The first two weeks of breastfeeding are definitely the hardest. You are learning how to take care of a new baby, how to take care of yourself and recover from birth, and learning how this all changes your family dynamic. While I am not an expert, and I am not a lactation consultant, I have successfully nursed 3 children within the past 5 years. I am not claiming to know everything and I do not want you to take my advice over a pediatrician or lactation consultant. Continue reading for how to survive the first two weeks of breastfeeding.
“Just make it past the first 2 weeks of breastfeeding.” I heard that over and over during my first pregnancy in 2014. I would then ask myself, what do they mean the first two weeks? Isn’t it suppose to be natural and easy? I told myself my body would know what to do. However, it wasn’t quite that simple. Every breastfeeding journey is different. My second wasn’t the same as my first, and neither were the same as my friends.
Breastfeeding has a way of making a woman feel empowered and capable. It is miraculous. But it can also be exhausting and hard. It can lead to beautiful moments and WTF moments. It is learning journey that you and your baby are on together.
The 9 obstacles to overcome the first 14 days of breastfeeding.
- Learn how to breastfeed. What positions your baby likes, what positions you like, what are your babies feeding cues, and what are their feeding rhythms. Getting a deep latch can be difficult but making a “boob sandwich” can help. Do this by taking your hand in a C shape around your nipple. Touch your nipple to your baby’s upper lip/nose to get baby to open wide and shove as much of your boob in. Each baby will be different. Learn to trust your instincts and do what works for you and your baby.
- Get your mind right. For me that meant I had to know that everything wasn’t going to go the way I planned, and I needed to be okay with that. Follow your baby’s lead. If baby acts hungry feed him/her. There is no such thing as overfeeding a baby in the beginning.
- The after-pains. During breastfeeding after having a baby, your will experience minor contractions in your uterus (while uncomfortable at times, it is not nearly what your contractions during childbirth felt like. I promise). When you breastfeed your body releases oxytocin. This is the same hormone that causes your uterus to contract. This will continue until your uterus is contracted back down to pre-pregnacy size.
- Day/Night schedule. Babies usually have their nights a days mixed up in the beginning. In the womb you were up and active all day–giving baby the perfect rocking motion to sleep away. At night your baby became more active when you were resting on the couch after a long day. Their brains stay in this pattern after birth. You can help your baby with this process by being in sunlight during the day and keeping things quiet and dark at night.
- Day 2/3. Whew, this one is BIG. Your hormones are all out of wack, you are trying to learn how to take care of a new human, you might be in pain, and you just want to sleep. This is the stage when you might cry (I did!) and maybe even question if you know how to be a mother. The thing is–you don’t and you don’t have to. Being a mother, breastfeeding, parenting; all of it is a learning curve. Its continuing education. (If you are feeling down, its OKAY. Ask for help. Postpartum blues can turn into postpartum depression/anxiety. It is real and it is OKAY and NECESSARY to ask for help).
- Milk milk milk. When your milk comes in (it is different for each person, but usually between days 2-5) your breast swell and they hurt. They are full. Your body doesn’t know how much milk your baby will need so it over produces during this time. It often becomes difficult for your baby to latch because of the swelling. You can express a little to soften your breast enough for the baby to latch. The most important thing for you to do during this time is keep the milk moving. You can do that by breastfeeding, hand expressing, or pumping. If your breast do not feel soft after nursing your baby, hand express/or pump. It is important to get your breast soft (not necessary to be empty) to hopefully avoid engorgement and mastitis.
- Nipple soreness is real. Nipple soreness is normal, but there is a difference in nipple soreness pain and nipple pain that continues. Your nipples are being pulled, sucked and stretched in ways they never have been. It is normal to feel a slight discomfort at the beginning of a feed, but it shouldn’t last longer than 30sec and the rest of the feed should be comfortable. Any pain that makes you want to cry out in pain, pain that lasts an entire feed, broken skin, or pain that happens in between feeds is not normal, but can be fixed. You do not have to suffer through it.
- Stressing over if your baby is getting enough. This is a HUGE worry of most moms (myself included). It is distressing to not know how much your baby is taking in. A baby’s belly is the size of a marble when they are born, so it doesn’t take much to fill them up in the beginning. In the beginning, before your milk comes in, you will produce colostrum (or should I say you will produce MAGIC?!) It is highly concentrated in nutrients for your baby. A few ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk are: you can see your baby swallowing, weight gain (after the first few days–you will see a loss), and wet diapers (what goes in, must come out :)) Using a log can help you keep up with how long you are breastfeeding and what your baby is peeing/pooping out.
- The first growth spurt. Around the 10-14 day period you and your baby may be in a good routine, but wait- your baby is about to go through their first growth spurt. Your will question everything you have learned about breastfeeding. You will question your milk supply. Your baby will want to be at the breast ALL. THE. TIME. This is normal. I repeat, this is normal. This is your baby’s way of telling your body to up the milk production. Keep putting baby to breast as much as possible. This will pass.
If you have made it past the first two weeks, you have overcome so many obstacles. You are AMAZING. If you are still struggling, please reach out to someone. It is never too late, or too early, to ask for help.
The First 2 Weeks Of Breastfeeding For Me
Vincent- First Child
The first two weeks with my first child were pretty difficult. He didn’t want to suck, he wouldn’t wake to feed, he fell asleep nursing, he lost weight…..IT WAS A STRUGGLE. We went to the lactation consultant 4 times within those first two weeks. I cried. I was mad. I was tired. BUT I kept pushing through. I woke up every 2 hours around the clock for the first two weeks. Did you know that the time you start breastfeeding is when you start your 2-hour timer? I didn’t! Example- we started feeding at 9am- he wouldn’t/couldn’t suck and would fall back asleep so it was 10am before he was done feeding in the beginning. I had 1 hour to catch up on sleep, or shower, or eat and then it was back to the same routine again. It was HARD. We went on to successfully breastfeed for 15 months.
Alexia- Second Child
My second child was ALWAYS waking up hungry but she was a huge spitter and my nipples HURT. The first thing we figured out was that she was tongue tied. She wasn’t getting a good latch due to the decreased range of motion of her tongue. Therefore my nipples were destroyed and she wasn’t transferring well. (For my nipples I used all purpose nipple ointment and soothe pads). After getting her tongue tie fixed, she was still a HUGE spitter. I am talking at the very least 1-2 oz of milk came back up. My pediatrician didn’t believe me when I would tell her that she would spit it over half of her milk so she sent us to the lactation consultant where we did a weighted feed. Sure enough she spit up and we weighed again. She had lost over half of what she took in. We tried reflux medication, cutting the top 8 allergens out of my diet, seeing a GI specialist and even a swallow study (a few months later). I was so incredibly worried the first few weeks of her life. I had milk, she was getting it, but she couldn’t keep it down. We went on to successfully breastfeed for 13 months.
My third baby, has been the easiest as far as breastfeeding. Not because this is my third time around, but because he could suck and he kept the milk down. However, my milk didn’t come in until day 6! He would nurse and nurse and nurse every hour it felt like. He was actually gaining weight, but the doctor kept asking me if my milk had come in. I hadn’t gotten that engorgement feeling yet, and by day 5 I had started to worry. Finally it came in and all was well. He preferred the cradle hold on the left, so getting him to nurse on the right side we had to work at but we did it. We are still breastfeeding at 7 months now <3.
I know I am lucky with all three of my breastfeeding journeys compared to some, but I am so proud of us. I am proud of the mama who tried but it just didn’t work. I am proud of the mama who is taking it day by day. I am proud of the mama who has been breastfeeding for 19 months. I am proud of the mama pumping around the clock because latching just isn’t working out. I am proud of YOU.
Were the first two weeks hard for you? What helped you get through them? Let me know in comments!