Breastfeeding for the first time

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Being a first time mom is scary.

I remember that when my son was just a tiny newborn I was so afraid that my milk wasn’t going to be enough for him.  I remember watching the numbers on the scale so nervously hoping they would rise when we visited the pediatrician.  I remember wondering and obsessing over just how many ounces he was really getting when he nursed.

From many other women with whom I’ve spoken, these fears seem to be common, almost normal, thoughts for a first time breastfeeding mother.  As a mother who was able to successfully breastfeed my child, and continues to do so at 18 months old while pregnant with my second baby, I want to share some of the pitfalls I’ve found to be common in the early nursing days.  Questions I had, fears I’ve heard from many other mothers, and logistics of nursing that have been common issues and reasons why women stop breastfeeding. Maybe if I share a few of these here, it may help a few more first time mamas not to share some of the same struggles we did in the beginning.

Let’s start out with the early days.

  I had a vaginal delivery with no complications which allowed me to do skin-to-skin and to breastfeed after birth, I believe it was a half hour or 45 minutes after.  However, I still found it to be confusing as a first time mom.  I’m pretty sure I asked one of the nurses, “Am I supposed to feed him now?”  To which my young nurse casually replied, “Well, if you want to, I guess you can go ahead.”

Not a ton of support there, obviously, to a first time mom who initially found the whole bit of breastfeeding to be a bit odd and a little awkward.  I think it would have been really helpful to have someone tell me, that yes, I should try to feed him at that point.

 We nursed a TON in the beginning, sometimes 14 times per day and up, and I was still really nervous about my son actually gaining weight at his first pediatrician appointment after we left the hospital.  I’m pretty sure we were seen just shy of one week old, and they wanted him back at his birth weight again.  I believe we made it, or were really close, at that time.  However, I have heard more recently that it can take almost two weeks for some babies to gain back their birth weight, and that isn’t a completely abnormal thing.

If your babe does have trouble gaining weight in the beginning, and you are committed to breastfeeding, I would try a weighted feeding prior to supplementing with formula.  A weighed feeding is where you change baby’s diaper, weigh them before a feeding, nurse them, and then weigh them immediately after feeding them.  This is something you can do with a lactation consultant in their office or your home, by yourself, or with any other support persons you have for birthing/post partum care.  (My doula offered this service to us.)  A word of caution, though, if you are doing a weighed feeding on your own- use a scale that is really exact.  We are talking about ounces here, so unless your scale is VERY precise, you may want to pick up a baby scale to have at home.  We have one we purchased specifically for babies that proved to be very helpful in our breastfeeding journey.

Also, a word to the wise about weighed feedings- most times, I’ve found that my mama friends were doing these at night, or later in the day.  After being up all night, no one wants to schedule early morning appointments, and sometimes your lactation consultant or doula coming to your home happens to be later at night.  We did weighed feedings some nights when my husband came home from work.  The problem with this is, for many women, your body produces the most milk in the morning and the least milk at night.  If you do a weighed evening feeding, you are probably going to see a really small number of ounces that they are taking in, and that is normal.  Try to do a morning weighed feeding for your first nurse of the day if it is possible, as again, this is the time your body is producing the most milk.

 Another worry I remember was about when my milk would come in.  I’m one of those women who didn’t know when their milk came in.  Most of the women I know were acutely aware of when this happened to them, but for me, there were never any signs or anything to show me that it did.  I never felt let-down, I never felt that crazy engorgement when my milk came in.  It just did, silently in the background as I was feeding my son.  I actually had my doula come over to our house and look at bottles of milk I had pumped because I couldn’t tell the difference between colostrum and milk.  This was where a support person- lactation consultant or doula, etc.- was really important.  Again, this was one of those times in the early breastfeeding days that I really just needed someone to tell me, “Yes, your milk has come in, and yes, it is all your baby needs right now.”  Thankfully, my doula did just that.  She was able to look at it and immediately tell me it was breastmilk and not colostrum, and she pointed out the separating of the foremilk and fatty hindmilk in the bottle.

If your milk doesn’t come in right away, again, refer to the chart above.  In those first few days, your baby needs SO little at a time as their stomachs are so small.  We can gulp down in one swallow an incredibly larger amount than your baby takes during an entire feeding during their first few days.  If it goes past the first few days and your milk still has not come in, I HIGHLY recommend seeing your lactation consultant as often as you need to help you get through that period of time, just like breast milk, a good lactation consultant is worth their weight in gold.

This guest post is syndicated from Jayne over at The Naptown Organizer.  To see the full post with more answers for breastfeeding difficulties, see here. Jayne is a wife, mama of a toddler, speech language pathologist, blogger, and soon to be mama of two in December.  Jayne blogs about her trek as a crunchy mama through parenting, any and everything granola, and a life more organized.  Jayne has a series of breastfeeding posts lined up this week on The Naptown Organizer to help first time mamas breastfeed from infancy through toddlerhood if so desired.  Check her out here


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  1. Anna 28 August, 2012, 08:42

    Do you know how awesome it is to hear (er, read) that you didn’t know your milk came in? I had the same experience, and the few people I’ve mentioned it to either look at me I’ve lost my mind or are insanely jealous, since along with it came no major engorgement or leaking. Yay!

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  2. Jenn-O 29 August, 2012, 08:45

    I think that is some great advice. But, I would go as far as to say you need a gram scale if you really want to calculate weight correctly for a newborn. A scale that only goes down to an ounce just isn’t good enough when you need to know how many cc’s an infant is taking. Also, as you have stated, we produce different amounts of milk at different times, so maybe a 24 hour weight would be even more accurate. Watching pee and poo output is another good indicator on how much milk baby is getting.
    I think every breastfeeding mom has thought at some point that they weren’t making enough milk. I know I definitely did. Thankfully I attended LLL meetings and had other moms to talk to! It’s great to talk about it so other moms know it’s normal to think that. We just need to trust our bodies to do what it needs to do!

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  3. thenaptownorganizer 3 September, 2012, 11:17

    Thank you ladies! Jenn I do believe our scale weighs down to .5 oz increments or also in grams, it has different options, but my doula did have a much more specific scale that I believe we used at times as well!

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