My sister, Muktha, and I both found out we were pregnant around the same time (her first pregnancy and my second). Our due dates were just a few weeks apart and our babies were born within a month of each other. Going through pregnancy and the fourth trimester together was such a great bonding experience. The idea for Blossoming Mamas came from our first visit together after our babies were born. Read more about Muktha’s journey through those first few months of breastfeeding below. We’ll also include some pointers on how to get a good latch at the end of this post.
Muktha’s Breastfeeding Journey:
“I wasn’t the “planning” type when it came to pregnancy or parenthood; as an age-old experience, I thought everything should come naturally once the baby was born, especially breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for the bonding and health benefits to both mom and baby and thought it would be an easy road because I felt my milk coming in during those final weeks of pregnancy. Little did I know, this would be the most difficult part of new motherhood for me.
The hospital where I gave birth had lactation consultants come by once a day before I was discharged, so I thought this would be all the help I needed to form a strong breastfeeding foundation. The consultants kept saying, “You’re doing everything great, don’t worry, you’ll have a great breastfeeding experience!” But I kept saying that I wasn’t comfortable at all while nursing. It was very painful. I couldn’t figure out if I was holding her correctly. I would hold both my breast and the baby while nursing to help with the pain and what I hoped would help her experience. They insisted this would get easier as the baby grew, and I didn’t need to change anything.
Turns out for me, breastfeeding did not come easily at all. My daughter would be on the breast, half feeding / half sleeping, for at least an hour and a half. I’d have to take a 30 minute break at that point, but she’d immediately be crying for more. The pain didn’t decrease in that first month and the nursing sessions didn’t get any shorter. I watched videos on how to latch properly, I read tons of articles to figure out what was wrong, and I tried to use Google to figure out what we could do better. I had no energy to leave the house for an appointment, so I kept pushing it off and hoped the internet would have my answers. Finally, I went back to the hospital lactation consultants after nursing around the clock the first 4 weeks. They said the same things, “Don’t give up! She’s getting milk!” (after 1 hour of nursing on 1 breast, she had gotten 1 ounce…). It’s nice to have cheerleaders in your corner, but it’s even nicer to have committed, knowledgeable experts who will tell you what things you’re doing great (I never stopped exclusively breastfeeding, still very proud of that!), but will also help you improve on those things and make everything easier for mom and baby.
I finally consulted Nithya about all my issues. She did not tell me I was doing everything right. She actually truly observed during our sessions together, looked at my daughter’s growth chart, and figured out that I had a low milk supply, a poor latch, and poor positioning for both me and the baby. Every woman’s body is different and every baby’s mouth is different; a live consultation with her really made a world of difference in understanding both my body and my baby’s latch. We worked through many changes together and everything was suddenly easier. I no longer had to hold my breast with one hand and the baby with the other. I was able to get a good latch, and when I didn’t, I could take her off and start over. I got the right pump and parts and started pumping and supplementing with the pumped milk so that she could gain weight and my supply would go up. It was an amazing change. I told Nithya she really needed to provide this support to other new moms; it’s so easy to think you can’t do it in those early days and it’s a hard choice to keep going when it feels so difficult, but she really had a knack for making the journey seem possible!
Life comes with many exciting experiences, and new motherhood is high on the list of both the most exciting and most challenging changes. A knowledgeable, kind, and caring support system is what new moms need. We need other moms who have been through it, and we also need professionals who can help make our journey less painful, less sleep-deprived, and less demanding. You will certainly still experience all of those things, but with the right network of people, it can be a much more manageable and enjoyable start!
Nithya has those qualities – with her recent “new mom” experience, exclusively breastfeeding her children, and her incredible medical knowledge of both mom and baby, I was able to go to one experienced source with all of my questions. Start asking questions and talking to experts early, as you get close to your delivery date and soon after. It will make a world of difference in those first weeks and months (and potentially year if you’re able to continue nursing!). I’m 12 months in and couldn’t be happier with the result of my breastfeeding journey.
Good luck mamas!”
I love that my sister was able to get the help she needed and that we could work on a plan for her as she went back home to work with an experienced lactation consultant there. I wanted to leave you all with a few tips on how to achieve a good latch. Remember, these are general tips – not specific medical advice for you and your baby. Each mom and baby pair is unique and it is essential that you have a plan that works for your family as well as a personalized assessment if you are struggling or have any concerns.
Steps to getting a good latch:
- Start skin-to-skin and make sure you and baby are both comfortable.
- Make sure that baby’s tummy is toward you and that their hips and shoulders are aligned.
- Support baby’s neck without restricting the back of their head.
- Bring baby’s nose to your nipple.
- Your baby should tilt their head back and open their mouth widely.
- Move baby’s whole body in closer to you so their bottom lip touches your breast first. Your nipple should be in the upper part of baby’s mouth with more of the lower portion of the dark part of your breast in their mouth.
- Once baby is latched on, they will first have rhythmic sucking motions to stimulate milk release.
- After milk letdown occurs, they will usually suck one to two times and then pause to swallow the milk.
- When your baby finishes their feed and unlatches, your nipple should look the same or possibly slightly larger than prior to the feed.
Though many moms notice mild pain and discomfort during the first weeks as their bodies adjust to breastfeeding, you should not have significant pain while nursing. If you have severe pain, pain throughout your nursing session, pain that is not improving, signs of damage to your nipple, or any other concerns, please reach out to get a breastfeeding assessment. Make sure to discuss your plans and concerns with a health care provider familiar with your care to ensure you and baby get personalized advice to get an optimal start and reach out for help if you are struggling. Above all else, the most important points to remember are that baby is fed adequately and that you and your baby are healthy and happy.