1) Your first time breastfeeding might not be magical. You may be tired, in pain, drugged up, blissed out, numb from the waist down and/or getting stitched up in various places when a nurse grabs your boob and your baby’s head and , she mashes them together while you hold your hands over your head, like. Whoa. Then the baby starts to suck which is pretty crazy, and then you hear that first swallow, like. Alas!. There’s milk in there, but overall it’s okay if you find the first nursing session to be mostly supremely kind of weird.
2) Your baby is born knowing how to suck, not latch. Totally a huge distinction. We mothers put a huge burden on ourselves over breastfeeding and doing it “right,” but forget that there are two people in this equation. Sure, one of them is small and squishy and kind of alien-like, but he has to learn how to breastfeed, just like you. He knows how to suck, but his mouth is small and his aim is terrible. At some point, your job will begin and end with just getting the boob in his general direction and he’ll take care of the rest. For now, though, you’ll need to help him learn to latch properly.
3) If you don’t ask for help, you will not get any help. And to help your baby learn to latch properly? You need someone to teach YOU how to latch her on properly. There’s a trick to it, and I’m not even going to begin to try to describe it with words. There’s…compression and proper finger placement and upward pointing nipples and stuff. A lactation expert is a good start.
4) All. Purpose. Nipple. Ointment. If you end up with nipple injuries that won’t heal, either from bad latches, pump trauma, chapped skin, etc you will need an ointment that will help to soothe pain, aid healing, prevent infection and fights thrush and other nastiness.
5) Knowing the difference between “eating sucking” and “comfort sucking” can save your nipples from a lot of unnecessary wear and tear. Hungry? Give him the boob. Gentle sucking using mostly the lips and not the tongue. Comfort? Give him a pacifier or simply let him continue to suck on a finger or knuckle.
6) Yes, it hurts at first, but it will stop hurting. If it keeps hurting, something is wrong. YOU can do everything right and still you experience pain every time the baby latches on. If the pain continues, see a lactation consultant or talk to your nurse or pediatrician.
7) When breastfeeding works, it is awesome!
Sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work for *every* mother and baby. You can imagine the frustration and the annoyance and the downsides and the thrush and the pain and all of that. We also know how absolutely wonderful it can be, and so we want to cheer every new mother not give up! Don’t give up! Yeah, it might not work, but oh! If it does work! You’ll be so happy you didn’t give up. So don’t give up. It is amazing. Powerful. Convenient. Inexpensive. Easy. Enjoyable. Wonderful.