Admittedly, I didn’t take breastfeeding seriously during my first pregnancy. When my OB asked if I intended to breastfeed, I gave an uncommitted shrug and simply said, “kung kakayanin.”
Needless to say, I learned to breastfeed my eldest on the get-go. It was a difficult and painful first few days, but I just went at it and “sinalpak lang ng sinalpak” my baby to my breasts because I had no choice (we didn’t have a prescription for formula and I wasn’t textmates with our pediatrician back then). But it worked, I was able to breastfeed my eldest until she was almost three years old.
I was more prepared for my second-born. This time, I was armed with the knowledge gained from experience and even various articles. I felt that since it’s my second go at it, I’m a pro. Well, I should have been warned when other moms shared that a breastfeeding journey is different for every mom and even for every child. And it proved true for me and my second-born: she came out early at 35 weeks and as a preemie, brought new breastfeeding issues with her.
So here’s what I offer you: breastfeeding truths and hacks from a mom who experienced it from both ends of the spectrum – the easy and the not-so-easy baby. Hoping these can be of some help to a new mama.
Breastfeeding can be hard from the start, but the newborn phase can also be the easiest.
Breastfeeding can be downright painful during the first few days because aside from dealing with your fresh motherhood wounds, you also have to deal with stone-hard leaky breasts. And those newborns might look cute and chill, but they can also latch on like nobody’s business, which can result in achy and bleeding nipples.
But hang in there mamas, because it does get better. Your motherhood wounds will heal sooner than you think. Your boobs will feel superpowered to withstand supply changes and your baby’s latch. And newborns’ needs are more manageable compared to older babies and toddlers. Chances are, your newborn is more than happy to stay in your arms and unli-latching.
Nipple cream is your best friend.
Nipple cream is a lifesaver for every mom. I discovered it late for my eldest, which resulted in me having to deal with bloody nipples a few days into breastfeeding. My OB recommended that I use one as a remedy and it made all the difference in my breastfeeding journey. Nipple cream helped my bleeding nipples heal with my eldest, and prevented me from experiencing it again with my youngest. It served as an emollient, a protective barrier that numbed down the pain with every latch. I also noticed that I tend to get dry, itchy nipples during the last days of my pregnancies, so for my youngest, I started using it around the 34-week mark as a moisturizer. During breastfeeding sessions, I apply it right after every feeding so that the cream is more or less absorbed by the next one. The same goes for pumping sessions.
And for both my babies, I used Lansinoh HPA Lanolin Cream – a Lanolin cream that’s popular among breastfeeding moms and recommended in breastfeeding groups. It’s a multi-purpose moisturizing cream that provides extra nourishment, not only to my bone-dry breastfeeding nipples but even to other areas that need it. So it also served me well as a lip balm on cold days spent in the NICU.
Baby might not be an efficient eater.
For cute little beings who depend on breastfeeding as their main source of nourishment and comfort (in their first new months of life anyway), you would be surprised how some of them are not exactly magana or even effective at it. My eldest was very mahinhin during mealtimes, even when she was breastfed. While for my youngest, I started pumping early as she had to stay in the NICU. So in both cases, I had to deal with oversupply issues and painful clogged ducts and milk blebs.
For such instances, I relied on pumping regularly to relieve my sometimes rock-hard breasts of their milk. So I always have my trusty pump and a couple of breastmilk bags everywhere I go. I used Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags mainly because they are pre-sterilized – ensuring that my breastmilk stays safe for my baby’s consumption, and has reinforced seams – so no worries about burst milk bags in the freezer. One thing I found that makes pumping on the go easy is to use an adapter that allowed me to connect my pump directly to the Lansinoh breastmilk bags, which saved me the hassle of transferring milk from bottles and washing said bottles.
Aside from pumping, I also used warm compresses when I dealt with clogged ducts or milk blebs. I applied them in the sore or tender areas before pumping or the next feeding because I somewhat felt that the heat helped soften the milk “lumps” to “pass.” I used Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy packs, which has a segmented design that molds to my breasts so that it doesn’t fall off. Plus, it can be used hot – to relieve clogged ducts, or cold – to relieve engorgement.
So there you have it, mamas! Always remember that babies tend to grow fast and before you know it, you’ll be looking back to your breastfeeding years wistfully. And syempre, mga nanay tayo ‘di ba? Mahirap, pero kakayanin!