My number one, most important piece of advice: you know your baby and your body better than anyone. Do whatever is right for you. If that means not breastfeeding, that is ok! Lots of people will try to throw their opinions at you, but trust your gut and do what works best for you and your baby.
Pay attention to the latch and use nipple cream after every feeding, from the beginning.
When I started breastfeeding at the hospital, the lactation consultant we saw talked about having a “deep latch.” I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and couldn’t stop staring at my baby, and basically ignored her because it seemed like Ollie was happy and I didn’t really understand what she was talking about anyways.
About 12 hours later, my nipples were BLEEDING and I was in so much pain. The problem is, once you’ve “damaged” the tissue, it takes a long time to heal, and you have to keep nursing through it!
Luckily we had an amazing night nurse who brought me lanolin nipple cream and helped me figure out how to get Ollie to latch deeper. It seems like it should be so easy, but it’s actually hard to get their tiny mouths to open wide enough. You’re both learning, but you’ll get there. After a few weeks I had absolutely no pain, and I’m so glad I powered through, but man, it hurts in the beginning.
Be prepared for the amount of time you’ll be feeding.
I have no idea why I didn’t know this ahead of time, but babies eat every 2-3 hours, and in the beginning it can take about an hour per feeding. That means at most, you have 2 hours in between feeds. This can be pretty overwhelming.
I spent a lot of time on the couch watching Netflix during the day, and sitting in our rocker overnight. I loved reading on my kindle at night during feedings to avoid hours staring at my phone.
Overtime babies get more efficient with eating, and you’ll spend less time nursing. However, you’ll continue feeding every 3 hours or so during the day until they stop nursing.
Start building a freezer stash early.
Once you’re cleared to start pumping (around 4 weeks usually), you might want to start building your freezer stash. Even if you aren’t going back to work, it’s great to have for your partner or another caregiver to be able to feed baby.
The best time to pump is in the morning after the first feeding–moms tend to produce more milk in the mornings. Ollie ate every 3 hours, so I would try to pump about 90 minutes after the start of his first feed.
I would also recommend sterilizing, putting together, and trying your pump before the baby comes. It’s not that complicated but it’s a little daunting around 4 weeks when you’re super focused on baby and sleep deprived.
In addition to traditional pumping, I highly recommend the Haakaa. It’s a silicone cup that suctions onto your boob. The idea is you put it on one side while you’re nursing on the other, and it will catch the let down. I also hand expressed after Ollie finishes nursing to save any extra milk. I would get anywhere from 1 – 4 ounces during each feed. If you have an oversupply, this is a great tool to release some pressure without increasing your supply, like a regular pump would.
Give yourself a break, and a back up plan.
After Ollie started going to daycare, I had a really hard time pumping enough to keep up. I pump about half of what he eats at daycare in the same amount of time (this is normal–pumps are not as efficient as babies), and we were also giving him pumped bottles every night at “bedtime” and for a “dreamfeed.”
Around 6 months I finally caved and we started giving him one formula bottle a day, and using it as a backup option. If we forgot to take breast milk out of the freezer in time, or he was super fussy and refused to nurse, it was a huge relief to have a backup option. I think this goes back to the whole “do what works for you,” advice. Supplementing with just one formula bottle a day has taken a little pressure off of me, and has helped me build our freezer stash back up so that he can always have breastmilk at daycare!
If you need it, working with a lactation consultant is always a great option. Most health insurance policies cover this completely!