“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.“Laura Stavoe Harm
Congratulations! You’ve made it through the intensity of labor and childbirth and are now home with your new baby. If you had your baby in a hospital or birthing center you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by trying to manage on your own. If that’s where you are, know you’re not alone!
Many of our WellNested clients end up reaching out in the first few weeks after bringing your baby home, and we are always happy to help new parents with navigating this overwhelming period.
If you are breastfeeding, nursing your baby is probably taking up most of your brainspace. Yes, it’s amazing—but, let’s be honest, it’s also exhausting! Getting started with breastfeeding a newborn is not always easy, but the difficulty in the beginning doesn’t last forever. The good news is that it does get easier, especially if you have the right support to help you establish a good breastfeeding relationship.
A newborn baby should nurse 8-12 times in a 24 hour period and some will breastfeed more often. On a positive note, the more often baby is at the breast, the more quickly your milk will come in. However, these frequent feedings mean that there is little else you can do, which is why we like to encourage clients to just rest and feed your baby. (Which also means someone else will need to take over cooking, cleaning and laundry! At least for a few weeks.)
Here are a few things many new moms experience in the early days of breastfeeding:
- Milk coming in → can feel like firming of breasts, milk leaking or dripping, breast may feel hot or tender.
- Engorgement → when tissue is hardening and milk is not letting down. Tip: Add heat to breast then feed baby or hand express, and follow with cold packs after feeding and we do suggest reaching out to your IBCLC if this happens.
- Spontaneous Letdown → milk can let down even when you’re not feeding the baby or ready to feed. Tip: You can use nursing pads, hand express milk, or catch the milk in a milk catcher or Haakaa pump.
- Oversupply → when you have more milk than baby is taking or milk is flowing so fast that baby is choking on milk. You can hand express a small amount before feeding the baby or start the baby on the less full breast while expressing some milk from the fuller breast. We also encourage you to reach out to your IBCLC if you’re experiencing oversupply.
- Clogs → small lumps in the breast tissue, often close to the armpit. Massage, heat, and hand expression can help break up the clog.
- Cramping → breastfeeding helps the uterus shrink down which can often cause abdominal cramping and pain, sometimes for a few weeks.
If you are experiencing any of the following issues with breastfeeding in the first 1-2 weeks, reach out to your WellNested IBCLC, or let us know and we can help you find an IBCLC to support you:
- Concerns about your supply or baby still seems hungry when coming off the breast
- Cracked or bleeding nipples
- A latch that is painful or extremely uncomfortable. (If it hurts, something’s probably up!)
- Baby is not gaining weight or making enough wet diapers daily (For the first 6 days, your baby should have as many wet diapers as they are days old and then 6 per day after that.)
- You feel that breastfeeding is not going well
- You develop mastitis or a fever
- Your pediatrician is concerned that your baby may not be feeding well
There is no wrong way to feed your baby. For some, either by choice or by circumstance, exclusive breastfeeding is just not an option. But there are tons of ways to feed a baby, including pumping breast milk, supplementing breastfeeding with formula or pumped milk, and even sourcing human milk from milk banks in some circumstances. Any amount of breast milk is considered beneficial for your baby. If feeding your baby human milk is something you want to continue, but are struggling with, we are here to help.
After having a baby, big mood swings are common. If you’re feeling overjoyed one moment and overwhelmed the next, that’s ok. Your hormones are on a bit of a rollercoaster trying to adjust to your post-pregnancy body and prepare for breastfeeding. In addition to hormones, you also have a lot going on mentally, with your own feelings, frustrations and exhaustion. The “baby blues” is something 70-80% of all new mothers experience and can include negative feelings or low moods.
Please know that these feelings are extremely common. Baby blues hits almost every new parent within four to five days after birth and can last up to 10 days. While you can expect to experience the baby blues, it is still important to take note and pay attention to the changes happening in your body. According to American Pregnancy, these are some of the classic signs of baby blues:
- Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason
- Impatience or irritability
- Insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping)
- Poor concentration
There are things that can help. Have you ever considered talking through your birth story? Retelling the story of your baby’s birth is one way to reconnect to yourself and bond with your baby. Telling your birth story can be empowering or even healing. Did you have a traumatic birth experience? Know that you are not alone. For so many, the process of labor and birth does not go the way they planned. Sharing what was good, hard, surprising, disappointing or even funny about your birth experience with a trusted friend can be cathartic.
If your blues get worse, or you think you need more help, we encourage you to ask for help. Our guide to mental health after baby has some tips for screening for postpartum depression. Your pediatrician or OB may be able to refer you to a mental health professional.
Our help at home team at WellNested is always here for you. Please reach out to us if you’re struggling.
INFOGRAPHIC: Must-Have Breastfeeding Essentials
- Warm/Cold Packs – Great for: Cramping, breast pain. Hot packs soothe belly or back cramps and can help loosen breast clogs. Applying cold packs after nursing can help with soreness and engorgement.
- Nipple soothing gel pads – Great for: Sore or tender nipples from nursing. Store these in the fridge and pop them on after baby is done nursing.
- Big water bottle with bendy straw – Great for: staying hydrated while resting or nursing. Bendy straws are clutch when you’re trying to rest or don’t have a free hand! Tip: Ask a partner to refill it for you.
- Haakaa Pump – Great for: Catching extra milk and relieving engorgement. While baby’s nursing, you can catch extra milk from the free breast with this easy “pump.” It’s also a gentle way to relieve fullness between feeding.