Stork Nest’s Jan Combrink shares her top tips to help you with your breastfeeding journey
For some mamas, the thought of breastfeeding is even more daunting than giving birth; after all, it lasts a lot longer! While it’s hard to know exactly what challenges you’ll face until after your bub has arrived, we’ve got lactation consultant (and Stork’s Nest Singapore guru) Jani Combrink with 15 fabulous tips to get you ready and in the best frame of mind to start your breastfeeding journey on the right foot, mama! You’ll notice that she mentions lactation consultants (aka miracle workers) throughout the article; for a full list of lactation consultants in Singapore, along with other key resources, we recommend checking out the comprehensive Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group website.
1. That first latch might hurt a bit…and by might I mean it probably will. And that is totally OK and NORMAL. It will get better and eventually, when done properly, won’t hurt at all. Mostly this is due to ‘stretching’ of the skin. Think about it: until you breastfeed, your nipples have not been sucked on for so long or so vigorously! It takes a few days, but it WILL get better. The sooner you can latch that baby on, the better. Ideally, ask for skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as possible after birth, as this will ensure that your baby’s parasympathetic nervous system is supported, and will help to trigger the baby’s reflexes for nursing.
2. People are going to see your boobs. It will happen. Lactation consultants, relatives, friends etc. are all probably going to see some skin while you are at the hospital and during your first several months of breastfeeding somewhat constantly. Trust me, this will be the one time nobody will care that your tatas are hanging out in a room full of people. Your new baby will be a thousand times more interesting. Mostly, people won’t even notice that you’re breastfeeding — they will just be cooing over your gorgeous little baby.
3. Your milk might not “come in” right away, even if you have been leaking during your pregnancy. Don’t freak out if it hasn’t shown up in full on your little one’s birthday. Give it a few days. Your baby will be fine noshing on colostrum in the meantime. A baby cannot tolerate more than 5-7mls of colostrum per feed in the first day or two anyway, so do not be tempted to give formula/glucose unless it is a MEDICAL necessity. It rarely is!
4. Don’t stress yourself out about your milk coming in. The majority of women in this world are able to breastfeed. Stressing yourself out over your supply will not help your supply at all. Remember, supply is just part of the equation. You also need demand. The more you allow your baby to nurse, the more milk your body will create to meet his/her demand. If your milk hasn’t come in by the 5th-7th day after the birth, consider seeking advice from a qualified lactation consultant. Don’t automatically reach for the pump, ask the lactation consultant first! Pumping too early or too much may cause over-supply, which comes with a higher risk of blocked ducts, mastitis and reflux. Milk ‘coming in’ is under hormonal control, and if there is a delay, there will be an underlying medical reason for it. Ask your doctor and IBCLC if you suspect a delay.
5. When your milk does come in, it might be uncomfortable…and by might I mean it probably will. And that, too, is totally OK and NORMAL. Yes, your boobs will grow to be even more ginormous than they already have grown to be, but they will shrink back down once your supply and demand levels out. Remember to take a picture; your boobs will look wonderful!
6. Yes, your baby is going to want to camp out at your boobs. And that is totally normal and OK. Yes, if you talk to a woman who formula feeds, the amount of time your baby eats in comparison to hers is going to seem like a lot. But you cannot compare the two. A baby breastfeeds to eat, establish milk supply and for comfort, warmth and love. You really cannot compare breastfeeding and bottle feeding, so don’t.
7. Having a baby want to nurse ALL. DAY. LONG. is frustrating. If this is your first child, you are probably used to being able to do things when you want to and are probably not used to having an extra appendage that cries, poops, sleeps and eats all day long. It is OK to feel frustrated because just like your labour did not last forever, this stage will not last forever either. Allow yourself to feel frustrated and take breaks when you need them. Talk to other breastfeeding mothers — we ALL understand the frustration!!!
8. Just like that first latch may have hurt, the next several dozen will probably hurt, too. But this is what you need to pay attention to. During that first week and possibly beyond, each initial latch may hurt, but once your baby gets going, the pain should reduce and eventually go away. If that initial sting, that can at times knock the wind out of you, lasts through an entire feed, you probably have a bad latch. A lactation consultant can be a great resource for you if you are struggling with latching issues. If you’ve had a medicated or complicated delivery, it may also be a good idea to talk to a lactation consultant. They can help you understand what is going on, and what to expect.
9. Engorgement: I won’t lie. Engorgement is kind of a bitch. Having your boobs balloon up and ache from your milk coming in sucks. But this is again all part of supply and demand. Keep feeding your baby, and if it doesn’t get better within a day or so, seek help. Cold cabbage leaves (yes, really!) can be super helpful to reduce the swelling, and hand express/pump when you absolutely can’t stand it. Again, a lactation consultant/ experienced lactation counsellor will be of great help if you need some advice or help.
10. Let-down pain is a type of shooting/tingling pain that you may feel in your boobs when your milk is literally letting itself down to feed. Not all women feel a let-down, and not everyone feels every let-down. The sensation of pain will fade until it is only a tingle, and will feel different with every baby you breastfeed.
11. If your nipples hurt, crack or bleed, SEEK HELP! After the initial ‘stretching’ pain settles down, it just shouldn’t hurt. If it still does, find help. The longer you put it off, the longer it will take to fix the problem.
12. Make sure that when you do seek help, you get help from the right source. Do your research. Doctors (in general) just do not know enough about lactation. There are trained professionals out there that know their way around boobs – IBCLC’s. Some lactation counsellors are really experienced and can really help too. Talk to other moms who have breastfed their babies. Do not just accept advice that feels wrong to you.
13. Make sure to get the support you need during this time. Get your partner involved, and do research together. If you’re on your own, get information about support groups or mothers’ groups in your area. Sometimes you need another person to help with massage, latch, information and cheerleading!
14. Breastfeeding is natural, yes. But it doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes it takes the help and support of others to get it going and keep it going. And that’s okay. It is worth the effort in the end. Just be patient with yourself and your baby, and be kind to yourself.
15. Don’t try to think too far ahead in the early days; take things one day (or even one feed!) at a time. Having a new baby is pretty overwhelming, and there will be enough to cope with without putting extra pressure on yourself. Just get through the next feed. In a few weeks/months, you will be amazed at how far you’ve come!