November 01, 2016
Last week I wrote about the incredible joy I have garnered from breastfeeding my son, Killian. The special bond I felt upon meeting my baby boy has been enhanced and heightened by nursing him. When he is attached to my breast, his tiny body pressed up against my stomach, his little head cradled in my arm, he looks up at me, holding on with his little hands, making his sweet little noises … it feels like heaven on Earth. When he wakes me in the middle of the night, I find myself smiling through the sleep deprivation because I am so happy for these special moments. I provide him with food and nutrition, but he provides me with one of the greatest gifts of motherhood.
Over the past month, I have taken a crash course in breastfeeding, and I have learned a few things that other nursing mothers may find helpful or can relate to:
One of my favorite bras from my pre-pregnancy days was the Coobie that I would buy at my uncle’s boutique, Knit Wit. When I was expecting and required more support, I spent a lot of money on new bras, only to return to my trusty Coobie bras that I ended up wearing faithfully for 10-plus months of pregnancy. Thankfully, this awesome brand also makes inexpensive and durable nursing bras! These bras are soft and comfortable, supportive and functional. When your baby is crying because he is hungry, the last thing you want is to have to fuss with a difficult nursing bra. I can unclip the flap quickly to feed my son as soon he wants. My Coobie nursing bras hold up great after multiple washings and come in a bunch of cool colors like gray and pink. I cannot recommend this nursing bra enough!
It is critical to track the eating and elimination of newborns to ensure they are getting enough nutrition and their digestive system is working. The nurses and doctors at the hospital where I delivered gave us specific numbers that our son needed to hit for every day of his young life. For sleep-deprived mothers, it can be hard to remember how many times your baby was fed, how many times you changed his diaper and what exactly each diaper held. Lucky for us modern moms, there’s an app for that. I use a free one called Baby Tracker, which allows me to time my breastfeeding and count dirty diapers.
The app also helps me to remember which side I nursed him on last. It also lets you plug in things like sleeping, pumping, medication, etc., but I only keep track of nursing and changing. At my son’s two-week checkup with his pediatrician, his doctor said I could stop with the daily log since Killian is healthy and growing well, but I am continuing to find peace of mind by using Baby Tracker.
Staying hydrated and eating well is as critical when nursing as when pregnant. Milk production and breastfeeding can take a lot out of a woman, so it is important to maintain good nutrition and hydration. I drink a lot of water, but when my son latches on, cotton mouth is near-instant, so I have learned to always have my water bottle within reach. When I was pregnant, I felt hungry all the time. This feeling has continued over the first month of my son’s life. While breastfeeding, my obstetrician recommends that I consume 200 more calories than normal (some sources say 400-500 more) to compensate for all the calories burned. Just like during pregnancy, it is important for these extra calories to be nutritious and not empty. I keep granola bars in my purse, lots of fruits and vegetables in the kitchen and graham crackers and peanut butter on my bedside table for a sweet, protein-packed midnight snack. Eating protein-rich food like lean meats, low-mercury seafood, eggs, beans and dairy is good for mother and child and can also aid in milk production. Everything a breastfeeding mother puts into her system can go into her milk and, therefore, into her baby, so I devote time to my nutrition and hydration for the health and wellness of my son and myself.
Breastfeeding can be painful, causing cracked, chapped, blistered and bruised nipples. Ouch! The lactation course I took touted the benefits of lanolin for nipple protection and healing, so I purchased some before my son was born. During the first couple days of breastfeeding, I developed a few blisters, and Lansinoh lanolin really helped. A lactation consultant that I met with in the hospital advised that I express some colostrum after each feeding and let it dry on my nipples. She also provided me with a set of cooling gel inserts that could be placed in my bra. Both recommendations worked very well for me. My mom swears by warm compresses, which also helped a lot. There are many suggestions to ease your nipple pain, but be sure to talk to your obstetrician, lactation consultant or your child’s pediatrician before trying any remedies. My nipples were only hurting for the first few days as my body adjusted, and I have not needed to use or apply anything since my son was a week old. I hope every breastfeeding mother is able to experience the pleasure of pain-free nursing.
What did you learn about or during breastfeeding that could help other nursing mothers? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section, below or tweet me @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.