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Before I started breastfeeding, I couldn’t understand why there were so many articles providing breastfeeding help. I thought – isn’t it a natural process? I give birth, my body provides milk for the baby? In essence, yes – but it’s so easy to have your milk supply lowered or cut it’s insane. Here’s what I wish I’d known about breastfeeding before giving birth.
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When the milk comes in, it comes in HARD.
This was the first i the le of my breastfeeding issues. I remember waking up at 4am about 5 days after giving birth, with my breasts rock hard, hot, and painful. I started applying cold compress (huge mistake) because I didn’t know any better.
Turns out, when all the milk rushed in (especially to my very small breasts) the milk ducts got clogged and the milk couldn’t get out. But more milk kept on coming and I ended up almost getting mastitis. I owe a nurse that visited us that day so much, because she helped me avoid that and get the milk flowing by:
- Manually breaking the hard parts (clogged ducts) which was super painful and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own
- Giving me advice on putting warm compress (as it helps open the clogged milk ducts, whereas a cold compress constricts them further)
- Teaching me how to massage my breasts until all the milk ducts are freed and the milk can finally start flowing
For days, my milk was coming out in few painful drops a DAY, until it finally improved. That was one of the reasons my milk supply isn’t that big now, and that’s my next point.
Your milk supply isn’t a given.
I thought that was a biological thing and I didn’t need to know anything about it. Partly because of that, my milk supply was never enough to feed my boy, so I have to supplement him. The biggest breastfeeding mistakes I was making are:
- Not breastfeeding at night. My breastfeeding sessions were very long initially, and I had to wake up the little one every 3 hours. So I decided, in order to get more sleep, I’ll feed him formula at night. That was a huge mistake because the milk supply is highest and develops most quickly over night, thanks to the release of prolactin. So never skip a night feed! (I know I don’t anymore – it helps me protect the milk supply I currently have).
- Not pumping after feeds. My little one initially had jaundice, and because of the clogged milk ducts it took him so long to finish a feed he would fall asleep before actually being full. Had I pumped after a feed, he would have been more full and my milk supply would have been higher.
- Not getting an electric breast pump. I eventually did, and it’s a lifesaver! Here are the ones your insurance probably covers.
- Not knowing milk supply is formed throughout the first month. After that, you can improve it slightly, but not by that much, and not that easily.
A Couple of Other Breastfeeding Tips I Learned Along the Way
- Dairy products do not equal higher milk supply. Plenty of fluids like water, apple juice, and teas that improve breastfeeding (try anis, caraway) do.
- Don’t stop pumping when nothing’s coming out anymore. Sometimes it starts up again, and even if it doesn’t, pumping for a few more minutes signals the body your baby needs more, and helps improve your milk supply.
- Stress can influence your milk supply like crazy – a friend of mine’s milk stopped after only two months for that very reason. So get some rest and plenty of sleep whenever you can.
Bottom line is: we all need breastfeeding support, no matter how natural it may be. I hope this helps first-time moms breastfeed more easily and have a better milk supply than me.