The Breastfeeding Diaries Part 3: Getting Established

January 30, 2013



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Are you sick of me posting about my boobs? I hope not. My hope is that these posts will help someone who needs some encouragement in the breastfeeding/being a new mom category. I know I sure did...and still do from time to time. 

If you are new to my blog...welcome! Please feel free to email me at any time with questions (my email is under "contact" at the top). Also, remember this is a judgment free zone. You can read more about my breastfeeding journey in Part 1 here and Part 2 here
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Last week I talked about my first awkward attempt at breastfeeding. But what was it like after those first days? Once my milk came in and I actually saw it I cried out of relief. It was really working! And then I instantly felt empowered with a side dish of overwhelmed. It felt good that my body was doing what it was supposed to do...but overwhelming because feeding that sweet precious baby was completely up to me. And I took that job seriously. I fed Hudson on demand whenever he was hungry. When in doubt, I put him to the boob. And now that he is 21 weeks old that is still our routine...and it works beautifully!

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Here is what worked for me:

1. Feed on demand. During those first weeks I fed Hudson whenever he was hungry....usually every 2-3 hours. He still eats every 2-3 hours during the day, but will go 6-8 hours at night between feedings. It's a lot of work but gets so much easier once baby learns how to breastfeed. I think those first few weeks Hudson took about a hour to eat! Now he's down to 20 minutes.

2. Drink lots of water. Remember how you were chugging water like a pro when you were pregnant? Well, that was nothing. Have a water bottle on you at all times....you never know when you'll suddenly be dying of thirst. A good job for your husband is to fill up several water bottles and stash them in your favorite nursing spots for you before he goes to work. That way you'll always have one handy!

3. Eat protein. Your body needs the energy to support you during those long days and nights....and it helps you maintain your supply too! Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories, so make sure you are eating enough.

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4. Say no to pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established. This usually takes about 3 weeks or so. I know you are probably anxious to try out all your new pacifiers with your baby (or use them to STOP THE CRYING) but try to resist. Baby needs to learn he gets his nourishment and comfort from you. Once you have established nursing then you can try a pacifier. Hudson didn't care much for his.

5. Don't pump just yet. Unless you have to, obviously. You may be anxious to start pumping so that you can get a break from all the feedings.....but try to resist until you have established breastfeeding. Pumping can be overwhelming. I waited until Hudson was 4 weeks old and I felt a little more like myself to give it a go. Our wedding anniversary was coming up and I wanted to be able to go out to dinner with my husband. I gave myself a week to learn how to pump so that I wasn't too stressed. I'll talk more about pumping next week.

6. Don't skip a feeding. If your baby has a bottle of pumped milk your body still needs to replace that feeding. You may think it's awesome that you can sleep in one day while your husband feeds the baby. Don't get me wrong...it is totally awesome....but you need to replace that feeding. Any time you skip feedings your brain is sending a message to your body that you can make less milk. It's probably not a big deal if this only happens occasionally, but if it is frequent then your body may start to make less and less milk. So....either nurse the baby or pump. Your choice.

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7. Wet and poopy diapers + weight gain = getting enough. At some point during those first weeks you will probably worry about if your baby is getting enough to eat. Baby should have at least 5-6 soaking wet diapers a day and about 3-4 yellow poops a day. If your baby is peeing and pooping enough it is totally a sign that he is getting enough to eat. Hudson always had way more dirty diapers than this so I never really kept track. Also, talk to your pediatrician about how much weight your baby should be gaining. If the numbers on the scale are going up it means baby is also getting enough to eat. No need to measure ounces in a bottle!

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8. See a lactation consultant. This is one of the best things I did. Even if you are not having difficulty breastfeeding, it's always nice to hear that you are doing it right. Also, a lactation consultant will weigh your baby before and after your feeding...so you'll know roughly how many ounces he is eating. Husbands usually like to know this type of info!

9. Don't give in to formula unless medically necessary. Most pediatricians are not very educated in the area of breastfeeding. Their focus is on the health of your baby...not the ins and outs of breastfeeding. Pediatricians know breast milk is best for the baby, but usually they are sort of wishy washy about it and may suggest supplementing with formula before you really need to. Obviously if your baby is struggling this does not apply. Make sure you see a lactation consultant asap. They know more about breastfeeding and can help you.
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Now for some things that happened to me....that are totally normal:

1. Rock hard boobs. My husband told me it looked like I had gotten a bad boob job. This is totally uncomfortable! You may be tempted to pump a little to relieve the pressure....and that's fine. I didn't though and eventually my body adjusted and I wasn't so uncomfortable. This took about a week.

2. Drip, drip, drip. I leaked milk everywhere. On my clothes, on my sheets, on Hudson, on the floor....I was a hot mess. But this also eventually got better.

3. Sore nips. I know it may seem impossible during those first few days but really this gets better! Breastfeeding absolutely did not hurt one bit once Hudson and I both knew what we were doing (about 2-3 weeks). I sometimes fall asleep while nursing...it's that easy now.

4. Holding baby's head. When you and your baby are first learning you'll need to help hold his head to your breast. Eventually he will learn to do this himself....once that happens breastfeeding is so much easier!

5. Plugged duct. Ouch, those babies hurt! You can read more about these in your breastfeeding book (I recommend The Nursing Mother's Companion). This has happened to me twice and my best advice is to use your baby! He is the best at drawing milk out of your breast....so put him on the side that hurts often (I know it's hard) and in a day or so your plugged duct should clear. While you are feeding your baby it also helps to use your hand to put a little pressure on the sore spot to help empty it out. Plugged ducts are more common in the winter and more common when you are sick (both times this happened to me when I had a cold). Also, drink lots of water to help your body flush it out. Plugged ducts, if left untreated can lead to mastitis, which can be serious. Call your doctor asap if you have any symptoms associated with mastitis.

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A few more thoughts about pumping: Your baby is more efficient at getting milk out of your breast than a breast pump is. So for all my exclusively pumping girls......first, you must be commended because that is a LOT of work, but second, your body may not make enough milk simply because your pump is deceiving you. Please try nursing your baby if you can. It really is amazing...it's a bond that you can only understand once you've tried it. Trust me....I wouldn't be posting about it so much if I didn't love it!

Part 4 of this series next week is all about pumping and going back to work....oh how fun. Please leave a comment below if you like this series....sometimes I still need a little encouragement too!

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33 Comments »

33 Responses to “The Breastfeeding Diaries Part 3: Getting Established”

  1. I appreciate the series! I had to pump from day one since our little guy was in the NICU - and since then it was hard to establish breastfeeding. The nurses and staff at the hospital made it really difficult and basically informed me the only way to get him home was to bottle feed. I nurse now on the weekends when I'm home - but pump the rest of the week. Unfortunaetly our little guy isn't that great at bf, but i'm hoping it will be a much different story for the next baby! Thanks for the info though - it's nice to compare against.

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  2. absolutely loving this series! it's been 3 years since i've breastfed. this is a great source to prepare me for my second-go-round. hudson is such a handsome, healthy boy and you're doing an AMAZING job! :)

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  3. This is a great series! I was the first out of my friends and family to have a baby - I wish this series was around then! It is so important to find a "boob cheerleader" to help get you through the beginning. Keep up the great work!!!

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  4. I'm not even pregnant nor do I have a baby and I love these series! I have obviously not researched this subject at all so I love hearing all about it!

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  5. Great post (and series) Julie! I love all your tips. Everything is spot on. Warm showers and massaging your boobs if they are hard/clogged up also can help. The best thing is putting the baby to your breast though (although it can be painful) it does help after a few times. I think next go around I hope to not be so set on looking at a clock. I read/heard that they were suppose to go about 3 hours in between feedings and I'd get frustrated that Max wanted to eat after 2-2.5. Focusing more on what he wants to do rather than what you think you're suppose to do from a book is great. You've done a fantastic job listening/watching cues from Hudson. Great job Juile!!

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  6. Julie, this is SO helpful. My daughter will be 6 weeks old on Friday and we're finally getting the hang of breastfeeding. Looking forward to you talking about pumping since I'll be preparing to go back to work before I know it!

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  7. Jamie MooreJanuary 30, 2013

    Good stuff momma!

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  8. This is wonderful...I had to supplement formula and pump the first week bcs I had to get an MRI with dye contrast and wasn't able to BF for 24 hours, you would have thought the world was ending. I was so upset and discouraged. It definitely de-railed the train a little but Kenley went right back to the boob and had no problems with eating out of a bottle or with formula which was such a major relief. I think mamas need to know that babies and breastfeeding are way more resilient than all the books make it out to be. I also had mastitis...ON BOTH FRICKIN SIDES!

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  9. This series is great! I have made it through 3 months of breastfeeding and we are going strong, but man those first few weeks are crazy! So much worry and stress (not to mention hurting!) but I'm so thankful we made it through and kept going. I'm back at work now, so I look forward to reading all about your pumping routines!

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  10. Great job Julie! I'm sure you're helping a lot of new moms with your posts. :)

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  11. Such a great series! And it's so true that a pump is not nearly as good as your baby! Once I went back to work and started pumping, my supply slowly started to decrease because the pump just wasn't the same as nursing. I think the body responds differently to nursing a baby than it does to being hooked up to a machine.

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  12. I love the series! I look forward to them whenever you post. My baby boy is due in 12 weeks and I am learning A TON from you! Please keep it up!!!

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  13. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this topic. I'm 18 weeks pregnant with my first baby and am learning so much from you about breast feeding. I will be going back to work as an elementary teacher when my baby is 12 weeks old and am hoping that I will be able to continue breast feeding via pumping at that point, so any advice you have is welcome!

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  14. I'm not a mom yet, but I've really enjoyed this series. I feel like I've learned a lot and know the questions that I should ask/know the answers to when the time does come! This is one of those things that people rarely share. So thank you :)

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  15. Similar to what "Our family, two feet at a time" said...
    My son was in the NICU for the first 28 days of his life, so I was exclusively pumping for the first three weeks. We tried introducing BF but he (obviously) wasn't picking up on it too well. We felt we needed to switch to giving him a bottle (of pumped milk) so that we could get him HOME!! Once home I tried BF here and there, but it was so frustrating for both of us. I gave up, ran out of frozen milk, and naturally my supply dwindled to nothing because my baby wasn't nursing so my body didn't know I needed MORE milk for my growing boy! We are using Similac now and it took me a while to cope with that change.
    I really appreciate this series because I pray that with my next baby, my pregnancy will be healthy enough to allow me to start BF from the VERY START.

    Thank you!!! ♥

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  16. This is seriously such an amazing series that you're doing. :)

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  17. I love these posts! We're 8 months into breastfeeding and I'm so happy! Another tip for clogged ducts is massaging in the shower under warm water or using a warm compress. Also, when you let your baby nurse on the clogged side, point their nose to the clogged area!

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  18. I'm not a mom and I LOVE this series. Very excited to read about going back to work.

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  20. I'm not a mom nor am I preggo. But this is definitely something I'm bookmarking for futur reference

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  21. You're little bundle of joy is absolutely precious!!

    Hello from your newest follower!

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  22. I love this series. I wish breastfeeding would have gone better for us. I ended up pumping exclusively for 5 months with Mac. It was hard, but worth it. I really hope we have an easier go with the next kid (fingers crossed), especially now that I know what to expect and just how important it is to me.

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  23. This is such great info! I especially love the part about feeding on demand- I always wondered if I was spoiling my baby by doing so but I like doing things on his schedule- I eat right when I am hungry so why hold him off? I like the pumping part too! Once again- wish I would have read this a year ago:-)

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  24. i'm glad I've had so many friends have kids first and that I get to read things like this before I'll start breastfeeding!

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  25. First off, Julie you are doing a great job girl! I love the info your giving in these diaries because it's the truth! If you only would of had hudson before May. :-) My little girl was born in May and love hearing from another momma her experience!

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  26. Great series...I'll be going through this in July for the first time and definitely plan on re-reading your posts when the time comes! :)

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  27. Thank you for sharing this!! I am expecting my first in a few more weeks and really appreciate this. I am new to your blog but will definitely by checking more of it!!

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  28. I just read all three of your posts, and I gotta admit, I am a hot crying mess right now. Not because the posts were bad at all (in fact, they were beautiful and wonderful and all the right information moms-to-be need to read), but because my darling girl had her last nursing session this week. I thought weaning would be this difficult thing and a hard transition. We were down to one nursing. But after she had gone to bed one day this past week, I thought, "Kennedy didn't nurse today." She nursed the day after that and then hasn't since. I am so happy we made it 13 1/2 months without any problems whatsoever! I am happy that I was able to share that with her.

    Anyway! I wrote about my journey here if you want to check it out, but I definitely will be pinning this to pinterest in hopes that others read this. Such good information.

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  29. So love that you're doing this! I don't have kids yet, but I've been talking to all of my friends with babies to get the best advice, to find out what everything's like, etc. It's so nice knowing a lot of this ahead of time. I know that it's going to be so different for me once I have my own child, but just having some sort of expectation for things is nice!

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  30. BF'ing is definitely much more difficult than I first thought! I always just assumed you plopped your babe to the boob and that was it. This is a great series for future moms!!! This was the exact info I was given by my public health nurse.
    Unfortunately Colton and I didn't make it long exclusively bf'ing. After 2 weeks he had gained 2 measly ounces...and he pooped right after he was weighed sooo no gain. The public health nurse that was assigned to me discussed all of our options (along with weighing him before/after a feeding in which he didn't even get an ounce) and I had no choice but to supplement. So, I STILL BF and then give him formula. Heart breaking. I hope next time is easier!

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  31. This little series has been perfect timing for me and Reese. All of your advice tells me we have been right on track. 3 weeks in, and we haven't touched a bottle or formula. I've had a cracked nipple and plugged duct, and used a shield to try to ease the pain. As soon as I let the baby start nursing on that side, it started getting better. Cause her little suction was just what I needed t clear all of that out of there.
    I love breastfeeding and feel so passionate about it. I'm looking,forward to reading your advice on pumping. :)

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  32. so i know my baby isn't here yet, but this is exactly what i need to prepare myself. in a perfect world, i'll breastfeed for a year and then start to wean. from your posts, i feel like i'm on the same page as you about the importance of breastfeeding your baby and again, I'M SO HAPPY YOUR DOING THESE SERIES!!!

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  33. This is so, so helpful! I am 38 weeks pregnant and have just now been reading your series on breastfeeding. Thank you so much for sharing this invaluable information! I tried clicking on the pregnancy link but it goes to a blank page.

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