I’ve been thinking a fair bit about breastfeeding these past few days. It’s not a subject I’ve thought about much in a while but definitely one I have experience with seeing as I’ve nursed for five and a half years total, albeit many years ago.
One of the very first things I learned when I started breastfeeding was to stroke the baby’s cheek. One gentle stroke from cheekbone to the side of the lip and baby will turned toward that side and open their mouth. This is the time to squish your nipple and shove the whole thing, areola included, right toward the back of the baby’s mouth… aiming for the throat. They won’t choke, they’re expecting it. That lets the baby put pressure on the milk ducts and squeeze milk or colostrum out.
The second thing I learned was how to remove the baby. This is more important when baby has teeth but is still good to know just in case baby doesn’t latch on correctly. Stick one finger into the back jaw, just about where the wisdom teeth will eventually come in, and twist very gently. The baby will open their mouth.
If the labour was rough for you then it was rough for the baby too. Expect some exhaustion and disinterest in things like nursing. Don’t worry too much (the nurses will worry for you) the baby has extra fat for a reason. Just keep plugging away. Try a different position. They might nurse better while lying down, goodness knows Kait did. If you want to try this position, lie on your side then put the baby in front of you and on their side. Put your bottom arm above the baby’s head then use your top hand to guide your bottom nipple into the baby’s mouth. It sounds more complicated than it is. Your partner can help if needed.
The milk comes in around the third day. You will not sleep through this. Your breasts will become hard enough to chisel concrete and your nipples will be flatter than pancakes, which makes nursing interesting but still doable. Grab a nipple, just below the areola and squeeze, it’ll squish enough to push into the baby’s mouth and will immediately start leaking milk. This tends to perk up the “I’m not that hungry” baby. If you can’t squeeze it into shape enough, just hand express a bit. You don’t need to know how, your breasts are so full you could probably just poke one and it would be like, “You want milk… okay”. They’ll be dripping all on their own. But rubbing in gentle circles just below the areola will help.
The milk coming in is the part that actively hurts. If you want a break, step into a nice warm shower and let the water run across your breasts. You’ll let down enough for some relief. Expressing milk helps too but is a bit of a vicious cycle because you’re telling your breasts that you need more milk when you really want them to make just enough for the baby and not the whole neighbourhood too. It’s a good idea to sleep with a towel under you because you can (and will) leak through your breast pads. Your body will eventually adjust.
Early breastfeeding feels like you’re nursing with two left hands while riding a unicycle. And the unicycle’s on fire. Neither you or the baby know what you’re doing and you’re going to feel like you got half an instruction book and the baby got completely different instructions. Just give yourself time. You will be a pro at it by the 4th week and, by a year, you can nurse a baby who’s standing upside down and half behind your back… with a finger in your ear. And you will. But, for now, enjoy your relatively immobile wee one.