This is a candid letter I wrote to a brand-new mother 1500 miles away I never met. My husband thought it was so practical and full of first-hand experience that I ought to share it on my blog. Unless you are a man who is reading this to help his wife with her breastfeeding, I politely ask men, for modesty’s sake, not to read this article and leave it instead for the ladies. Thank you.
Cradling my fifth blessing two days after her birth.
Dear New Mother,
We rejoice with you over the birth of your new baby! God has delivered you both from the months of pregnancy into a new life together. You have your days and nights full and do not have time to read a lot, so I will try to keep this concise. I am one of four breastfed children to my mother, and I myself have five children ages nine years years to 17 months all breastfed (I am still happily breastfeeding the baby). I birthed all of my children naturally and was trained as a doula in 2011.
Here are my most valuable lessons for first-time motherhood that I wish I would have known having baby #1:
Each baby has begun breastfeeding differently, but regardless of that, the first two weeks are always the hardest and after that the fruit is immeasurably sweet. In the ups and downs, remember that the hard times will pass and it is all worth it! I promise it is! I wouldn’t give up breastfeeding for anything, and I’ve had a couple of very, very hard breastfeeding beginnings. Each new baby is a new beginning. If you want to ask anything, please feel free. Mother to mother, nothing is too strange to ask about and I am as happy to answer as you are to ask.
Be skin-to-skin with your newborn as often as possible. I have learned a lot over the course of having five babies, and if I could go back and spend the first three months skin-to-skin with each of them as I have the last two, I would in a heartbeat. Take your three months of postpartum womanhood and bond with your baby. Sleep in a robe for easy access and dress him in just a receiving blanket and have his skin on yours as often as possible. He was skin-to-skin with you for nine months, it’s a shock not to be so suddenly. I don’t go hardly anywhere during this time, and I make sure everybody knows I don’t take unannounced visitors for the first three months (they might disturb a mid-day nap skin-to-skin with my sweet naked baby). This time is all about you bonding with your new son. Father should go shirtless and bond with his son or daughter as well. This is just part of the intimacy of family and the sanctity of your home. You’re not here to impress anyone but yourself on your son or daughter’s heart.
I do not recommend lanolin as it is often contaminated with chemicals from the process of removing the lanolin from the sheep’s wool, and many lanolin products contain petroleum additives. I heartily recommend Motherlove brand nursing balm or Earth Mama Angel Baby nursing balm. You may even find a locally handcrafted balm made of all edible ingredients. Apply after every nursing or shower even if you don’t feel like you need it.
For nipple pain, the shower beating down can be rough. I keep large Band-Aids on-hand and place them gently over my nipples so that the sticky part is NOT on my nipples and shower that way. I hope that helps. Remember, it will pass! Just expect it and take each day as one day closer to peaceful breastfeeding.
Two of my babies have had pacifiers and three have not. I do NOT advocate pacifiers at all. If you do find yourself using one later on, absolutely do not give it to a baby under two months old as it negatively affects his eating.
Beginning day two or three, you will likely experience breast engorgement. I had extremely engorged breasts for each baby and have had mastitis twice. I now know how to deal with it well and not get mastitis. Breastfeed often (set your alarm so you don’t miss nursing every two hours at the latest around the clock), do not pump extra milk, and absolutely keep at least one head of organic green cabbage in the fridge. If your breasts get engorged, swollen and hard, take the outer leaves of the cabbage, rinse them, and apply directly to your breasts any place that is swollen. Put a loose bra on over them to hold them in place. Leave them on for 20-30 minutes until the leaves are limp and warm. There is a compound in the cabbage that helps your body to not produce quite so much milk. This is so effective at bringing down engorgement it can dry up your milk supply if you over-use it, so don’t apply it more than three times per day. Discontinue as soon as the engorgement begins to subside. I find it only takes a couple of days to normalize the “supply and demand.”
Mastitis – During the first six weeks of breastfeeding, if you ever get a fever while breastfeeding or any pains along your breasts especially with a hot, red streak, call your doctor or midwife as you likely have mastitis and need treatment.
On milk supply—eat plenty of healthy animal fats like butter, whole milk, and steak with the fat on. Breast milk is high in fat calories but not all fats you consume can be converted into breastmilk. Vegetable oils do not make healthy breastmilk and leave baby feeling unsatisfied. Be cautious of caffeine like coffee and chocolate, some babies are extremely sensitive, all babies are sensitive. Limit or exclude white sugar if you want a happy, peaceful baby.
Babies are sensitive to tension and can’t relax. “Be anxious for nothing, but all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
You are the perfect mother for your baby, God has made it so! God bless you!