There are so many health and wellness benefits to breastfeeding your little one. Breast milk adjusts to baby’s needs, offers the best and most organic nutrition, contains antibodies that help baby fight off viruses and bacteria, helps with growth and development, and reduces the risk of ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and gastrointestinal issues. The benefits last long after breastfeeding has stopped. A mother’s milk helps protect against childhood leukemia as well as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension later in life.
I am grateful that I am able to exclusively breastfeed my moon gem, Luna. Breastfeeding is a great time to bond, as well. The opportunity to play relaxing music and burn essential oils does not always present itself, but I always find myself looking into her eyes, twirling her curls between my fingertips, and telling her how much I love her.
The first time I breastfed Luna was a proud one. No only had I served as her vessel for 9 months and portal to this side of the womb, I was/am her only natural source of nourishment. The first secretion from the mammary glands after giving birth was colostrum, a substance rich in antibodies and important nutrients that will shape how her immune system develops.
My goal is to breastfeed Luna until she’s at least two years old. I have considered how I’ll feel once she gets teeth. I’m not opposed to using my breast pump and bottle feeding her, so we shall see how the journey goes.
Breastfeeding support was offered at the hospital during the first few times my Luna fed. It was a bit of an adjustment at first because she was so little and seemingly fragile that I was a bit timid. I felt uncomfortable so my husband went out and bought me a Boppy nursing pillow and I can tell you, it was one of the best new-mommy purchases we made. Initially my nipples were sore, but once we found our rhythm, she was latching well, and I was pain-free.
We were feeding about every 2-3 hours, but this was not a consistent schedule. Sometimes we’d feed cluster feed – every 30 minutes to an hour for a few hours, with a rare 4-5 hour break afterwards. Whatever the pattern, breastfeeding is around-the-clock dedication. My body has figured out how much milk to produce, and I’m thankful that my supply has been enough so far.
What I had to learn next was how to read the hunger cues. I read in one of my baby books that if baby is crying, they are already very hungry, so I first tried to learn when Luna liked to eat and express and offer her my nipple before she got to the point of crying. Now that Luna is 10 weeks young, I know her cues very well, especially since she is more expressive. She smack her lips, bring hers hands to her mouth, squirm around, and if I’m holding her, attempts to find the breast in the most adorable way.
When she is hungry she nurses in a stronger way. She will nurse with a suck and pause pattern that allows her mouth to fill with milk before she pauses to swallow. Sometimes she swallows with each suck, but I noticed that’s when my milk is flowing rapidly and heavily. When she’s latched for comfort or any other reason (a wet diaper, desire for undivided attention, illness, and so forth), she sucks very softly and inconsistently.
I laugh every time she gets full. She has this way of quickly sliding off of my nipple in a milk drunk, matter-of-fact type of way, physically expressing that she is full and will not feed anymore. She is then very relaxed and practically asleep.
One more area of breastfeeding that is matter-of-fact is her position while feeding. She prefers the cross-cradle position. During the nights that I’m absolutely exhausted and can’t bear to sit up, I nurse her in the side-lying position. Sometimes we fall asleep together and have some of the most endearing moments ever.
Are you expecting or currently nursing? If so, check out some breastfeeding tips below!
Comfort is Key
The most important factor to consider while breastfeeding is comfort. It’ll be a much easier and more enjoyable time for both you and baby. Play around with breastfeeding positions to find out what works best for both of you. As I said earlier, a breastfeeding pillow will be your most prized possession second to baby. Have entertainment, snacks, and beverages close by. This eliminates the need to get up, change positions, or interrupt baby while he or she is trying to feed.
Let baby drain one breast completely before offering to the other. Switching back and forth. This allows the empty breast time to produce more milk while baby is feeding with the other. Also, try to have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible to create an even more intimate, bonding experience.
Every baby is different but in general, baby’s lips should be turned out and around the areola, not the nipple. Pay attention to any changes in feeding and consult a specialist if necessary.
I am blessed enough to have a husband who invests time in Luna’s feeding. If I need anything to increase comfortable, he helps me, and always offers to burp Luna when she’s done.
Find your support system. Whether it is your significant other, friends or family, people are so much more willing to help you when there’s a baby involved. Use their help! You’ll need it when your sleep deprivation kicks in.
It isn’t always smooth sailing for breastfeeding mothers and babies. The most important thing is that you stay committed. Never give up because pushing through the success is worth all the benefits. Make sure you get plenty of well-balanced nutrition, stayed hydrated, and don’t ever be ashamed to ask a lactation specialist for help!
Peace, and much love to ya’.