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Making First-Time Mom Decisions
When I was pregnant for the first time, I made the decision that I was going to try breastfeeding. I wasn’t totally committed but I wanted to try it before I decided on any other options. I read some things, gathered some breastfeeding tips, I talked to some people, and I discussed it with my midwife.
It all sounded simple enough. I figured it was “natural” and I wouldn’t have any issues whatsoever. I remember the one negative thing my cousin mentioned to me during my pregnancy, it was about lanolin.
She said that because it’s my first time, my nipples may become sore, so I should buy some lanolin. I bought some and was I glad I did! I used that for the first three or so months because my daughter had a lip tie that we didn’t know about until she had stopped breastfeeding. Her pediatric dentist mentioned that it may cause a space in her front teeth so we should monitor, and if we’re concerned, we can correct it.
I used the lanolin so much, not because it hurt when she nursed, but because she nursed for so long my nipples became sensitive and the lanolin helped make my bra not hurt.
What I Discovered Later—but wish I knew earlier
My first daughter would breastfeed for up to 45 minutes at a time. I believe now that the lip tie made her nursing slower. My second daughter would be done nursing in 12-15 minutes. It shocked me and I worried that she wasn’t eating enough, but she was growing well and always happy.
Her pediatrician let me know it was totally normal for babies to nurse for less than 20 minutes at a time! I wish I had known this with my first daughter. I was a first-time mom, and I thought that because there was no pain, and my baby girl wasn’t showing signs of struggling or discomfort, everything was normal. I didn’t think to seek out guidance or assistance for the length of time it took to feed.
And that happens a lot as parents. We don’t know what we don’t know. If I had never had a second child, I wouldn’t have known that my first breastfeeding journey was more difficult than it needed to be. I’m glad I stayed with it and made it past her first birthday, but I wish I had been prepared with more information. Giving up crossed my mind daily and it was a mental struggle to continue.
Breastfeeding Tips for First-Time Moms
Once you’ve made the decision to breastfeed, there are some things you’ll want to do to prepare. You’ll need certain clothes to make feedings either. Depending on your comfort level for nursing in public, you may want covers or a pump and bottles.
Here are my best breastfeeding tips for first time moms:
Before Baby Arrives:
Tip #1 Education
Educate yourself on breastfeeding through a lactation expert, not just friends, family, and the internet. Get different perspectives but also seek out factual information. Research a little and watch videos, it will help you prepare for what to expect.
Tip #2 Cautiously Ask for Advice
Talk with friends or family members who have breastfed, but take their advice and experience with a grain of salt. Every journey is different.
Tip #3 Get the Right Clothes
Purchase nursing clothes like tank tips, shirts, and dresses as well as nursing bras. Having clothes that provide access will make discreet feedings much easier.
Tip #4 Arm Yourself with Information
Prepare yourself for pumping and developing a milk stash. You never know when you may need to be away for an extended period of time so you’ll want to have some backup milk for the baby. Read about pumping, talk to lactation consultants, watch some videos. Find out what kind of pump you’ll want to try out.
Tip #5 Get the Right Equipment
Look into getting a free breast pump through your insurance or your local hospital. Some women don’t like breastfeeding and pumping is another option. Having a breast pump is important for creating a milk stash but it’s also great if you decide to top breastfeeding and want to provide your baby with breastmilk. Watch some videos on YouTube to help you with getting the right pumping equipment and methods to maximize your supply.
Tip #6 Use Props
Get a boppy. It’s the best thing for new moms. After birthing a child for the first time, you’re pretty exhausted. A boppy pillow is awesome for helping prop the baby. Plus, when the baby starts doing tummy time and playing on the floor, the boppy is awesome as a cushion and support.
After Baby Arrives:
Tip #7 Make Your Own Space
Create a nursing station. When you’re new to breastfeeding, you may feel overwhelmed. To make things easier, set up a station in your living room or bedroom where you can nurse the baby. Have a water bottle (trust me, you will be shocked by the amount of water you drink when breastfeeding!), granola bar, the tv remote, your phone and charger, burp clothes, boppy, and lanolin.
Tip #8 Practice Positions
Practice different nursing positions. You may not love the traditional hold, maybe the football hold works better for you and your baby. A boppy might be helpful, or it may make things more difficult. Practice nursing to get comfortable.
Tip #9 Get Used to a Sling or Carrier
Try nursing in a sling or carrier. I am such a babywearing advocate, for so many reasons, but especially nursing. Because my older daughter would have super long nursing sessions, being able to move around in my carrier was so freeing.
Tip #10 Connect with Other Breastfeeding Moms
Many hospitals and clinics have breastfeeding support groups. For some people, breastfeeding is picked up rather quickly. Some of us need information and assistance. It helps to have a lactation consultant check the baby’s latch, help you monitor the baby’s milk intake, and learn some tricks to make nursing easier. You can also find online breastfeeding groups on the What To Expect app.
Tip #11 Prepare for Leaking
My first time breastfeeding, I leaked a lot. I would wake up to my sheets and blankets soaked with milk. I had no idea this happened. I remember sleeping on burp clothes for the first week or so and then someone recommended a loose, pullover sports bra with breast pads. Life saver! Also, to catch leaks while you’re nursing, use a Haakaa manual breast pump.
Tip #12 Feed Yourself
Breastfeeding makes you super hungry and thirsty! Make sure you have an extra large water bottle—that’s always full—and a stash of healthy snacks like granola bars or trail mix. I love berries as a snack too but having something that stays right at your nursing station is just easier.
Breastfeeding Must-Haves List
- Nursing tanks/t-shirts
- Nursing bras
- Comfy pants
- Pullover sports bra, no padding (or this awesome nursing bra!)
- Reusable breast pads
- Burp cloths (I use prefold cloth diaper inserts because they’re super absorbent!)
- Granola Bars or some snacks you love (you’ll be starving!)
- Extra-large water bottle (Yeti is my favorite with this cover)
- Baby sling or carrier
- Breast pump
- Breastmilk storage bags
- Haakaa manual breast pump (for catching leaks while nursing!)
Embrace Your Breastfeeding Journey
You may love breastfeeding and have zero issues at all! That’s totally common. And you might struggle a bit, or hate it altogether. That’s also common. Your parenting journey is unique to you and your baby.
The best thing for me was to keep an open mind about what being a new mother would be like. I decided to try breastfeeding and I prepared myself as best as I could. It ended up being a great option for me and my babies. I breastfed my first until she was 14 months and my second is starting to wean herself at 12 months (she loves to eat and drink milk in sippy cups!).
If you decide that breastfeeding is not for you, you have options! Keep an open mind, work with your baby, and most importantly make sure you’re taking care of yourself during these first few months of motherhood. I happened to love breastfeeding and I believe with the right knowledge and right support, you can love your journey too.