Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I Wish I Knew When I Was Pregnant

Headed to the hospital!

I remember when I found out that I was expecting the decision to breastfeed seemed like a no-brainer. My mom had breastfed my brother and I until we self-weaned so that’s really all I knew.  18 months after that positive pregnancy test I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty naive when it came to feeding a baby.

I started doing a lot of research on breastfeeding early in my second trimester.  That included a lot of reading, namely The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International and Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin. By my third trimester I thought I was an expert. I distinctly remember within seconds of L being born screaming that I wanted to breastfeed.  From that first latch until they wheeled me out of L&D and up to the Mother-Baby floor I probably asked 4 nurses to ‘help me feed my baby.’

My breastfeeding journey, while amazing now, definitely took a rocky turn in those first few months.  While some things couldn’t have been avoided, there are a few things I learned later on that would have been life-altering in those first few weeks.  

1. Think about how you want to handle visitors at the hospital.  Remember, your breastfeeding relationship starts in the hospital and involves a lot of feedings in the first few days. If you’re having your first child you will probably not be graceful about getting your nipple into your newborn’s mouth.  My dad and stepmom drove 10 hours to meet L when he was born and my husband also had friends come to the hospital.  It was always an awkward conversation when feeding time came.  Make a plan prior to giving birth so everyone knows what to expect when feeding time come around.

2. Set goals, but keep it realistic in those first few weeks.  At a La Leche League meeting I was at recently the leader reminded us that every time you put your baby to your breast you are choosing to breastfeed.  If you’re struggling early on setting the goal of putting your baby to the breast just one more time can be a huge milestone and the push you need to make it to the next latch.  I set the goal to let L self-wean from day one and that goal was just too lofty in the beginning.

3. Find support early.  Like, before you even have your baby!  La Leche League is a great resource for expectant mothers wanting to breastfeed.  They also have leaders available over the phone if you need help during those first few weeks.  Also, research IBCLC’s in your area early so you know who to call if you need help.  Finally, check out what resources your hospital provides. Our hospital offered a free weekly support group which greatly contributed to the successful breastfeeding relationship my son and I have today.
Nursing L in bed has made nights much easier

4.  Learn to nurse while lying in bed and while babywearing as soon as you feel up to it.  It took me a long time, too long in fact, to figure both of those out.  Even if you don’t choose to co-sleep, side-lying nursing in bed can be huge for a new momma in need of a little rest.  You don’t need to sleep, but even catching up on a book or tv show while your baby eats (and hopefully naps) can make a huge difference.  And nursing while babywearing allows you to do a few things you might not get to otherwise - like go to the bathroom - and may leave you feeling less frazzled and stressed out in the long run.

5. Just because breastfeeding is natural does NOT mean it's easy. This lesson took a while for me.  I didn't necessarily think it would be a walk in the park but I don't think I knew exactly how difficult it would be.  Or, maybe more specifically, in what ways it would be difficult.  Around the 3 month mark, and during what seemed like my 100th visit with my LC, she actually shared this list piece of advice with me and it really stuck.  A lot of books and blogs and articles go on and on (and on) about how natural breastfeeding is and sometimes it's hard to forget natural doesn't mean easy (remember pregnancy and child birth are natural too and those aren't always a Saturday stroll either).  Be prepared, but go easy on yourself in those first few months.  You don't have to be an expert from day one.

Did I miss anything?  What would you add to this list?  Share your tips for Moms-to-Be and brand new Mommas in the comments.

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