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Have you experienced not being able to fully breastfeed your baby? It’s painful.
And perhaps you secretly wish that it won’t happen again with your next baby.
But, have you analyzed what gone wrong? What mistakes did you make, or things that you can fix to make ‘next time’ better?
In this article, I would love to share with you 5 commons breastfeeding mistakes that I did while nursing my first born, which hinders me from exclusively breastfeeding him from the start.
Yeah, perhaps you’ll say: Don’t focus on mistakes. But I believe by identifying the mistakes, you’ll not fall into it again, and you’ll make effort on how to avoid it and how to fix it.
Let the story begins. Here’s my confession…
Table of Contents
- 1 My #1 Mistake: Not gathering enough information
- 2 Mistake #2: Not surrounded by supportive health care personnel
- 3 Give your milk supply a head start!
- 4 Mistake #3: Separated from baby after birth
- 5 Mistake #4 Not surrounded by supportive spouse /family OR they have no idea HOW to give correct support
- 6 Give your milk supply a head start!
- 7 #5 Playing a perfect housewife role and …
- 8 NOT dedicating the first two weeks solely for yourself and your baby.
My #1 Mistake: Not gathering enough information
I knew from the start that I wanted to breastfeed. I did my research on how to prepare for breastfeeding, but not extensive. I was lazy. I read article that breastfeeding would occur naturally and I rely on that. I thought every mother would be able to breastfeed smoothly. So I just waited for it to happen.
I didn’t research which birth method is the best for breastfeeding. I opt to use pain killer (yes, just one jab on thigh), not knowing that drug used during delivery may affect how drowsy a newborn is, and that may affect the early start of breastfeeding.
Shortly after discharged from hospital, my little boy suffered from jaundice. Being inexperience parent with little knowledge, we followed doctor’s suggestion to top up his feeding with formula to speed up jaundice recovery. Yes, the jaundice went away, but my milk supply suffered. If only I knew that formula feeding is not the only option I had for dealing with jaundice, perhaps I would be able to exclusively breastfeed my first baby right from the start.
Mistake #2: Not surrounded by supportive health care personnel
Shortly after birth, I was given my newborn baby to nurse. For 10 minutes perhaps. But the baby was fussy. You know what the nurse said, ‘your milk has not come in, that’s why baby is hungry. If it continues to be like this, we may need to give your baby formula.’
That’s not a typical comment from a pro breastfeeding health-care personnel. If I had enough knowledge about breastfeeding, I could easily reply her that newborn has enough reserves to survive up to 72 hours and colostrum ( the early phase of milk) would suffice him. So again, mistake #1 play a role too here.
My baby was put in the nursery based on nurse’s advice, so that I could get some rest. Mistake #1 and #2, because a pro-breastfeeding nurse would have advised us to room-in with baby. I was at fault too, not knowing how important it is to room in with baby. By putting baby in nursery, you miss the earliest opportunities to know your baby, her hunger cues, and chances are you’ll miss some feedings, especially if the nurses are not cooperative enough to bring the baby to you regularly.
When I came to clinic for a follow-up one day after discharge, the doctor criticized me for not eating enough, causing me not having enough milk, and again, warned me to feed my baby formula milk if my milk supply doesn’t improve.
Imagine my feeling, a first-time mother, sleep-deprived and tired, wanted to get doctor’s advice, only to get criticized.
Well, some of you may think that I’m too exaggerating the condition. But believe me, taking care of mother’s physiological aspect is as important as taking care the mother and baby physically. If not, why post-partum mother are at higher risk of having depression? Answer it yourself.
So this is why, having supportive health care personnel is very critical in your breastfeeding journey. This is especially crucial because they play a BIG role in the early days of breastfeeding.
Mistake #3: Separated from baby after birth
Do you know that what happened on the early days of breastfeeding may affect your milk supply on long term? This is especially true for the first hour after birth.
Spending the first hour after birth with your baby by skin-to-skin contact, cuddling, and nursing have been proven to increase the success rate of breastfeeding. With my first baby, I didn’t experience long skin-to-skin contact with my baby. Only 15 minutes and the nurse quickly placed him inside a warmer to ‘keep him warm’.
I didn’t object because I don’t have enough knowledge to begin with, so I just follow what I thought ‘a standard procedure’, which was wrong (again, mistake #1 plays a role, too). I should have gotten my ‘right’ to have skin-to-skin contact with my newborn. Other non-critical medical procedure such as weighing and such can wait.
Another important thing to do right after birth is to practice rooming-in (having your newborn always placed in the same room as yours). When a baby is placed in the nursery, you become dependent on nurses to bring your baby to you. OK, if the nurses are supportive, they may send your baby regularly for feeding. But sometimes, nurses can be very busy, you need to request many times to bring your baby in.
By placing your baby in nursery, you also miss the very first opportunity to learn about your baby’s hunger cue. If you could identify your baby’s cue early enough, you may be able to avoid the great fussiness that happens because baby already too hungry.
I learnt this the hard way. I didn’t really learn about my baby’s cue and rely too much on what the nurse said. As the result, I got shocked on the very first day we brought the baby home because he’s so attached to me all the night. So, once again, the bottom line here is avoid separating with baby right after birth.
Mistake #4 Not surrounded by supportive spouse /family OR they have no idea HOW to give correct support
Your family loves you and your baby so much. I can assure that for sure. They also respect your decision to breastfeed the baby. But without knowledge, how would they be able to support you the correct way.
Typical example would be like this. Taking care of newborn can be very exhausting. You need some rest and that’s when your family could help you by taking care of the baby while you catch some sleep. But problem occurs when the baby starts crying for hunger, but your family does not want to disturb your sleep.
Formula feeding to the rescue. You know, introducing supplementation when it is not necessary can RUIN your milk supply. And that’s the beginning how your milk supply can suffer.
Older generation -my parents included-could not stand a crying baby long enough. They associated every cry with hunger, which is incorrect. Can you believe that, I was just having my quick shower, only to find that my mom has already fed my baby because she thought the baby was hungry and could not wait until mummy finished the shower. Ridiculous!
So, you can see from the examples, how family may ‘accidentally’ make your milk supply worse by giving incorrect support.
I was at fault too, because I should sort of ‘educate’ my family member on how they can support my breastfeeding effort.
Another example – this is a real case that I read from ‘a guide to making more milk’. The husband was trying to be helpful by cooking his wife a warm soup for her meal for the first few days. And surprisingly, her milk supply starts to dwindle down quickly after that.
After investigation by lactation consultant, it turns out that the culprit was the soup, because the soup uses a generous amount of sage leaves, one of herbs known of its milk reducing effect.
Are you going to say that her husband is at fault because cooking soup for his wife? Of course not! But simply because he doesn’t know about this milk reducing herb, is what cause the milk supply issue.
So again, here we see how critical it is to make sure your family member know how to support your breastfeeding effort correctly.
#5 Playing a perfect housewife role and …
NOT dedicating the first two weeks solely for yourself and your baby.
I have a perfect mother (at least, in my opinion). She can do anything. I admire her so much such that I want to do things exactly like what she does. I’m so obsessed that she can do basically many things postpartum without much help from the surrounding family, like she’s been washing her baby cloth (by hand) right from day one. FYI, my father was overseas when she gave birth to my elder sister, so she was literally alone.
I know you’ll say that I’m so silly lol, but yes I was, and I was tempted to do this ‘perfect housewife’ thing. So I refused to have more rest when my baby is sleeping (insisted that I’m not tired at all) when at night I turned into swaying zombie. I still took a good amount of household chores when in fact I didn’t even need to think about it. I was so stubborn.
Only upon reflection on why my breastfeeding has become so challenging, I realize that this is one reason I didn’t get a great start. I thought I shouldn’t ‘waste’ my time the whole day only to nurse, sleep, change the diaper, bathe the baby, and all. When the truth is actually YOU SHOULD. When the truth is actually you should ignore anything else and focus on taking care of your baby and yourself.
This is especially important in the first two weeks (read here to know why). Now the baby is your priority and anything else can wait. Another thing to focus is YOURSELF. I know it is not easy to get a good rest in the early days with your newborn, but try your best. If you have totally-wreck night sleep, try to catch some naps while your baby naps.
Also, pay attention to your diet. You want to have as nutritious food as possible to nourish your body, and subsequently your baby. Stay hydrated and drink enough liquid. Water, juice, milk, whatever. A normal adult needs in average 2 liters of water to drink per day. And now your body is working hard to produce precious milk for your baby. So, drink even more! Don’t let your busy schedule of taking care of your newborn prevent you from having healthy meals (PS: healthy meals postpartum is affordable. I’ll talk about it in the future post).
So here they are. Five common breastfeeding mistakes that I DID in the early days of breastfeeding my first born, which ruined my milk supply.
Wheww.. it turns out to be quite a lengthy post, but I sincerely want you to really understand how fatal each mistake could be.
Tell me, have you done the same mistake, too? Which one? Or do you want to confess some other mistakes that you did? I’d love to hear from you.
In the next part of this chronicle, I’ll tell you how I avoided and fixed these mistakes with my second baby, with some detailed tips that you may be curious about. Stay tune!