The best advice I was given that started off my successful foray into breastfeeding was from the teacher at our breastfeeding class. The class overall was a bit lame but I suppose it was worth it for the one tidbit that I always remembered.
The teacher told all of us expectant mothers (with our husbands listening) that “your only job when the baby comes is to breastfeed. Let someone else change the diapers, wash the clothes, give the sponge baths, make dinner, and clean the house. [If you don’t have that help, you can still set priorities.] Your only job is to breastfeed.”
At the time it sounded a bit ridiculous. Surely I could handle more than just that! After all, how much can one little minutes/days/weeks-old baby eat?
The answer? A LOT.
Those first few weeks it felt like all I did was breastfeed my daughter. I would nurse her for twenty or thirty minutes… and then she’d fall asleep (usually in my lap)… wake up, and want to nurse again. Repeat. Poop. Repeat.
Hearing the instructor’s advice in the back of my head helped remind me that it was OK to hand the baby over to someone else after we were done nursing. In fact, it was more than OK, because it gave me a chance to take care of myself, to pee or rest, before the next wave of nursing inevitably lapped on my shore.
With all that near-constant nursing, it also helps to keep track of it all. Tracking which breast she last used, or how long she nursed for, just made it all that much easier. Of course they have an app for that, and I used this nifty one. I got a kick out of counting up the estimated amounts of milk I had produced.
Keeping a log helped me realize how long it had been since she last nursed. Sometimes she would fuss I would feel like we just nursed and she couldn’t possibly be hungry again. But after checking the log my husband and I would look at each other in disbelief because two hours had somehow passed.
Another great tip that I caught on quickly to was to listen to the baby. If she’s showing early signs of hungry, nurse her. Don’t try to second guess or rationalize or question it. It’ll be so much easier if you pop a nipple in, sit back and relax. Listening to the baby has the added benefit of keeping up/increasing/regulating your milk supply; second guessing and not nursing will decrease your supply, making breastfeeding all the more frustrating for everyone involved.
My iPhone was also great for giving me something to do for the hours I would spend nursing each day. I liked to read and downloaded books that I just tore through while she nursed and slept like … a baby … in my lap. And a comfy pillow, or boppy, is also a great help for those long nursing sessions. And while I love nursing my daughter, it can be boring at times, and it’s helpful to know and admit that you don’t have to “look at breastfeeding as something you will enjoy or even like all the time, but as a commitment to your child’s health” (1).
Having my husband on board with this has also been one of my breastfeeding secrets to success. “Honey, can you get me a glass of water? Honey can you shut the blind? Honey can you open the blind? Honey can you get me a pillow?” Having someone willing and able on hand to help you with all the “extra” stuff while you’re busy breastfeeding makes the entire process so much more pleasant and smooth.
Course, the rewards of breastfeeding are high. As in, high smarts, high health, high endorphins, high skin-to-skin, high milky-smile goodness… the benefits go on and on. So don’t worry about the housework, the dirty diapers, the walks you think you should be taking with your newborn (I laugh at myself, sometimes). And just enjoy this short, precious time, where you’re giving your baby the very best start that you can.