Here’s the deal about breastfeeding in the first few weeks: It takes practice and patience. And you’re not the only one learning on the job here – the baby is learning how to breastfeed too. It is unsurprising that breastfeeding is a challenge!
These are the Motherhood Hacks that have helped me stay positive during my breastfeeding journey.
Motherhood Hack #1: Embrace the Fear (or act as helpless as you feel)
I think women always push themselves far too hard trying to prove themselves, and this really shows when women try to take control and assert their independance as soon as the baby is out. I say forget all that bravado and embrace the anxiety and fear that you feel as a new mum! Act helpless as you feel because this is the time when nobody expects you to know how to manage and will be more than happy to jump in to help you out!
This is especially important in the first few days after giving birth. Take advantage of the nurses and breastfeeding consultants in the postnatal ward. Don’t be shy! You will be surprised at what you can learn.
Every time I wanted to feed the baby during the day or night, I asked one of the nurses on the ward to come and help. They helped me with everything from positioning to latching on and off, and I would ask them to come again if I wanted to switch sides. Each nurse I came across had a slightly different technique for getting the job done and different advice as well. This helped me figure out what worked best for me and for each baby.
By the time I left the hospital I knew how to do the following:
- prepare my breasts for feeding via breast massage
- hand express breastmilk
- encourage my baby to latch or nurse
- visually check a baby’s latch
- gently break the baby’s latch
- visually check my nipples after feeding to identify a suboptimal latch that might lead to unnecessary nipple soreness or pain
- check my breast for blocked milk ducts
- self-massage during feeding to relieve blocked milk ducts
- feed the baby using different positions (cradle hold, football hold, reclining)
I doubt I would have been able to learn as much if I’d put up a brave front and tried to do everything independently from day one.
Motherhood Hack #2: Fight
boredom breastfeeding fatigue with portable entertainment devices
Okay, I know that breastfeeding is supposed to be the time when you bond with your baby, but when baby is really really tiny, especially in the first few weeks before your milk flow really kicks in, chances are that he or she takes a really long time to feed. Maybe 40 minutes, maybe even a whole hour. And they’ll have their eyes closed most of the time as well so it’s not like you can stare deeply into their eyes and attempt to communicate telepathically with them.
You are going to be bored and tired, especially during the night when all the world is asleep except you and the baby. I had to resist the urge to unceremoniously call an end to feed time after 20 minutes of crushing boredom.
Portable entertainment devices like a portable DVD player (with headphones) or an e-reader will be your path to maintaining sanity. With J, I watched the whole series of Battlestar Galactica and with Little E, I watched The West Wing!
With Thumper, I decided to Expand My Mind Through Reading. I’ve installed a free e-reader app on my phone which allows me to borrow e-books from the library. The National Library Board in Singapore has a great range of reads in their electronic catalogue, including newspapers and magazines. This way, I have already read over a dozen books in the last couple of months since Thumper was born! Yay, me!
Motherhood Hack #3: Let your husband sleep at night.
Seriously, if you’re breastfeeding, what do you need him awake for? You have your e-reader to keep you company, and the less activity there is at night, the better. There’s no sense in the both of you being awake, especially if you have other kids who will need attention during the day.
Let the husband sleep at night and during the day, he will be the one who has that spare energy to look after the kids and manage the household chores when you are exhausted from lack of nighttime sleep and need a nap. (And, he will have no excuse to complain about being tired!)
Motherhood Hack #4: Cleopatra say Relaaaaax
Learn to nurse in a reclining or semi-reclining position, or what I like to call, Cleopatra-style (extra points if you can do it whilst looking like this). This really helps me if I need to power nap during the day or risk turning into a Giant Squid of Anger at the slightest provocation.
The only danger about doing this at night is that you’ll probably fall asleep with baby still latched on. Not necessarily a bad thing, as baby will eventually latch off, but if you’re anything like me, you might forget to change sides. Never forget to change sides.
Motherhood Hack #5: Built-in bra shelves are your breastfeeding friends
As much as I love my nursing bras, I always found the clips and drop down cups a total pain…and nursing bras can be so expensive as well! I used to hate fiddling about with clips on straps and the fact that my breast pads kept falling out from the drop-down cups. Additionally, readjusting everything back to the way it was is nigh impossible to do one-handed, in public, with a squalling infant. It was all so inelegant.
So, I have done away with nursing bras altogether, instead I am currently using tank tops or camisoles that come with built-in bra shelves with cups and are not necessarily sold as ‘nursingwear’. Instead of fiddling around with clips and drop down cups, I just pull the neckline of the tank top or camisole down on the side that I’m planning to feed on – quick and simple.
The best tops I found for this purpose are the Airism Bratop range from Uniqlo. They are comfortable, look good, support the girls, maintain their shape well and are great for layering under clothes. Best of all, they are designed to wick moisture away from the body, so you can keep cool and dry whilst breastfeeding, which is a sweaty business. I have a whole bunch of these that I bought when they went on sale (they cost under SGD$30 at full price but when they go on sale you can get them for SGD$15-20), and I can see myself continuing to love them even after I’ve stopped nursing!
Have you got a great breastfeeding Motherhood Hack? Share it with me in the comments!