Often times we feel overwhelmed because we don’t know what to expect! We are told 5,694 different ways to do things as a mother and then we’re given unrealistic expectations of what babies do. So here IS what to expect with your new breastfed baby…
Spend the first few weeks (the first month preferably) just hanging out skin-to-skin with your baby as much as possible 24/7. There is ample research which shows how important skin to skin is and we know skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding promote optimal maternal and child outcomes . This does not just apply to babies who are just minutes old! Skin to skin contact continues to be important for calming your baby. Only have visitors come who will be helpful (empty your dishwasher) and that you feel comfortable being half naked around. I know, many of us our eager to show our friends and family our new gorgeous baby but trying to breastfeed while your boobs are leaking all over the place, your baby has pooped half up his back and you have barely had time to pee much less shower can be very stressful around people we are not really comfortable with. This quiet time with your baby can be CRUCIAL to helping establish breastfeeding. The more time you have to just hang out with your baby the better. This leads to easier breastfeeding, more frequent breastfeeding and more rest for you and baby.
Your baby is going to have cranky times, try to be prepared for this. This cranky time will probably in the later afternoon to the early morning hours. My mother calls these the “witching hours”. I’m surprised when someone tells me there baby DOESN’T do this! That’s how common it is. Have your baby carrier ready and someone to pass the baby back and forth with (if possible). Go through “the circuit” to help settle them.
Ask questions and read stuff (haha, like you’re not already doing that on Google at 2am!) BUT only take on board what feels right to you and right for your baby. What do I mean by this? When you read, “Your baby should be breastfeeding every 2-3 hours” but your baby asks for another breastfeed 48 minutes after the last feed just follow your baby. The books have guidelines…they do not offer black and white rules. Whenever your read or hear anything take it with a grain of salt and only take it on board if your instincts are telling you to do so! Did your health care professional tell you that your baby should be put down to sleep “drowsy but awake” but every time you do this your baby cries because they want to be held? Then hold them. Don’t waste time trying to do something that isn’t working for you just because a book or “baby whisperer” told you so. Babies need frequent cuddles and frequent breastfeeds. This is crucial to their development.
STOP DOING SO MUCH! I’ll be the first to admit…sometimes I was bored out of my mind while at home with my babies. Yup. It’s true and I’m gonna talk about it! I longed to get out and meet up with friends, grab a coffee, go shopping…feel normal again! Get out of my pyjamas, actually wash my hair and pretend I feel like I did pre-motherhood. However once we have a baby we realise just how much of a big deal “going out” really is with a baby. It takes at least double the amount of time to get out of the house, triple the amount of time when out, and you and baby have to change clothes at least once before you even return home. The days are long but the years are short. Take the time to chill. It makes breastfeeding go easier and you’ll feel a lot more relaxed in the process.
You baby will not want to be put down very often, so if your baby is asking to be held, then hold them. This is not a sign that something is wrong with your baby. It’s a sign your baby is 100% normal. When we have a baby for some reason people like to makes comments like, “Don’t breastfeed her to sleep because it’s a sleep association and she’ll never learn to sleep by herself.” Let me assure you of two things… #1. Your baby absolutely WILL start to fall asleep without being held or breastfed when she is developmentally ready to do so. This might happen at 6 months, 14 months or 30 months. How this happens is a combination of what you do and what your child does. There are gentle ways to encourage your child to night-wean once they are older than 12 months. You can find all of my info on sleep in my book and my sleep category on my blog.
Enjoy these quiet moments as your baby falls asleep at the breast. Your milk is literally made to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep. Naps will happen with breastfeeds leading up to the nap, in the middle of the nap and after the nap. Do not let anyone try to convince you that your baby “should” be learning to sleep on their own. I remember when we had our first born everyone told us we should “never sleep with the baby”. However I quickly realised that there was no way he was going to actually sleep for longer than 5 minutes unless he slept in the same bed with us. Therefor, we quickly realised we need to trust our own instincts and enjoy these cuddles instead of listening to the advice we were given. Yes he fell asleep on the breast for 2 years! And let me assure you not only did he learn to fall asleep on his own but to this day at the age of 14 he continues to fall asleep on his own!! No lessons in “self settling” necessary. And click here for 9 reasons to keep breastfeeding your baby to sleep.
When you start to get used to something your baby will change…so don’t get used to anything. Your baby started sleeping in 5 hours chunks only then start waking every 1 1/2 hours? Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong and you’ll probably never figure out why…just go with it! Because it’s normal. Your baby started to fall into a predictable routine with sleep and naps, then all of a sudden started to nap all over the place? Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong here! It’s really normal. Your baby will ask for a breastfeed for many different reasons…hunger, thirst, needing comfort or pain relief, going through a developmental milestone. All of these reasons are equally as important.
Know the signs that your baby is getting enough milk so you don’t worry about your supply. There’s a huge amount of mis-information and scare tactics going on at the moment that every exclusively breastfed baby is at great risk of not getting enough. This is simply NOT TRUE. Statistically speaking, most women will make plenty of milk for their babies and actually many of them will make so much they’ll have engorgement (very large, hard breasts filled with milk) and plugged ducts (blockages where the milk gets stuck in the milk ducts)! Here is a checklist to go through and my article on this topic can be found HERE.