I am happy to offer a guest post today from Kelly Fowler of SweetMomsBlog
As a first-time mom, you're doing everything in your power to get it all right. You've done all the research, and you've decided that you want to breastfeed your baby. Whether you want to be sure they get that valuable colostrum and you'll see what happens from there or you're hoping to breastfeed until your little one is no longer interested, you'll want to take care to avoid these classic new-mom breastfeeding mistakes.
1. You're pumping just as often as you're feeding, taking every lactation supplement on the market, and drinking so much water that you feel like you're going to float away.
Your supply is important. As a first-time mom, you've heard horror stories about moms who lost their supplies and weren't able to breastfeed, and you're determined that it won't be you. As a result, however, you're encouraging oversupply--and that's not healthy for baby, either. Make sure you're not trying to fix something that isn't broken. While you may need to pump sometimes to help build a freezer stash, especially if you'll be going back to work soon after baby is born, you don't want to produce so much milk that you'll never use it all, either. Keep in mind, too, that it's hindmilk--the milk at the end of a feeding session--that will help keep baby full and satisfied, and if you have a huge oversupply, you may struggle to keep them full and happy.
2. You don't get help (even when you're pretty sure you need it.
Breastfeeding worked out fine in the hospital. You latched on your little bundle of joy, cuddled them close, and thought that life was perfect. Unfortunately, when you get home, you may run into a host of problems that you didn't notice in the hospital: baby's latch is too shallow, you're uncomfortable the entire time, or you aren't sure that baby is getting any milk at all. Maybe your arms are aching in the position you're trying to use or you feel as though you do nothing but sit there with your breast in a baby's mouth all day, which is turning your nipples raw! If you find that breastfeeding is not the natural, amazing activity you always hoped it would be, get help! Contact your hospital or get in touch with a local lactation consultant. They'll help make breastfeeding more comfortable and potentially even salvage your breastfeeding relationship.
3. You don't take care of yourself.
When you're breastfeeding, especially a tiny one who still nurses around the clock, everything revolves around your baby. You need to take care of them, which means that your needs take a back seat. While there are going to be plenty of times in your child's life when you'll need to sacrifice for them, self-care is critical to your breastfeeding success and your ability to provide the best possible care for your baby. Try some of these self-care strategies:
- Make sure that you're eating right. Take the time to consume plenty of nutritious food so that you can provide the milk your baby needs.
- Get as much sleep as you can. While sleeping when baby sleeps isn't always practical, you can and should hand baby to your spouse, a friend, or a family member once in a while and go take a relaxing nap. Nurse first; that way, you won't find yourself needing to wake back up just minutes after your head hits the pillow.
- Once you have clearance from your doctor, make some time for light exercise in your schedule. Even popping baby in a carrier or stroller, then heading out for a quick walk around the block, can do wonders for your mood.
- Take a shower. You don't have to do this every day, but if you're starting to smell like spit-up or feel as though your hair is so greasy it will soon stand up on its own, lay baby down in a safe place and go get clean. Even if they fuss, it will be okay--and you'll feel like a new woman!
4. You ignore a minor problem until it becomes a serious issue.
You've heard that breastfeeding is uncomfortable at first, so you assume that you're going to struggle for the first little while. While it's normal to experience some discomfort, if you're having real pain while breastfeeding, you should always have it checked out by your doctor. Don't worry: they're used to new-mom questions and worries, and they're not going to laugh at you! If you're experiencing any of these problems, talk with your doctor as soon as possible:
- A "shards of glass" feeling in your breast during letdown: this is likely a symptom of thrush, which is easily treatable.
- Baby seems weak and lethargic, often fussing. It's normal for baby to want to nurse constantly, especially during those early days and during growth spurts, but if you genuinely feel that baby isn't getting enough milk, you should contact their doctor immediately. They'll do a weighed feeding and help work with you to increase your supply.
- You have a mild fever and your breasts feel lumpy, red, or inflamed. This could be a sign of mastitis, which can pose a serious health threat to you if not treated.
Never be afraid to call your doctor if needed. They've heard it all before, and they're there to help you and your baby!
Breastfeeding is an incredible journey. It's one that's well worth it, but it can also be daunting, especially for first-time moms. By avoiding these key pitfalls, you can raise your odds of a successful breastfeeding relationship with your little one.
Kelly Fowler is the co-founder of SweetMomsBlog and a mom of 3 from Rochester, NY. She found her passion for writing during her second pregnancy when she realized there are many other inexperienced mothers out there in need of her insights.