I was going through my drafted posts and I came across this one I had already typed up! Talk about forgetfulness! I don’t know if anyone is even interested in Volumes 2 & 3 of these nursing posts, but here you go anyhow.
Disclaimer: If you’re not into knowing all about nursing, you may want to sit this one out!
Welcome to the second installment of Bethany’s Nursing Class. Missed Volume 1? You can catch it here.
OK, so we covered what to do when you experience dry, cracked, sore nipples and how to prevent them. Let’s move on to tips during nursing.
The first thing you want to figure out is the ideal position for you and baby. For Jacob and I, there are two favorites: cradle/cross cradle and side lying. The cradle and cross cradle holds are actually two different holds, but since I use props, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Basically, I sit in a recliner, on the couch, or on the bed, put a nursing pillow in my lap, and lay Jacob on the pillow.
Cross Cradle Using Boppy
I received two different nursing pillows at my baby shower: the Brest Friend and the Boppy. There are pros and cons to both. The Brest Friend is a little firmer and sturdier than the Boppy. It straps around you and feels a little more secure than the Boppy and allows you to get up and walk around with it on. When Jake was just a little guy, I could walk around with him on it, but as he’s gotten heavier, it’s more of a challenge. I was never really able to breast feed while walking around though because he would lose his grip and his mouth would come off the breast. The bad thing about the Brest Friend is since it is firmer, the baby can’t relax and really enjoy the feeding. At least that’s how it seems to me. When baby is younger, this is a good thing since they have so much trouble staying awake, but now that he’s older, I like for him to enjoy the feeding. I briefly talked about these in My 11 Favorite Infant Items post.
The Boppy is like a small pillow that wraps around your waist. It’s a lot softer than the Brest Friend and I feel Jake can really cuddle into it. I honestly don’t use the Brest Friend much anymore, but when I was using both I would ask myself if I wanted Jake to be extra sleepy after his feedings or not. If it was late at night or if he’d had trouble falling asleep during the day, I would use the Boppy so he could cuddle up on it. If it was a typical feeding, I would gravitate towards the Brest Friend.
The other position we like, the side lying position, is phenomenal when you are exhausted and you just want to rest for a bit. What you do is lay on your side in bed or on the couch (I prefer in bed), pull baby up close to you so he’s laying on his side facing you, and offer the breast. It’s a very relaxed, calming position and Jacob always fell asleep when we did this position. It was a nice break from all the activity going on in the house and a way for us to just escape to the comforts of my bedroom for a half hour. I would typically turn on a TV show (Big Bang Theory was my show of choice) and just let Jacob take his time. No hurries, no rushing him so I could go back to sleep, just calm, easy nursing.
The next thing you want to do is get all your “props” together. This includes anything you will need in the next 20-45 minutes, because you won’t be able to move much once you start nursing. My list of props included a nursing pillow of some sort, a huge glass of water (you get so thirsty when you are nursing!), a blanket to cover myself and Jake, and my phone.
In the beginning when we were keeping track of things, I used my iPhone as a way to remember times, duration, and which side I last nursed on. My favorite app was the What to Expect: Baby Tracker app. It has options to remember feeding, sleeping, diapers, and vaccinations. When you get your little bundle home, you keep track of how often he goes to the bathroom, what kind of diaper he has (wet, poopy, combination, or dry), when you fed last, and which side you last nursed on. I didn’t really keep track of his sleeping or vaccinations, but they would be useful for some people I’m sure.
The other reason I always had to have my iPhone near me is, let’s be honest, because nursing can be a bit boring. Some people like to talk to their babies while they’re eating, some people don’t. I fall into the second category. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to Jake while he’s eating, I just don’t always have that much to say. Or sometimes I just don’t feel like talking. I am a relatively talkative person most of the time, but at 3a that’s the last thing I want to do. Instead, while my little man is chowing down, I amuse myself by reading blogs, drafting blog posts, or playing games like Solitaire. I also did some of my Christmas shopping via the Amazon app. Having my phone nearby was handy as well when I needed to communicate with Jeff, who was at the other end of the house, without having to yell and disturb Jacob’s eating.
Note: since drafting this post, I have (oddly enough) stopped using my phone during nursing sessions. Instead I typically just watch my little boy, think of the future, and just enjoy my time with him.
OK, so you found your position and you have all your props handy. Now, you feed…or attempt to. One thing you want to note is that your breast is a big, round circle and the baby’s mouth is too small to really receive in without a little help from you. My lactation consultant told me to think of my breast as a big cheeseburger. When you have a cheeseburger that is super huge, you typically grasp the burger in both hands and squeeze down to get it a little thinner, thus more manageable. That’s what you want to do with your breast as well. I flattened out my breast a little bit, angled the nipple towards the roof of baby’s mouth, and sort of pushed Jake’s head towards my breast. It is definitely easier to show than explain, so for tons of tips and tricks, ask your LC. The hospital should provide them, but if not find your local Le Leche League.
Something everyone has an opinion on is how exactly to feed. I had several people tell me several different things when it came to how long to nurse, which breast to nurse out of, when to switch sides, etc. This is my opinion on what worked best for me. I think every woman has to decide what is best for her as well.
When I first started nursing, I was nursing for 5-10 minutes on each side. I started with the opposite breast I used at the beginning of the last feeding. For example, if I started using my left breast at 6a and then switched to my right, I would use my right breast at 8a even though it was the breast I finished the 6a feeding out of.
After reading lots of opinions about using both breasts at each feeding, I switched up my technique. I started using one breast at each feeding and then alternating at the next feeding. For example, I would feed exclusively out of the left breast at 6a and then exclusively out of the right breast at 8a. Again, I read lots of opinions about this way of nursing.
Ultimately, I consulted Manika, my neonatologist friend. I felt like I was having production problems and wanted a little consulting. Basically when Jake would nurse, he would be latched on for a good long while, then pull off like he was done. Then, not 30 minutes later, he would be bawling and gnawing on his hands signalling he was hungry. I would nurse him again and the cycle would repeat. Finally, I would give him a bottle and he would be fine. I think I wasn’t producing enough for him.
Anyhow, Manika suggested I nurse for 15 minutes on one side, burp him, and then switch to the second side for 15 minutes. You want to give your little one enough time on each breast to reach the rich hindmilk (the milk that keeps their little bellies full and have all the yummy nutrients they need to grow) while still stimulating each breast. To increase my milk supply, she also suggested pumping for 15 minutes after Jake was done eating to tell my body I needed more milk for my growing boy. (BTW, this method really worked for me! If you need to increase your milk supply, I suggest you follow this plan too.)
The moral of the story for me was to nurse with both breast at each feeding even if the baby only eats on one side for a few minutes. In the first 3-4 weeks, you are building your milk supply and you want to make sure your body realizes the baby’s needs. Also, feed as often as your baby wants to eat. This also stimulates milk production and helps your body understand how much your little one needs.
A big struggle you will most likely find yourself faced with is keeping baby awake during feedings. If your little one is anything like mine, he will nurse for maybe 5-10 minutes and then fall asleep. Most likely, he isn’t getting the hindmilk he needs and he probably can’t stay awake long enough to nurse on each breast. There are several things you can do to keep him awake, even though I hate waking a sleeping baby! Little babies want nothing more than to sleep. They get a teeny amount of food in their bellies (just enough to be satisfied for 30 minutes or so) and want to go back to sleep. This means they aren’t getting the hindmilk and you will probably be awake again in a few minutes to nurse again.
First, strip the little one down to just his diaper. Yes, he will be cold. Yes, you will have to fight your urge to keep him covered. You are trying to make him slightly uncomfortable so he wakes up. I hated doing this because after he was done nursing I had to dress him again. His clothes would be cold from not being next to his body, therefore waking him up after he was done with his nighttime feeding. I eventually resorted to putting his clothes under the blanket we were using to try to hold in some of the warmth.
The second thing you can try is having Dad get his hands wet with cold water and touching the baby’s back, legs, face, etc. Again, the cold should wake him up and jar him enough to want to continue feeding. Again, you will hate making your little one cold, but just keep telling yourself it is for the best.
Third, try bugging your little guy. Play with his feet, tap under his chin, tickle him, etc. Do anything you can think of to startle him awake so he remembers what he is there to do.
Finally, change a diaper. The movement and having their privates exposed to cold air usually wakes them up at least a little bit. I found myself feeding from one breast until Jake fell asleep, then changing his diaper midway through the feeding. After the diaper change, I would switch breasts and hope he stayed awake long enough to reach the hindmilk on breast #2. You can also try burping in between breasts, though burping sometimes has the effect of inducing sleep instead of waking.
Side note on burping: as I stated in the previous post, most people say you don’t have to burp breastfed babies since they don’t take in much air at all, but Jake struggled with “gassies” when he was little. After we started burping him, he got better. I typically burp him any time he pulls off the breast. Sometimes I burp him for a few seconds, other times I go longer. It depends on how fussy he seems and how long it has been since I burped him the last time.
You may be wondering how often you need to feed your baby. Your pediatrician should go over this with you and they may tell you something different than I’m going to tell you. This is what I was told and what I ultimately ended up doing. Every baby is different and you have to find what works best for you. For us, we fed Jake every 2-3 hours during the day without much exception. Before you ask, yes, that’s every two hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next. Yep, you will feel like all you’re doing is feeding the baby and changing his diaper. You won’t have much time for anything else. Make your casseroles up before you go into labor, invite people over to do your laundry and clean your house, prepare yourself for sleep deprivation. It sucks. But you know what? It’s temporary. It doesn’t last that long (though it seems like forever when you’re living it).
We fed Jake every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night unless he told us otherwise. We had to wake him up during the day because he just wanted to sleep, but at night he definitely didn’t skip any meals. I would always set my alarm clock for the 4 hour mark, but he would wake us up by 3 hours at the latest. You have to wake the baby up to feed until he’s back up to his birth weight. When we went to the pediatrician for Jacob’s two week check up and they told us we no longer had to wake him up to feed him, I did a little happy dance! Yay! We can let him sleep if he wants! Jake has settled in to a pretty predictable 3 hour feeding schedule, but sometimes in the evening he goes 4-5 hours. It’s not too bad!
Speaking of scheduling, I tried getting Jacob on a schedule in the first few weeks. I had read lots of books that said it was never too early to try. My opinion? Two weeks old is too early. Four weeks old is too early. Six weeks old is pushing it, but it’s not unheard of. Your baby will probably decide his own schedule. You just have to watch him so he can tell you what that schedule is. As I said, Jake is on a relatively predictable 3 hour feeding schedule. He determined that himself…he just had to let me know it!
I think this post is long enough for now. In the next post, we will discuss pumping at length. You are on the edge of your seat. I just know it!
Please keep in mind that everything I discussed today is based on what works best for me and Jacob. Hopefully you’ll get some tips that you can use with your little one, but chances are your experiences will vary some. Regardless, please contact me if you have any questions!