10 tips to make breastfeeding work (or not) !

Breastfeeding was a challenging, tough and long journey for me.  In fact, it is still a struggle three months in with baby number two!  Like many other mommies, I had a host of complications.  I tried and used nipple shields, breast shields, latch assists, creams, ointments and pads.  I felt like I had a tougher time than anyone else.  But, don’t be fooled: although there are some moms and babies who breastfeed easier than others, more often than not, it takes time and patience.  

In some experiences similar to mine, successful breastfeeding takes professional assistance.  Breastfeeding is about giving your baby what S/HE needs when S/HE needs it and if YOU have always been #1 in your own life, that means making some major life changes! Breastfeeding can seem “inconvenient” and even painful sometimes, but the struggle passes and once baby has moved onto formula or solids, a little part of you will know that you gave your child the best nourishment he could get and you will miss the bonding moments. Words truly cannot describe the incredible and personal experience of breastfeeding, hurdles and all.  

The first few weeks can be a struggle: latching, chapping, low milk supply and sleep deprivation all contribute to frustration – for both Mom and Baby! As the nurse told me at the hospital: you are just getting to know each other. Hang in there, because once you master the latch and feed, your body releases endorphins and chemicals to your brain, which stimulates a sense of euphoria you’ve never experienced before.   And you know what? If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you and Baby — like it didn’t for me with my first — you know you did what was best for you and for your child.  As long as you focus on the health of you and your baby, there are no “rights” or “wrongs”. We are all figuring it out as we go!

However, my point of writing this particular post is to encourage those of you who want to breastfeed and if your journey is similar to mine, to keep trying! I want to share with you the best pieces of advice I received along the way. It helped me stop breastfeeding the right way with baby boy one when it wasn’t working to nourish him and then also helped keep me breastfeeding with baby two when it was super painful and he and I were both frustrated!

1- Ask for a lactation consultant (LC) and a pump in the hospital. Even if you think everything is working okay, and you are the “Latching Queen”, speak to an on-staff LC! Breastfeeding is so much more than attaching baby to your nipple, and LCs have seen a lot more babies and a lot more breasts than you have! They have so much advice and tips – ASK! Also, ask for a hospital pump as soon as you are in your room with baby and have them show you how to use it. Yes, when baby arrives, you have a lot on your mind, but add this to your list, and tell your nurse to bring a pump to your room.  Pumping immediately after birth helps bring in your milk supply faster because the sucking sensation (pump or baby) on your nipple signals your body to produce and release milk.   

Once you are home, if you feel like there is something wrong, there are some fantastic lactation consultants, midwives and doulas who come come to your house. With my first son, I struggled and saw consultants at the pediatrician’s office. With my second son, I hired a consultant to come to my house.  At my home, I was in my comfort zone, and she watched me feed the baby.  She weighed him before and after the feeding to see how much milk he actually took in (which is good to know because when you are breastfeeding, it is natural to wonder if he is getting enough!) Within 10 minutes, this consultant knew my second son had a tongue-tie, which explained why I was in so much pain: he couldn’t latch on properly! If I didn’t seek professional assistance, I may have given up. The LC found a very simple solution and I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out on my own! Thankfully for her, she helped us continue breastfeeding.

2- Never quit on your worst day.  Even if you want to quit on day one, don’t. Remember: your hormones are going haywire and you are especially emotional, sensitive, tired and edgy, so do not give up in the early weeks! This was sage advice because your worst day is usually one day before your most bonding and best day.

3- Sometimes breastfeeding is an inconvenience.  When you have a rotating door of visitors or you actually ventured out with baby, or you are trying to get out the door to an appointment and running late, the last thing you want to do is undress from the waist up, get comfy and hold a wiggly baby to your boob.  The advice I received when this happens? SLOW DOWN, MOM.  Everything else can wait. This is your time to literally feed and nourish your child!  You are helping develop who this child and nurture his health. Slow down, go into a room, and give him your entire focus. If you are out and the only option is sitting in a bathroom stall to breastfeed, go to your back seat of the car, get comfy and just relax and breastfeed. Sometimes, I used this time to catch up on emails, scroll social media or browse online shopping with my free hand!  

(Nordstrom has awesome family lounges and most stores will let you use their dressing rooms)

4- Nipple shields are amazing! The things we learn … Nipple shields are small plastic discs that cover and help shape your nipple so baby can latch easier. My copy editor, Julie, actually advised me to put breast milk ON the tip of the shield before inserting into baby’s mouth so he doesn’t have to taste the plastic and it will help him latch, as well.  Use these every other feed or so as they help give your nipples a chance to heal, while also helping them adapt to a proper shape.  I didn’t know about nipple shields until much later after my first son and when I was in pain or sore I would cut him off from milk too early for the sake of my own pain.  With the shields, there is very little pain, and it’s more of a tenderness while your nipples adjust to being sucked on for hours and hours. You can get them here.

5- Triple Nipple ointment.  This ointment helps to heal cracked or sore nipples. You slather it on after every other feeding. The type I recommend requires a doctor prescription, and you can definitely ask your pediatrician for more information! It is a combination of an anti-fungal, steroid and an antibiotic ointment. Many of my friends swear by Lansinoh, which is available on Amazon, or at a pharmacy. It will help you from getting any infections and it feels good too! My favorite cream was the one they gave us in the hospital called Lan-O-Soothe and I ordered it from Amazon. Remember, you will have a baby pulling and tugging on some very sensitive parts of your body – take care of them and find what’s best for you!

6- Pump pump pump.  The first few weeks after delivery, you are at home most of the time recovering with a baby who should take 5-6 wonderful naps during the day!  Take advantage of this precious and rare time to boost your supply and pump a few minutes after some of the feeds. And do so especially when visitors are around – they can help with laundry and dishes while you rest and pump!  You can pump for 5 minutes or 20 minutes, but trust me: you will be happy once life gets crazy and you have a stored milk stash! A good rule of thumb is to add a pump session for each bottle you give baby. After a few weeks with each of my boys, I pumped before bed and after their 6 AM feed. This gave me the ability to give him a bottle when he was cluster-feeding and I couldn’t take anymore.  

Which brings me to the craziness that is “Cluster Feeding”: Babies tell your body how much milk to produce, so sometimes as they are growing, they need more milk and they will feed more often.  And by more often, I mean ALL day and night with no breaks! The feeding doesn’t stop!  Have friends, family, and Daddy use bottles of stored milk during cluster feeding days so you can take a break … and a shower. For pump suggestions, see my TOP 10 BABY REGISTRY LIST.

7- Don’t waste your Milk! We call it “liquid gold” and I can’t agree more – it’s far too precious to waste. Your breast milk can sit out AND can go back into the refrigerator if baby doesn’t finish the bottle. Most mother’s milk can last, and while you will find various answers to how long it can stay useful, I tend to go by something I call the “3-6-9 rule”.  Breast milk can sit out on nightstand or counter for 3 (to 6) hours at room temperature, 6 days in the refrigerator, or 6 months in a regular freezer and 9 (to 12) months in a deep freeze freezer. You’ll read and hear alternating time frames, but that’s more or less average. 

8- Relax.  Truthfully, I hate when people tell me “to relax”, but in this case, I accept! Take the time you need to relax with baby at home, and that can mean hand over baby to someone with a bottle and you get a short break.  But most importantly — relax.  When you stress, your milk supply drops and baby also stresses.  If the latch isn’t working, or your boob is hurting, give baby the first part of the feed from the bottle, calm yourself down, and when he isn’t starved for food and upset, try again.  

9- Stay healthy and hydrate. If you are breastfeeding, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself, too! What you eat goes to baby, and breastfeeding burns a lot of calories. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet and drinking A LOT of water, your baby isn’t either. Get a fun water bottle that you enjoy using and keep it full all day. Make sure you are eating healthy food full of vitamins and iron, but most importantly just eat. Be sure to enjoy a little treat or two yourself – you deserve a cookie, Mom!  

10- Give in.  Our bodies make milk (or don’t) our bodies give birth (or don’t). Being a mom means doing what is best for your child to thrive and survive.  So if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you or your baby, then get something to supplement. You can do both, too! Whatever it is going to be, baby will get food and nourishment and it’s your responsibility to make the right decisions.

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