Breastfeeding a newborn is such a special opportunity to provide your baby with the absolute best nutrition, immense comfort, kick-start their health and immune system, all while building a bond that will last a lifetime.
The benefits of breastfeeding are endless, but that is not what this post is about. Knowing how important breastfeeding is, adds a lot of pressure to deliver this “liquid gold.”
Everyone’s experience with breastfeeding is different.
For some it comes really easy, others have a really difficult time, and most fall somewhere in between.
I breastfed both of my babies and both times it started out a bit difficult. With some troubleshooting, research, education, and a mental breakdown or two along the way I figured it out.
Once I figured it out, it was smooth sailing. I am sharing what I have learned along the way in hopes to help other moms out there avoid as many obstacles as possible!
Here is what to expect when breastfeeding a newborn, common breastfeeding problems, and tips to solve them:
After your baby is born, you will be producing what is called Colostrum. Colostrum is a thick yellowish secretion that is produced by your mammary glands.
It is extremely rich in antibodies, which are the first to colonize your little one’s sterile GI tract. (super important for keeping them healthy and free of disease!)
This is all they will be drinking for the first few days, and luckily it is all they need at that time. Their stomachs are extremely small, and fill up very quickly so they don’t need much at first.
Your milk supply will come in around 2-5 days after birth. Feeding as often as possible before your milk comes in will help you establish a good milk supply down the road.
I even pump in between feedings to get my body producing as much as possible. This tricks your body into thinking it needs to produce more milk.
Once your milk comes in, it comes in with a vengeance!
You will most likely be extremely engorged for the first week or so.
This is pretty uncomfortable and basically feels like your boobs are about to explode. Don’t worry, once your milk production regulates this goes away.
When you are engorged, you may start to notice some small lumps. These are clogged ducts, which are very common. If left untreated, they can get infected, which is called mastitis.
I have never had mastitis, but I hear that it is extremely painful and usually requires antibiotics.
I managed to avoid this by clearing out any clogged ducts as soon as I noticed them. To clear out a clogged duct you need to massage it out. It takes a decent amount of force, kind of like you’re kneading dough.
It doesn’t feel great, but I imagine it is a whole lot better than mastitis! I used a heating pad (I loved this Lansinoh 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack) to soften everything up before I would massage it out.
Also, frequent feeding or pumping helps to clear it out as well.
It is absolutely CRITICAL that you learn how to establish a deep latch.
There is a ton of information out there on how to achieve this, and I suggest you watch a few YouTube videos, get some 1 on 1 help from a lactation consultant or take a breastfeeding course online (read below for my favorite one!)
A bad latch is the NUMBER ONE cause of pain during breastfeeding. There are a few other (less common) causes such as tongue-tie or thrush.
It’s common for your nipples to be sore during the first week or two while they adjust, but extreme pain is avoidable and should be addressed if you’re experiencing this.
With my second baby, I had EXCRUCIATING pain (I’m talking worse than labor contractions) because he took about 2 weeks to establish a deep latch.
I learned all about deep latches with my first and did not expect to have any problems with my second, but for some reason, he had a hard time getting a deep latch.
It really saved me from quitting, because it was a tough week, to say the least.
You will be feeding your baby every 2-3 hours (or sooner if needed.)
This means you most likely will not be getting much sleep at first, but once they hit 5 weeks old they are able to go about 4-5 hours in between feedings which will give you longer stretches at night.
Around 2 months old they are capable of sleeping through the night, but will most likely still have one middle of the night feeding.
These are just the basics for new moms, but there is SO MUCH MORE to learn about breastfeeding to ensure you have the most amazing experience.
For more in-depth knowledge on everything breastfeeding, I highly recommend the Milkology Breastfeeding Course. It was created by a fellow mama who happens to be a certified lactation consultant!
It’s simple, extremely affordable (only $19) and it provides SO much valuable information (and how cute is the name?!) It is a web-based course that you can take from the comfort of your own home which truly helped me so much. (Who has time for anything else, really?!)
You get access to exclusive knowledge on breastfeeding a newborn. Covering breastfeeding problems, how to overcome them, guidance in making the right decisions despite outside pressure, and my personal favorites: the PDF printouts at the end of the course.
They have bullet points highlighting the key points, recaps of everything the course covered, pages of helpful tips and tricks, answers to common problems and more.
Not only did it educate me on so many aspects of breastfeeding, but it gave me the reassurance and encouragement I needed when I was struggling. This course truly is so helpful, I highly recommend it.
After 9+ months of dealing with all of the struggles that come with being pregnant, to actually giving birth, saying your body has been through a lot would be the understatement of the century.
But, you’ve just given birth to a sweet little angel! Congrats, you did it! There are no words to express the love, joy, and excitement that you feel in these moments.
Now, it’s time to go home and begin your life as a family. FINALLY!
Well, unfortunately, I am here to let you know that the first week is still pretty tough. The pain, discomfort, and stress aren’t quite over yet.
Here are my tips on postpartum recovery, and surviving the first week with a newborn:
After everything you’ve been through, this pain doesn’t quite compare (thank goodness).
Nevertheless, it is pretty frustrating to STILL be in pain when you thought all of that was behind you.
Here are some contributing factors and how to deal with them during your first week home:
Whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section, you are going to have pain. Both of my deliveries were vaginal so I don’t have experience dealing with a c-section incision but considering it’s a major surgery I assume it’s pretty painful.
As for vaginal deliveries, depending on if/how bad you tore, your level of pain will vary.
I had some stitches with both deliveries and it was painful but definitely tolerable. They offered me Ibuprofen, which worked great. However, it was still pretty painful getting in and out of bed or sitting in a chair.
I strongly encourage you to take the Ibuprofen as recommended by your doctor, even if you’re not in pain at that moment. Stay ahead of it because it makes a huge difference and also helps a lot with the swelling during the first week home.
Another big help is ice. They gave me disposable ice packs in the hospital, but those ran out quickly once I got home. My husband was a huge help and made me a new ice pack every 2 hours by filling up a latex glove with ice and tying it off.
Also when sitting up in bed or a chair, it is really helpful to use a donut.
If you’re not familiar with them, they are inflatable cushions that are shaped like a donut that you sit on and the hole in the middle allows your lady parts to avoid unnecessary pain and friction.
I thought my contractions were long gone, but I was wrong.
After you give birth, your uterus needs to shrink back down to its normal size. This takes time, and your body does so by contracting your uterus. You may notice it happens more often while you’re breastfeeding.
This is because your baby’s sucking triggers the release of the hormone Oxytocin, which in turn causes contractions.
Luckily the contractions aren’t anywhere near as bad as the ones you went through during labor, but I would say they are slightly worse than period cramps. The cramps will be the worst the first couple of days and taper off around day three.
Another important thing to note is you will be bleeding for up to 6 weeks (or longer) postpartum, so be sure to stock up on pads!
This definitely varies from person to person, and according to every lactation consultant out there, breastfeeding should never be painful.
It wasn’t painful for me with my first, but with my second it was in the beginning. Sometimes, even with a proper latch, your nipples can be sore as they adjust.
My second baby took about a week or two to really get a good latch mastered and my nipples were cracked, scabbed, and EXTREMELY sensitive and painful.
To help with the discomfort I used Lanolin nipple cream and I went from feeding from both breasts each time to only one breast each feeding until my nipples healed.
This gave each one a longer break to heal in between, especially since my baby was cluster feeding.
Another source of pain with breastfeeding was engorgement when my milk came in. My breasts felt like ROCKS that were about to explode during my first week home. I could also feel lumps all over, which are clogged ducts.
This can lead to mastitis which I hear is incredibly painful. I was super paranoid from all of the horror stories about mastitis, so I did everything in my power to unclog those babies!
Massaging the lumps pretty firmly (as if you’re kneading dough) was painful but helped a ton, along with frequent feeding or pumping to clear the milk out.
I used breast heating pads to help open things up and also help with the pain. Once your milk supply regulates this is no longer an issue, don’t worry!
ESTABLISHING YOUR MILK SUPPLY
This could be a major source of stress and anxiety for a new mom.
Making sure your baby is getting enough food is a major concern, and feeling like you are not able to provide that for them can really bring you down.
Understand that the first few days you are producing colostrum which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies and is all your baby needs at first.
Your milk usually comes in around 3-4 days postpartum.
Feeding as often as possible in the first few days will really help establish a good milk supply. It is recommended to feed your baby every 2-3 hours, or more often if needed.
A huge help in establishing a great supply is pumping in between feedings. This tricks your body into thinking it needs to produce more milk and really does work!
Another HUGE factor is making sure you’re getting enough fluids and protein.
Your body has been through a lot, and breastfeeding really depletes your fluids and nutrients. It is imperative to replenish what is lost and drink a TON of fluids.
Also, increasing your protein intake helps a lot with producing enough milk.
This one probably comes as no surprise. I’m sure you’ve done the math, and feeding a baby every 2-3 hours (or sooner) equals no sleep for mom!
It is pretty crazy though because before having kids I basically couldn’t function without 7-8 hours of sleep.
However, there is something about motherhood that allows you to function off of WAY less sleep than normal.
Getting 3 hours of straight sleep feels like a full night’s rest somehow.
A 3-hour stretch isn’t always that easy to come by though. The 2-3 hour feeding period is counted from when the baby last STARTED feeding, and feedings can last up to 30 minutes!
So if your baby is feeding every 2 hours and lasting 30 minutes, by the time they finish feeding you are due to feed again in an hour and a half.
Once you finish feeding, changing their diaper, get situated back in bed and fall asleep that doesn’t leave you with much time until you have to get up again.
The sleep deprivation really adds up over time, so finding ways to get some rest is important!
My husband would take over one of the night feedings/diaper changes by bottle feeding with the breast milk I pumped. This helped a lot by giving me a longer period to get some rest in between feedings.
Another bummer is that you can’t drink coffee for the first 3 months!
Babies are not able to properly metabolize caffeine during the first 3 months, and caffeine will stay in their system for days or even weeks!!!
This makes for a very fussy baby that will have a difficult time sleeping.
Once they are a little older, you are able to drink coffee in between feedings, similar to the way you are able to drink alcohol in between feedings. Unfortunately, the first 3 months is the time you probably need coffee the most. Catch 22.
>>> There is a great article on KellyMom that goes into more depth on caffeine while breastfeeding if you would like some more informationhere.
All that being said, you WILL be tired and I’m sure cooking will be at the bottom of your list of things you’re willing to do.
Make it easier on yourself by preparing ahead of time! A lot of people swear by freezer meals that you make in large batches ahead of time and store in your freezer and simply heat up when you’re ready to eat.
Another option is meal prep, which is similar but done once a week and kept in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.
Meal delivery is another option that makes things very quick and simple but isn’t quite as cost-effective. I love using DoorDash, but I know there are a ton of similar services available as well.
This is a great option if you want something quick and easy, and you’re not worried about the extra cost.
I hope these tips prepare you for your postpartum recovery and your first week with a newborn! I’m rooting for you, and hoping your transition goes as smooth as possible!
Please remember that all of these obstacles are temporary and things WILL get easier!
I remember having a mild emotional breakdown because I just wanted to feel normal again.
It was so FRUSTRATING that I wasn’t able to physically do everything I wanted to yet, and I was completely over being in pain and not feeling like myself. I needed to adjust my expectations and realize that this is only temporary.
My hopes are to help someone out there that might feel the same way I did. Cut yourself some slack, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and seek help if you feel that you need it (which you will!)
Allow people to help you and try to make things as simple as possible. Give yourself time to heal and adjust to this new life, and try to enjoy every moment!
I would love to hear about your experience with postpartum recovery, and if any of these tips helped you! Also, if you have any other tips and tricks that I left out please leave them below to help out other deserving moms seeing this!
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