The First Rule in Breastfeeding is patience… in fact, this is the ultimate rule. You are going to need a LOT of it. From the first moment your newborn is placed on your chest to that last, special moment before weaning is complete – patience is key.
The Ultimate Rule you need to know in breastfeeding is… patience
Breastfeeding is a learning process for both the mother and the baby – while they may be naturally hardwired to suckle and your own body hardwired to nurse, there can be stumbling blocks and hiccups along the way. These detours, no matter how large or minor, require patience and persistence to get through and beyond. Thankfully, you and your baby can learn together. (Read: Should you take a Breastfeeding Class?)
In the beginning: Patience with ‘suckling’
During the first few feedings, your baby may actively nurse, or prefer to just lick your nipple and nuzzle against your breast. Both of these are normal, and both are perfectly fine. The milk your baby receives at this time is called Colostrum, the “Newborn” milk. Thick and rich with nutrients, your body produces about 5-7ml per feed, the perfect match for your baby’s newborn tummy, which is only the size of a marble right now.
Despite popular belief, babies are not born hungry. Instead, they are born with an intense need to Suck, which is why you might have seen a newborn guzzle down a 2oz bottle – but then spit it back up again a very short time later. This need to suck does several things, for both the baby and for the Mother. To the newborn, sucking is calming, it helps organize them after the sometimes traumatic, but always startling process of birth. It also stimulates the gut so that the thick, tarry meconium that has built up while in the womb can be passed. For the Mother, that sucking opens up more Prolactin Receptor sites – places in the breast where the hormone Prolactin is received and where it can do its job in the cycle of milk production.
Patience during this time will help both of you – they are learning to nurse, and so are you. Figuring out positions, milk transfer, how long to nurse, etc – all requires patience. And patience for yourself too, above all this is new to YOU.
Next steps: Patience with growth spurts
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on this nursing thing, nature throws a curve ball your way – ‘Growth spurts.’ These loved and dreaded events mean that your little one needs extra nutrients to grow – and that they may nurse far more often than normal!
Most growth spurts last 1-3 days, though some may stretch out for a week. You will notice that you baby wants to nurse much more often and might even be a bit “fussier.” Your baby is doing exactly what nature intended. These intensive ‘cluster feeds’ encourage your body to make more milk by stimulating the milk producing hormones. The more your baby suckles, the more milk you will produce. It can be a trying time for any mother – but take heart! This period will pass soon and you will have a healthier, heavier baby for it.
Patience with a ‘Distractible’ Baby
The world is a huge and exciting place, and babies soon start to notice. Around 2 months of age, you may begin to see your baby looking around while nursing or find that they become easily distracted. This often gets worse before it gets better, resulting in babies that nurse for a moment before pulling away, then back to nursing, then pulling away, then back to nursing, then…. UGH! It’s enough to drive even the most patient mom insane, but there are a few things that you can do.
Use a nursing or teething necklace
Even babies who are not quite teething will benefit from having a teething or nursing necklace handy. When you wear one, the length provides easy access to little hands, while the beads or pendant fascinate them and, hopefully, keep them on task!
There are many varieties out there. This is affordable Teething Necklace from Itzy Ritzy can serve as a Nursing Necklace, then transition up when little teeth start to sprout. FYI, this is an affiliate link that charges you nothing extra if you choose to purchase through this link. Please see my complete disclosure page here.
If your baby is young enough, moving him or her into a ‘football hold’ to nurse may be a great option – that way you have control of head movements. A football hold is just like it sounds, you hold your baby like someone running with a football. If they are nursing from the right side, you will tuck them in your right arm while support their head with your right hand – reverse it for the other side. Here’s a great video that can help you if you are struggling to get the position right – Breastfeeding Positions: Football Hold
Above all – have patience
Distractions happen, and for a baby, they happen often. Little eyes are open to great wonders and they are curious about EVERYTHING! Any small sound or sight can distract them, and the best thing you can do is try to be patient through this trying period. It’s normal. They are supposed to do this. Along with the above tips, you can help by trying to nurse in a darkened, quite room. I’m throwing this in as the last bit for this section because….. LOL!!!! A dark, quite room? Seriously? Talk about a dream! Well, maybe you can do that close to bed time or in the middle of the night, but hey, a mom can wish, right? But if it is possible for you, it would help.
Patience when they get older
All these stages slip into other phases, including walking, talking, sip and run, demanding, possible biting, etc… when it comes to breastfeeding, like parenting, it is all an adventure! (Read: 6 Tips to Make Breastfeeding through the Holidays Easier)
Good luck, all the best, and just remember – The First Rule of Breastfeeding is Patience.