For many new moms and birthing individuals, getting to breastfeed their new baby is a joyous part of new parenthood. But it’s not all roses (or even close). It can be difficult and painful at the beginning if it is even successful at all. And in the first couple of months, birthing people will spend an average of six to eight hours a day breastfeeding.
More than ever, prioritizing your physical and emotional well-being is important. Not just for you, but for your baby. We often find it hard to focus on our own self-care. It becomes harder still right after childbirth, as you juggle all your new roles.
Here are 7 tips to help manage the newborn feeding journey:
1- Lean into your support system while breastfeeding
Don’t hesitate to ask friends for help when you need it, so you don’t get overwhelmed by your new role. Let trusted family members and friends come over and help with your baby and chores around the house. We know it’s hard to put your new baby down, and you feel the urge to check in on them every five minutes. But accepting help for a couple of hours so you can indulge in a shower or a nap is a fantastic start to developing a healthy self-care routine. Engaging in a lactation consultant can also be really helpful.
2. Don’t forget to eat while breastfeeding
It’s easy to forget to eat when the focus of your attention is on your new baby. Skipping meals is something a lot of new moms can relate with. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet and nutrition for both you and your baby. Eating healthily at regular times, also ensures that you are producing the best quality of milk for your baby. And don’t forget your vitamins! Eat vitamin-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. You can also take vitamin supplements, but check in with your doctor to make sure they are safe for your baby. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) recommends that breastfeeding moms consume more calories, between 2,300 to 2,500 calories a day. So you might need to up your diet, eat larger portions and keep nutritious snacks on hand.
3. Stay hydrated while breastfeeding
Breast milk is made of about 87% water, so breastfeeders are likely to get dehydrated faster than usual. This means that you’ll be needing more water than you’d ordinarily drink. It often seems like drinking more water is the answer to a myriad of problems. That is because it is, especially when you are breastfeeding. Consuming enough fluids prevents dehydration and even aids the production of breast milk. If plain old water is boring, you can also get your hydration needs from water-rich foods like watermelon.
4. Make breastfeeding sessions about mom, too
As you breastfeed, it’s important to focus on your baby. Make sure they are latching correctly and getting the most out of each feeding session. But it’s also a splendid opportunity to focus on yourself. While baby is busy feeding, you can take the time to listen to a podcast you’ve been meaning to get to. Listen to your favorite music or watch a TV show. You can also meditate. If you are meditating while breastfeeding you should do so in a quiet, relaxing corner of your home.
5. Get enough sleep while breastfeeding
Between feeding, changing diapers, and looking after your baby, it can seem like 24 hours isn’t enough to get everything done. But taking the time to shut down and recharge is important. Nap in between feed times and listen to your body. Take brief breaks when you need them, to avoid a sudden breakdown. When baby naps, it’s ok to use that as your nap time, too.
6. Exercise while breastfeeding
No one expects you to hop back into your regular fitness routine right after having a baby, but it’s important for you to keep moving. You can take power walks around your home or down your street and light stretches at home to get your body moving. Doctors even recommend regularly getting in some form of exercise after childbirth to help with recovery.
7. You can take a break from breastfeeding
If you breastfeed exclusively that’s great, but if you don’t, it’s perfectly fine to switch up your feeding routine. The first couple of weeks of breastfeeding are the hardest and tend to leave your nipples cracked and sore. You can use nipple balms and gel pads to ease the discomfort. You can also give yourself a break from breastfeeding and substitute certain feedings with pumping so that other people can be in charge of feeding time. This gives you the freedom to be out and about, relying on those family and friends to take over.
There is also the opportunity to supplement feedings with a healthy baby formula. Supplementing can happen when you just need a break, or as regularly as you’d like. If supply is dwindling or the feeding times have you feeling tied to the house, these options give you and your nipples some much-needed downtime.
Shared with the MamaGlow community by Milk Drunk.