Surviving the First Week of Breastfeeding
Preparing to Breastfeed
There is a mental preparation a young mother needs to go through in order to breastfeed. For me the preparation began early in life, watching other mothers breastfeed their babies. I grew up in Central Africa where the majority of mothers breastfed, and there was no embarrassment or hesitation to nurse babies in public. It was ingrained into my psyche that this was the way to feed babies. So much so, that I remember creating a nipple by putting a pacifier onto a string and then tying it around my chest. I would carry my doll around tied to my back, and then stop at times to nurse my baby with the pacifier.
Later on in life I learned the reasons why breastfeeding was the better way to feed a baby, in most circumstances. Mother and baby benefit from breast feeding:
Breasts were made for baby, and baby best adapts to breast feeding.
In preparing to successfully breast feed the mother must mentally be convinced of the benefits of nature over substitute (breast over bottle). If she is not convinced, she could become quickly discouraged. She will hear several negative voices. One is the voice of what is socially acceptable. Another is the voice of going back to work. Perhaps the mother has to take certain medications that might harm baby. Sometimes the voice is from a friend or relative who tried and failed.
Most doctors and clinics who deal with prenatal issues offer classes to pregnant women to prepare them for birth and early child care. Take advantage of these classes to prepare and educate yourself about breastfeeding.
The First Day of Breastfeeding
What an exciting day it is when for the very first time you get to see and hold your squalling, slippery, cheesy baby! I remember being exhausted and yet so high on that natural adrenaline that comes with the mountaintop experience of giving birth. Bonding with your baby is important, and it begins when you first hold and attempt to nurse her/him.
When you touch the baby's cheek with the breast nipple, the baby will turn toward it. This is a natural instinct. Talk calmly and soothingly so that baby will remember your voice. Baby has been hearing your voice the whole time she/he was in your womb. This should be reassuring. Baby has just been evicted from a nice warm happy place into an air-conditioned sterile environment full of lights and loud sounds and all sorts of unfamiliar touching. Does anyone blame the poor guy for screaming? Not Mama!
The first liquid that comes from the breast is called colostrum. It carries important immunities in it from the mother to the baby. It is also thicker and more creamy in appearance. Later a thinner milk will come in that baby will drink for the duration of nursing.
The nurses will probably take your baby away for a short time to do the tests that are required by the particular hospital or birthing center. After that you will be given choices. You can keep baby in your room and nurse on demand, or the nurses will bring the baby to you for nursing and then take the baby back to the nursery with the other infants.
When you are ending a nursing session on a particular breast, break the suction by sliding your finger near the babies mouth and exerting pressure on the nipple. This releases baby without hurting your nipple. Burp baby and rotate to other breast. Sometimes when baby falls asleep she will release the nipple by relaxation.
Nipple Care the First Week of Nursing
When you buy a new pair of shoes there is a breaking- in process. That is also the case when you are breastfeeding a baby for the first time. Have you ever gotten a blister from your fancy new shoes? Well, I got blisters from breastfeeding my first baby girl. And then...one of them popped. I didn't even know it had happened until I released the baby and...shock of shocks...her mouth was full of blood. I panicked, of course, and called the home nurse who had been visiting me during the week. If I had not been determined to breastfeed, and totally committed to that, I would probably have quit in despair.
That was when I was introduced to A & D ointment. The nurse also brought me something that looked like a bottle nipple to put over my own nipple. I would pat the nipple dry, apply a small amount of ointment, put the substitute nipple over my own, and baby could still nurse while giving my nipple a chance to heal. I was so thrilled! Within a day or two there was no need for the substitute! The nipple had toughened up, and my milk had come in, so that baby didn't have to work so hard to get some results. I did not have the problem with later babies.
So, new mother, don't get discouraged if that first week doesn't go as well as you had dreamed. It is well worth any initial discomfort you may have. I nursed three baby girls until they were ready to stop nursing on their own. The first baby nursed 21 months, the second 10 months, and the third 6 months. Each baby was different. And I was so sad when the last baby weaned. I enjoyed the special closeness I felt to each one through nursing. I hope you will be encouraged to do the same.
© 2017 Georgia Estes