While most families go to great lengths to craft their birth plan, often times not as much preparation is put into the next two weeks at home. Of course, the first part of your postpartum plan is to hold, snuggle, kiss, and cuddle this tiny human you just brought into the world. Skin to skin is their favorite place! Enjoy this time and relish in the fact that your heart just grew to a capacity you never knew possible. The next part of the plan is lots of feeding. To get you started, have a look at 4 key elements to making your postpartum weeks a bit smoother.
1. Know the Pros.
If you choose to breastfeed, getting off to a good start is integral. Many IBCLC’s (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, the gold standard of lactation care) offer a prenatal consult. During this visit, a medical history and breast assessment are done. It’s an incredibly efficient way to prepare mom with personalized tools to get through the early days. Additionally, most OB and pediatrician offices offer breastfeeding classes. Online resources and videos are also helpful, as long as you are using a trusted source. Kellymom, Dr. Jack Newman, and Stanford University are some of the favorites among IBCLC’s.
2. Two golden words: hand expression.
It is helpful in all breastfeeding scenarios. It starts with “the Golden Hour,” the first hour after birth. By removing milk in the first hour of life, your supply can double what it would be if you removed milk after 4-6 hours of life. Yes, double.
So, we support moms and partners learning hand expression before the birth. If mom and baby have to be separated for whatever reason, mom can hand express. This stimulation is a necessary signal for the body to start making milk. Baby only needs a few teaspoons per feeding in the early days. If latching is difficult or mom’s supply is slow to come in, hand expression is the answer!
3. Let’s talk Pain.
It’s the number one complaint among newly breastfeeding mothers.
Let me break it down:
Discomfort, tenderness or soreness. These fall under the “normal” category. I think it’s safe to say that suddenly having something suckling your breasts for 8 to 12 hours a day is a new sensation for most. This will take a little time to get used to and tenderness is expected. It should not get worse or continue for any length of time.
Burning, pinching or stabbing. Gritting your teeth pain is not normal. It’s a bright red flag begging you to get help. STAT. The great news is that it’s often due to a poor, shallow latch – an easy fix! Have your lactation consultant on speed dial.
I also suggest preparing by researching pictures and videos of deep latch versus shallow latch. Usually baby needs help from mom to achieve deep latch. Imagine being served a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger (apologies to vegetarians!). Now imagine having to take a bite out of that cheeseburger without smashing it down first! Baby can benefit greatly if mom creates a “sandwich’ with her breast to match baby’s mouth while latching. It helps ensure a deep latch. Deep latch = no pain. Check that the mouth is open wide, hinged at the jaw as opposed to pursed lips sipping through a straw. Straw lips = pain.
The other cause of pain can be anatomy. It takes two to tango and we have to consider mom and baby’s anatomy. If mom has flat or inverted nipples, you might need extra help with positioning or tools like a nipple shield or supple cups. Anatomical challenges for babies include oral ties of the lip or tongue. Depending on the severity of the restriction, this could make latching exceptionally difficult. IBCLC’s are trained to perform an oral assessment on baby to help identify ties and refer to necessary providers for intervention.
4. Even super moms need help.
As a mom, you have to learn when to cry uncle. This is difficult for us modern day Rosie the Riveters. Rely on your tribe, folks who want nothing more than to be your champion through this transition. Trust me, they are happy to help…hand over your grocery list, basket of laundry, and baby with the dirty diaper. Schedule an appointment for a postnatal massage.
Be kind to yourself. Spend time staring at your baby, not a feeding timer. Let your success be measured by going from size 1 to 2 diapers, and by learning to trust your maternal instinct more each day.
And as my 8 and 4-year-old boys are presently listening to poop songs on Alexa and toilet papering the living room behind me, trust me…this precious baby time goes by quickly.
Carrie lives in Larchmont with her husband, 2 young boys and their “baby sister” Olive, a rescue lab that loves to add to their trouble making. When she is not seeing new families or shuttling the boys around, she can be found at the UFC boxing gym. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and owns Mama Bear, LLC providing in-home lactation consults. If you are a new mom in the area make sure to stop by her weekly mothers group held in Larchmont. Follow “Mama Bear, IBCLC” on Facebook for updates.