Your first month of breastfeeding is all about survival. Unless you are one of those moms that everything goes smoothly for, you will probably want to give up breastfeeding at least once a day for the first four weeks. Not to worry! I promise it gets better!! The key is to make life easier for yourself.
Things you should not worry about or expect in the first month: pumping copious amounts of milk, hardcore sleep training, and showering… just kidding. But seriously, for the first month, lower your expectations when it comes to everything. Do less. Life will go back to being somewhat normal soon enough.
Three things you should do in month one.
Establish supply by feeding on demand.
This month is all about bringing in your milk. If you feed your baby on demand for the first four weeks, the rest typically falls into place. Some moms pump in an attempt to bring in their supply faster, but you can take it easy with that unless you need to go back to work soon. Your breasts work on a demand and supply basis, and they will already be pretty sore from all of the nursing. Pumping may only take more time out of your day, increase your discomfort, cause undue stress about supply, and can even result in oversupply (read: discomfort for you and baby). If you aren’t headed back to work soon, the freezer stash can wait a few weeks.
Establish a routine or pattern.
I say “routine” and not “schedule,” because the latter implies following strict timetables. For the first month, focus on creating a routine that comes naturally for you and baby. A good daytime routine for baby may go like this: wake up, diaper change, nurse, awake time (interact with baby), nap routine (for us – rocking chair time), sleep. There won’t be much awake time at first, but its good to have it in place already for when your baby starts to increase their playtime. If baby needs a second diaper change during your nap routine, make sure the lights stay dim or you change it in a sleep associated area. Infants quickly develop sleep associations; nap or bedtime routines are the best way to “tell” your baby it is time to sleep. In my opinion, the only bad sleep association is one you aren’t willing to continue doing for at least the first 4-6 months of baby’s life.
Learn your baby’s cues. This is a huge part of the month one learning curve. The good news is that it often happens naturally and without intention. After some trial and error, you begin to recognize your baby’s different cries and cues. Keep in mind that sometimes fussiness or crying is interpreted as hunger when it is really tiredness or gas. Every baby is an individual. My third baby will fuss when he is overtired and refuse the breast if he is full. He wants to fall asleep rocking and doesn’t mind when I put him down. My second born would nurse all. the. time. It didn’t matter what was wrong (or not wrong) with him, he wanted to comfort nurse. It’s up to you to decide if you are okay with that. I stressed about it far too much, tried to force him into routines he didn’t like, and basically caused us both a lot of anxiety. I was convinced if I didn’t sleep train from the beginning he would never sleep on his own. However, around 6 months a baby’s sleep pattern begins to mature and they are better able to self-soothe. I gave sleep training another try, changed our nap and bedtime routines, and he took to his new sleep associations like a champ. By 8 months, I simply had to put him in bed. The best advice I can give you is to listen to your baby.
Forget everything else.
Submitted by Natalie Cassell.