It’s one of the first questions your friend, mom, or grandmother-in-law will likely ask you and everyone seemingly wants to know, “how do you plan to feed baby?”. Both of us have chosen to breastfeed, at least for the time being. And let us tell you, it was not easy to figure out. If someone says it came easy to them, they are either a. Lying or b. Not human.
So, let’s begin – here you’ll find some quick thoughts on some of our most talked about parts of breastfeeding. (As you can tell by the whole “Part 1” thing, we will absolutely post more on this kind of stuff, so if there’s a specific topic you want to hear about – let us know!)
Pain, WHAT PAIN?
At some point during both of our pregnancies or early weeks of baby’s life, we were both told by lactation consultants, nurses, or some sort of other breastfeeding expert that breastfeeding should not hurt, otherwise you are doing it wrong. We call bullshit. It will hurt. And if by some miracle it did/does not for you, then you have boobs from Krypton. I mean, why wouldn’t it be at least a little uncomfortable at first? Someone is chomping down on your nipples, and if your latch is just a liiiiiittle off then you’ll definitely have some pain. Ice packs and nipple cream are your friends. Embrace them with open arms. ~Karen
Okay. This is going to sound scary but it’s something all babies do – there will be a time when your baby won’t stop eating and you’ll be stuck to the couch/bed/chair for hours. Literally hours. For me it happened the second night we had Finn home and he ate almost constantly from about 10pm to 5am. He’d latch, fall asleep eating, then scream when I took him off my breast. What the hell?? The only good thing is Will & Grace had just come on Hulu so I was able to watch a ton of episodes, but to say I was crabby and going insane when my husband came out of the bedroom at 5am is a huge understatement. I basically shoved the baby into his arms and ran. That is an extreme example, but it’s super common for your baby to want to eat non-stop for a few hours (mostly in the evening around dinner time…convenient for you, right?) The best strategy for dealing with this mess is to hunker down with a support pillow like a boppy, your water bottle, snacks, and your favorite netflix show and ride it out. This is also a perfect time to make your partner get you stuff when you need it (shout-out to Kris for filling my water bottle one million times!). You can get through this! We believe in you!
One will never again in life hear this word repeated as much as you do in the first week of baby’s life. When a baby is learning to breastfeed, the latch, or when a baby fastens herself onto breast, is emphasized quite a bit. For some babies, achieving a good latch can be challenging. Babies can be lazy and sometimes attach to your nipple, just the nipple. A good latch will have your areola in baby’s mouth. A poor latch can lead to issues for you later on, not to add to your list of things to be concerned about. Additionally, a baby with a good latch can all of the sudden revert on you. Your hospital will likely have some nurses who are also certified lactation consultants. They are great resources which I highly recommend seeking out while you are in the hospital and even those first few weeks postpartum. No, I did not cry a number of times when I met with my favorite lactation consultants, Kathy and Karla. These women really made a huge difference in my early weeks home. There are so many resources out there, don’t be afraid of using them. (edit from Kristin – this reading on deep latch technique was super helpful for me!) This is so new, there is no reason it should or will go perfectly. ~Karen
Clogged Ducts & other fun stuff
About a week and a half into my tough start to breastfeeding I had a clogged duct. How did I know? I had a “hot spot” on my breast and it felt more dense in that area, if that makes sense. Oh, and it hurt like a bitch. Everytime I would touch it it was super painful, which was great fun when trying to feed the baby. At the same time I also began to worry about Mastitis. Mastitis is an infection that happens when an area of your breast doesn’t drain enough, causing bacteria to grow and you to feel like you have a bad flu. On top of the pain from the clogged duct you can have a fever, redness on your breast, etc. Fun, right?! (By the way, if you ever feel like this go see your doctor!) So anyway, the first thing a medical professional will tell you about a clogged duct is to keep nursing and hopefully your little person will clear it. That wasn’t happening for me so I moved on to other remedies – warm compress, hand expressing in the shower, trying to use a wide-toothed comb to break up the clog, and finally dangle pumping. I think a combo of all of this is what cleared it, but “dangle” pumping really did the trick for me – this is where you pump (or feed your baby) while leaning forward or on all fours so gravity can help you out. Pumping while on all fours though…guys, I felt like a literal cow. But it worked! Moral of this story? Pay attention to your body, because I guess just learning to breastfeed isn’t hard enough and it has to throw painful curveballs at you too. ~Kristin
Storing milk (ew, why does it look like it went bad?)
Something no one told me about was when you store your milk in the fridge it is going to separate. The first time I saw it happen I was like, “oh my god, how did it go bad so fast?!” Don’t worry, it’s just separating the fat (or cream) from the more watery milk and it’s totally normal. To get specific, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics breast milk can be safely stored up to 8 days in the fridge. Oh! and your breastmilk can be different colors! You can see above that some of mine is kind of a bluish tint once it separates. There are a range of colors which are all normal, even if it makes you feel weird to feed your baby green milk. (barf.) ~Kristin
We’ve given you quite a bit to chew on this week (teehee). The important thing to always keep in mind, and we will continually harp on, is no matter how you feed your baby, formula/breastfeeding/combo, you are doing an amazing job. Breastfeeding is hard, and it isn’t an option for every family, either by choice or out of necessity. There is a lot of shaming and guilt that goes along with every piece of parenting, especially how you feed your baby. You know what is best for you and your family and every situation is different. Take care of yourself, stand by your decision, and try your hardest to block out opposing viewpoints (a nice way of saying haters…).
Also – eat some ice cream, because we all deserve to eat more ice cream.
~Kristin & Karen