrush:
I was shocked when I discovered just how painful thrush can be. Thrush is a yeast infection that passes through the digestive tract and is shared by mom and baby. If you think you have thrush, talk to your pediatrician.
When we noticed Baby Y’s white tongue, and how hard it was for him to swallow, we suspected he had thrush. I was very sore and no amount of lanolin was helping – it seemed to be making it worse.
I spoke to Baby Y’s pediatrician, who gave him an anti fungal medication – both oral and a diaper rash cream, since it also can cause a fungal diaper rash. He recommended that I use the diaper rash cream instead of lanolin.
The thing with thrush is, it spreads. You need to totally get rid of it, or you’ll keep passing it back and forth between each other. A few things I did to supplement the treatments the doctor gave us:
- At times, I pumped and fed him only pumped bottles. This also allowed me more control over my own pain levels.
- More practical (but with less control on my part) was to use a nipple shield.
- Whatever we did, we sterilized EVERYTHING between uses.
Thrush was possibly the most painful period of breastfeeding, but it did NOT do us in.
What did us in in the end was my tummy bug, which led to a reduction in milk supply. While we still kept on, the moment my son was sick again, and breastfed slightly less, my supply went down too much to revive it…
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6. Caring for yourself while breastfeeding:
This survival guide for breastfeeding a newborn is not just about the survival of your nursing journey – it’s also about YOUR survival. With that, I need to leave you with some tips to care for yourself:
- Don’t feel the pressure to “bond”. I hated it when people put me down for reading, watching something, scrolling Facebook while nursing. When Baby Y was really young, he’d nurse for half hour to an hour sessions. It was brutal to try to stay awake… Just nursing your child is an amazing feat, an amazing connection, you don’t need to romantically stare into her eyes to keep it that way!
- While you don’t need to take a special supplement while breastfeeding, DO continue to take a good multivitamin – such as your prenatal vitamins.
- Keep in mind that you need extra calories, and that proper nutrition is important. Take care of yourself!
- Follow your own sensitivities. Lock yourself into a quiet room to take off the pressure, don’t try to cover yourself with a blanket if that’s not working, don’t feel pressured to be okay doing it in public. Take. Care. Of. Yourself.
Breastfeeding a newborn is NOT an easy task, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences, provides infinite value, and it’s well worth the extra shot!
Which challenges did you face when breastfeeding a newborn? Which are you facing now? Do you have any solutions to share? Comment below!