Tuesday, March 24, 2009


People keep telling me I'm an 'experienced mom'. I don't feel old enough to be an experienced mom, especially since I know nothing about raising people over 7 years old. But I have picked up a few things on nursing, now that we're on number 5.

I thought I'd pass along some of the stuff I've learned. Skip the rest if you're sensitive about this kind of thing.

In no particular order, what I've learned about nursing since I've done it for a total of 45 of the last 90 months (or 3.75 of the last 7.5 years):

--don't give up until you've been at it for two weeks. The first two weeks stink; the rest is wonderful, easy, convenient, free.

--from the time you go into labor, put on that nursing bra and don't take it off except to shower, change it, or treat thrushy nipples. It minimizes engorgement and sagging.

--for cracked nipples due to getting used to nursing (the crack goes across the nipple): drip a little milk on them and let them air dry, preferably in direct sunshine. Heals them DAYS faster than leaving them alone. Forget all those creams and ointments--they're expensive and don't work.

--for cracked nipples due to thrush (the crack goes around the base of the nipple) or being bit (the crack is on the aureola): dab a little antibiotic ointment directly on the cut and then let it dry out AFTER nursing. Don't let the baby suck on the ointment--it's poison. Sleep with your breasts exposed to the air--no bra. The cuts potentially won't heal without the ointment, and can lead to infections really fast, so do treat them.

--If your baby gets thrush in his mouth, you have it on your breasts. Treat it by rubbing on some of the medicine the doc gives you for the baby, by taking diflucan, or by rubbing acidophilus on (you can also rub the acidophilus onto the thrushy spots in the baby's mouth and it helps it go away faster).

--lactation people always say if you are nursing correctly, it won't hurt. This isn't true of the first two weeks--even if you're doing it right, you can be sore and your nipples can crack. It's just part of the game for some women.

--If you're nursing along fine and then it starts to hurt, you probably have thrush.

--Notice that the pictures of a correct latch-on they give you are all 3-months old babies and older? That's because the latch they teach you in the hospital is physically impossible for most (if not all) newborns to do--their mouths are too small, and most have some measure of receded chin. Also, it's cruel to make the baby latch on 20-30 times to 'get it right'. Let them latch the way they are most comfortable and then gently tug on their chin (and upper lip if necessary) to be sure they are flayed outward instead of tucked in. And, believe it or not, your breasts can adapt within 2 weeks to most semi-correct latches as well as by-the-book ones.

--Don't pump to relieve engorgement. Express a little milk with your fingers to relieve the pressure and trust your body. It will take care of the problem soon and learn to produce just the right amount of milk for baby.

--Nursing pads: you can buy disposable ones (some you can even wash and re-use!); you can take one of those receiving blankets that are super soft but too small for any reasonable newborn and cut it up into squares, layer them together, and zigzag the edges and use that; you can by washable ones (expensive and often don't breathe well enough. Hands down the best nursing pads I've ever used are, for engorged or leaky times (like when you know you aren't going to get to nurse for a long time, when the baby skips a meal, or when you are just spraying everywhere from both sides when the baby nurses on one) or when you really need to stay dry (like when you have thrush), are newborn sized disposable diapers (or if you, like me, are still relatively small-chested, preemie diapers). The second best I've ever used are (don't laugh--sometimes you use what you have on hand) pantiliners or even sanitary pads (the ultra-thin kind). No joke. They are thin, made to keep your skin dry even when they have liquid in them, made to conform to your body shape when you move around, flexible and breathable, and, unlike disposable nursing pads, are sealed around the edges so the milk is less likely to fill the pad and then just drip right on down your shirt anyway. Plus they are made to lock the liquid in and not get squishy, and, because they aren't little circles (like real nursing pads are), they don't show under your clothes. And, what's more, unlike cloth or disposable nursing pads, they don't stick to cracked or seeping wounds on the breasts (like thrush cracks or infected baby bite-marks). If you've ever had the agonizing experience of pulling a stuck-on bra off a sore boob, you know why this is a big deal.

--Nobody talks about it, but nursing can cause hormone surges in the mommy that can make you feel INTENSE anxiety, homesickness (this is me, but only when I nurse on the right side), fidgety claustrophobia (like you just need to bounce your legs and squirm, and if you don't stand up you're going to scream or explode), or even intense depression. This is different than post-partum depression because it only exists actually while you are actually in the act of nursing. For some women it's cause enough to quit nursing. For some women, it leads to full-on depression because they focus on it and think they are depressed (as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy). For me? I just remind myself that it's "not real" and ignore it, digging into a book (either reading or writing one), a quilt pattern, or something else that makes me happy.

--Something else nobody talks about is that the breast is round. You don't actually have to use a Boppy pillow to support the baby. Rotate them on the circle and set their bum on your lap while you nurse--still tummy-to-tummy, but no pillow needed. Some babies actually prefer to nurse with their feet down between your knees!

--The currently-popular tummy-to-tummy nursing pose ("the right way") is a load of crock for those of us who have breasts and/or nipples that don't face directly forward. Line the baby up so they go straight onto your nipple and them have at it--and for some of us, this position is not tummy-to-tummy. I noticed this when I put my baby in the 'right' position, and he had to turn his head WAY to the side to nurse. The 'correct' position for a baby is the way they face your nipple and can reach it without turning their head too far to one side or the other. And, contrary to popular urban legend, a baby can actually nurse happily with their head turned slightly one way or the other. Some actually prefer it.

--Nursing mothers often say that only drunk mommies roll onto their babies when co-sleepihg. I learned from a near-tragedy that this is NOT true. Normal, healthy, alert mothers can also suffocate their babies by rolling on them, or knocking a blanket onto them, or having their spouse accidentally flop an arm onto the baby, especially when everyone is deeply sleep-deprived in those first few weeks, and when you finally fall asleep, it's deep and intense and happens fast. I don't nurse lying down anymore since I woke up one night nearly suffocating my poor baby, who had slipped off my breast and my arm and had his head tucked right under my side.

--Buy a good nursing bra (or two) with a one-handed clasp. Then, when it wears out, cut off the clasp. Get any old bra you like and insert the clasp into it (you have to cut and sew just a little). Attach a ribbon from the center of the bra to the strap so it doesn't fall down your back while your cup is open. If it won't lay flat, you can attach the ribbon to the bra strap with a little plastic circle--it allows the strap to aim a different direction from the ribbon, helping it lay flatter. You can convert almost any bra into a good nursing bra--and get better support and more comfort for it.

--nursed babies can get sick, contrary to popular opinion. They just share your antibodies, so they can get over it faster. We've had nursing babies get all manner of colds, rsv, bacterial and viral infections.

--sometimes I feel like a cow.

--breast milk doesn't taste like cow's milk

--breast milk can spray a long way, and can come out of the area around your nipple as well as your nipple, and can come in different colors and shades and flavors based on what you eat.

--nursing while you're pregnant can be exhausting.

I'd love to hear your tips, ideas, suggestions on nursing, too!

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