I thought it would be handy to compile a list of the things that I found most important during the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
Keep a pint of water nearby, especially by your bedside. Always try and keep water in reach when you’re feeding too, as you might find that an overwhelming thirst comes over you as soon as baby latches on.
This might sound like a strange one, and you might be thinking ‘well duh, I shower everyday…’, but trust me, when you have a newborn for the first time, it can be a shock to the system and looking after yourself might move to bottom of the list – but don’t let it! Take the time every day to have a nice hot shower, close your eyes and feel the hot water rush over you and regain some sanity. Use your favourite scrubs, if you’ve ran out, order yourself some more, you’ve just gave birth, you deserve it! Hey, maybe even give those legs and armpits a shave if you’re feeling flush!
If you’re like me, and have a huge family, you need to learn to outline the space you need from the very start. People in your family might not understand how feeding on demand works, and how tiring it can be in those first few weeks whilst both you and baby learn the art of breastfeeding, so you need to take control and let them know the boundaries. You could send a message to everyone, explaining you are breastfeeding and that you are eager to give your baby the best start, so to help, they could call before visiting and make sure you’re awake – as when baby sleeps, you sleep – no excuses! Even if you feel like you can’t sleep, lie down, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and shut your eyes, you will appreciate the rest.
If you’re too shy to imagine yourself being so direct with family, and you’re usually a yes person, then this is the perfect opportunity to learn the power of no.
Build a network of people who will support you on your breastfeeding journey. This doesn’t have to be your own friends or family, it doesn’t even need to be anyone you know. Go to a mother and baby group, or if that’s not your cup of tea, then join a breastfeeding Facebook group. You need to know you aren’t alone.
If you’re doing all the above, and I’m sure you’ll develop your own little mental list to keep you sane as well, yet you get to a point where you are really struggling. Don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Shut yourself off from the world for five minutes. When I used to get really stressed out, whether it was because baby wouldn’t seem to latch on properly, or because I was extraordinarily tired, I would go into the kitchen, shut the door behind me, make myself a piece of toast, have a drink of fresh orange juice and take a few minutes to myself to just breathe.
Now everyone is different, some people might think that you shouldn’t leave a baby to cry, and I’m not condoning controlled crying etc, but you need to look after yourself too. You matter. And if you need to take a break for a few minutes, just to regain your feeling of control over your situation, then do it. I used to tell myself, that if my baby was formula fed, she would need to wait ten minutes to get fed every time. So when I needed those few minutes to myself to regain composure, I mentally reminded myself of that to take the guilt away.
Most of all, remember that you are fabulous. You are great. And you are giving your baby the best start in life.
Lisa, Milky Mammy