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6 Essential Tips for Breastfeeding Success
Breastfeeding is hard. Magical, beautiful, bonding, and–for many moms, including myself–really, really hard when first starting out. In fact, only about 60% of moms who start breastfeeding actually continue for 6 months or more. Many moms want to continue, but it becomes overwhelming. While you should expect some difficulty at the start, setting yourself up for breastfeeding success as early as you possibly can will help eliminate a lot of the frustration and increase your chances of nursing as long as you want to with both you and your baby reaping the benefits.
But the tricky thing about breastfeeding is it’s not something you can really practice until game day. You can decorate a nursery, buy all the baby clothes, stock up on diapers, and even practice soothing and diapering other babies. But how can you really prepare to breastfeed a brand new baby? What can you do to set yourself up for success? You can watch a million videos about the correct latch (and you should--here’s a great one), but until you are with your brand-new baby, it will be minimally helpful.
Honestly, breastfeeding my 4 children has been one of the sweetest, most rewarding, bonding experiences of motherhood. But it was the absolute hardest thing that I experienced as a new mom–more difficult than 24 hours of hospital labor followed by an emergency c-section.
After well over 3 years combined of nursing (including nursing a baby with an undetected tongue tie), here is what I wish I knew from the start:
Here’s my Top 6 Essential Tips for Breastfeeding Success
1.) Bring your nursing pillow to the hospital/birthing center.
This may seem obvious, but in the rush to get to the hospital, many moms don’t think about the nursing pillow. I certainly didn’t. But when you baby is first born, the nurses are going to immediately help you start nursing. This is the beginning of your relationship with nursing and you will be surrounded by help.
You want to be surrounded by the tools you need.
If you have your nursing pillow with you, they can help you figure out exactly how you can use it instead of starting when you get home and are in a bewildered daze wondering why they even let you leave the hospital with this new baby. Note: Make sure you buy at least 1 waterproof protective cover for the pillow AND your normal covers.
2.) Use the lactation consultant at the hospital/birthing center.
If you are afraid to ask for help, you need to get over that right now. Use the lactation consultant and all the nurses to ask question after question, and get as much latching help from the get-go. If you feel that the lactation consultant isn’t helpful, get another one if available or find a nurse who is helpful. Many nurses are absolute treasure troves of breastfeeding knowledge!
3.) Have a support system in place.
This is one of the most overlooked resources in this world of do-it-yourselfers, but is probably THE most important key to success. I’ve seen some advice given to hire a lactation consultant before you even have the baby.
But who can afford that!?!
For thousands and thousands of years, people successfully breastfed without having to hire in-home help. What people have had, historically, is a knowledgeable breastfeeding support system. There is a good chance you have experienced breastfeeders in your circle somewhere.
I highly encourage you to read this article about research done in communities with high breastfeeding success rates. Women around the world have the same struggles, but the most successful breastfeeding societies have strong breastfeeding support systems.
Consider asking relatives, friends, or close neighbors if they’d be willing to help once the baby comes. The vast majority of experienced breastfeeders would be downright thrilled to help you out. Heck, email me if you need help! If you are feeling modest, I’m telling you–after labor, you won’t care who sees your ta-tas.
4.) Don’t stress out about a little formula supplementation.
If you’ve done much breastfeeding research, you’ve probably heard that supplementing with formula will affect your supply. And it certainly will–if you do it regularly. But let’s say you are in so much pain from a bad latch and are basically delirious from pain and lack of sleep (been there!). One bottle of formula isn’t going to be the end of the world. But it may give you the chance to get sleep, give your nipples a break, and try again a bit later with a little more sanity at your disposal. You can have breastfeeding success with a little formula.
5.) Buy nursing clothes.
Perhaps you’ve already looked, but they seemed pricey. It’s worth it, trust me. You’ll thank me later when you can breastfeed discretely and with ease in a public place as opposed to pulling your dress over your head in a nasty public bathroom stall or your car. I cannot tell you how much this completely changed my breastfeeding experience. This makes breastfeeding so much more convenient. Remember, it’s all about removing obstacles to breastfeeding success.
With my first 3 kids, I relied on deep-v t-shirts, button up tops, and nursing bras to pop ’em out easily, but it got tricky when I needed to wear something less casual. For my 4th child, however, I decided to invest in some actual nursing clothes and I cannot believe how much easier it is. Nursing clothes make nursing quick and discreet since usually the top of your breast is covered . My children never tolerated nursing covers, so I felt so much more comfortable nursing in public spaces in nursing clothes without giving anyone a show. This Undercover Mama dress is my absolute favorite. Super comfy and it snaps right into your bra so it is so insanely convenient to quickly nurse anywhere.
6.) Get a suitable pump.
Not everyone needs a pump, but you don’t need to be a working mom to find incredible value in a good pump. If you are a stay-at-home mom, but plan to be able to leave your child for a couple of hours, the medela swing is perfect. I loved it until I started working part-time. If you plan on working or being away for 3 or more hours regularly, or you are not comfortable breastfeeding in public and want to bring bottles, I cannot rave enough about the Medela Pump on the Go. I’ve cooked dinners, graded papers, and even done squats all while pumping. You wear a pumping bra (I like this one) and can pump both sides, hands-free. It’s awesome! I feel like if I had gotten a double pump with my 1st two kids (I didn’t get it until #3) I would have been able to nurse them longer.
And Above All: Be kind to yourself, mama.
Breastfeeding is not a stick to measure yourself up to anyone else. Your mental and physical health is the most important thing you can offer your new baby, not breastmilk. Do the best you can, and love yourself. You created human life. That’s pretty amazing, mama.
I wish you great breastfeeding success! May the milk freely flow and the nipples be pain free.