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6 Essential Tips for Breastfeeding Success
As I prepared for the birth of my first child, I was bound and determined to breastfeed. I read everything I could and I just knew that I would avoid all the trouble that others had.
Boy, was I wrong. Even amid 22 hours or labor and an emergency c-section, the greatest challenge I encountered was trying to breastfeed my baby. Six weeks of tears and bleeding nipples followed before the pain stopped.
Had I not been so intensely stubborn, I would have started to use formula. But I just couldn’t give up.
At one point of intense middle-of-the-night delirium, my husband actually begged me to stop. It was miserable. How could something so natural be so insanely hard?!?
But when I had my second child the following year, I was determined to escape the weeks of misery. And I did. I went on to successfully nurse 3 more babies (for a total of 3.5 years and counting).
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be as awful as it was for me those first 6 week. In fact, it absolutely shouldn’t be.
Learn from my mistakes and set yourself up for breastfeeding success as early as you possibly can. It will help eliminate a lot of the frustration and increase your chances of nursing as long as you desire. 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, and stock up on diapers.
But how can you really prepare to breastfeed a brand new baby? What can you do to set yourself up for success? Here are my best tips after breastfeeding 4 children:
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. I didn’t bring it until my 4th baby. (I may be a slow learner.)
But the minute your sweetie is born, you’re going to start nursing. And you want to be surrounded by the tools you need.
2.) Ask for LOTS of help
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. When ANYTHING pops up, ask for help.
If you feel that the lactation consultant isn’t helpful, get another one or find a nurse who is helpful. Many nurses are absolute treasure troves of breastfeeding knowledge!
With my first baby, I asked for the lactation to come to my hospital room. She made me feel stupid, so even though I was struggling, I didn’t want to ask her back. And then I struggled for the next 6 weeks looking every video and tutorial I could find to no avail.
With any number 2, I had an amazing nurse (the daughter of a lactation consultant) who was uh-mazing. She was so helpful and patient and taught me so many little tricks. She’d pop in during every shift (even when she wasn’t assigned to me). I experienced no pain nursing any #2!
On baby #3, I struggled again. Little did I know, she had a serious tongue tie. But again, I asked for help. And the lactation consultant sent to my room didn’t help. So I asked for another, who ended up being the mother of my old nurse!
So even with the tongue-tie, with the help of a great lactation consultant, I figured it out.
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.
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.
And once you learn the ropes, be sure that you then help someone else as they learn to breastfeed.
4.) Don’t stress out about a little formula supplementation.
I’m going to take flak for this, but it’s true. A little formula will not derail your breastfeeding endeavors.
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!). A few ounces of formula isn’t going to be the end of the world.
However, 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. I didn’t get breastfeeding clothes til baby number 4 and it was a different world. Breastfeeding was sooooo much easier. For more on breastfeeding clothes, check out my guide here.
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.
When I had extremely sore nipple, pumping gave them a break while still getting milk to my baby.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, but plan to be able to leave your child for a couple of hours, a single pump will do the job. 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, the Medela Pump in Style is awesome.
I’ve cooked dinners, graded papers, and even done squats–all while pumping. You wear a pumping bra 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.
Remember, 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.