#1- I didn't follow a schedule.
The advice I was given from my doctor with my first was to feed every 3-4 hours. I took that to mean that once I had fed him I absolutely should not feed him again for 3 hours. I'm not sure what I thought would happen if I did, but I wanted to be a good mother like we all do. We now realize that babies do best when they nurse AT LEAST 8 times a day, which means they need to be at the breast AT LEAST every 3 hours around the clock. On-demand feeding, which means feeding baby as often and for as long as they want, is what is currently recommended. This has a number of benefits, including less jaundice, less dehydration, improved blood glucose, less crying, less engorgement for mom, and a better milk supply.
#2- I used different positions.
With my first baby I read several birth and breastfeeding books and was familiar with the typical breastfeeding positions. They mostly revolve around sitting up straight and tend to give me a backache. But that's how I was supposed to breastfeed. I have since learned some positions that make it not only easier for baby, but much easier for me to rest while nursing. One is to lean back, well supported, and let baby lay tummy down on your chest. This allows baby's natural instincts to kick in and helps them open wide, as explained in this laid-back breastfeeding video. Another energy-saving position is to lie down on your side in bed. Not having to hold baby in essence gives you extra hands, which can be useful in those early days when baby is still learning. Now that I've figured out how to rest while feeding my baby I do it whenever I can!
#3- I was more relaxed.
Right after delivery there is often pressure to get baby latched on and nursing right away. But research shows that babies go through a predictable series of behaviors before actually getting any milk, and that it takes around an hour before they naturally latch on. With my first, I was very anxious when he didn't latch on immediately, and asked two different nurses for help. They gave me conflicting advice and it didn't help at all. In the following weeks I would get uptight and frustrated when he would be crying, but seemingly not realize the nipple was right there! This time around, I pulled her to my chest immediately after birth and kept her there. I didn't worry about her nursing until she started bobbing her head around searching for it herself. It was about 45 minutes before she actually latched, but we really enjoyed that time and there was no anxiety. There have been a few times, especially at night, when she doesn't latch right away, but I know now that getting frustrated is counterproductive. I can't MAKE a baby breastfeed, so I make it easy and wait for them to figure it out. I really think babies pick up on the parents' stress and it makes everything harder.
#4- I didn't allow a painful latch.
It is very common for mothers to experience sore nipples the first weeks, and this is a reason often given for stopping breastfeeding. Often, this can be avoided by making sure the baby is latching well the first few days. With my first baby I just thought pain was part of breastfeeding (because that's what my mom told me), so I gritted my teeth and suffered through painful nursing sessions. This leads to damage to the nipple that can then let bacteria in and lead to even more painful problems. I now know what a proper latch looks and feels like, so when it hurts or pinches I remove her and try again. Baby should open wide, then the nipple should be pointed toward the roof of baby's mouth. Baby should have some of the areola in their mouth, and not just the nipple. There were a few times the first week I had to stop her and be patient for her to open her mouth wide enough, but now I've realized this is probably my first baby that I've had absolutely no nipple pain. Yea!
Breastfeeding problems are not always so easily avoided or corrected, but hopefully others can learn from some of the most common basic mistakes. Count on spending lots of time getting to know your baby and forming a breastfeeding relationship those first few weeks. Getting off on the right foot and being educated can lead to a cheap, easy, and healthy way to feed your baby for years to come!