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It was such a happy time in a mine and my husband’s lives when we found out that our family was growing. To be honest, it was also a little frightening. When you find out that you are expecting, all sorts of worry and decisions cross your mind seemingly at once. How are you going to announce your news? What kind of crib do you want? Or a bassinet instead? Disposable or cloth diapers? Plastic or glass bottles? Breastfeed or formula? All of these decisions need to be made by the time your baby enters this world and while it seems like 40 weeks is a long time to have to make decisions, the finish line actually approaches faster than you think. An extremely controversial topic is the decision on how to feed your baby. In my case, I chose to breastfeed our son and am thankful that I was able to do it. There are a few things to know about breastfeeding: it is HARD, it is exhausting, and it is beautiful.
Breastfeeding is this natural process that your body goes through to nurture the life that you just gave birth to. With the term “natural,” you would think that it would be easy. For me, this was not the case. Being a first time mom, I genuinely had no clue how to do it regardless of all the research I did reading books, watching videos, taking classes, and talking with other nursing moms. You have all this information in your mind, but when it comes down to it, your breastfeeding journey will depend on your body and your baby. Each mom is different and each baby is different.
When my son was born, he had a difficult time latching. Babies have to also learn how to latch and withdraw and there’s only so much you can do to help. By my son’s third day of life at his newborn pediatric appointment, he had lost a dangerous amount of his birth weight and I felt so discouraged that I wouldn’t be able to continue our journey.
By the time your milk supply comes in (2-5 days after giving birth), you are basically a 24/7 diner. Your newborn’s stomach is very small, therefore, they can’t eat a lot at once and will need to eat frequently. This is especially rough on mom because you’re recovering from having just given birth, your body is sore, and now your boobs are engorged, leaky, and being put to work by this little being. You will be on demand for the foreseeable future. It can take months for a baby to become proficient at withdrawing milk as they grow and learn about themselves and how much their body requires.
Due to my own experience with breastfeeding, I have developed some breastfeeding tips that worked wonders for me that I hope will be helpful to others who are searching for suggestions!
1. Nipple shield
Because my son had a difficult time latching, one of the nurses on duty the morning he was born recommended to use a nipple shield. It helped him significantly to get a good latch and we had success using the shield until he was about four months old. There are some mothers out there who say their supply suffered due to using a shield with their child, but I’m just offering a different perspective that it worked for us and I would recommend using it if needed.
2. Set a goal
There is SO much pressure on moms these days by society and pressure that we put on ourselves. You’re constantly hearing “breast is best” and you have the desire to want to follow this by being able to breastfeed your child. But it’s not for everyone- don’t beat yourself up! For myself, I set a goal on how long I would breastfeed and if I made it to my goal, I would reassess. My first goal was to breastfeed for two months and once I met that goal, I decided to try to go to six months. I made it to six months and I am now aiming for 10 months. It’s already hard enough to figure out this mom-ing thing so be realistic with your expectations and do what is best for you and your little one.
Once my supply came in, I struggled a little with keeping up with my son’s demand. It seemed like he wasn’t satisfied for long after feedings so I decided to try out Fenugreek because my son’s pediatrician recommended it to me. (Make sure you run this by your doctor before using to ensure it is safe for you to consume). Fenugreek is a natural supplement that you take a couple of times a day and it helped increase my supply immensely. The only drawback was that it makes you smell like maple syrup (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did catch me off guard). The are other lactation supplements out there too if Fenugreek isn’t something that works for you.
I have a love/hate relationship with my pump. I’m grateful that it has helped me maintain my supply and gave me a gnarly freezer stash to pull from when needed. But I am ready for the day when I don’t have to use it anymore. I recommend pumping to increase your supply as well as maintain it so that you can get those extra ounces to save for a rainy day. I also liked that I could pump and let my husband bottle feed our son at night so that he also had bonding time with the baby. If you don’t have to pump to increase your supply or to get a freezer stash going, then by all means enjoy the extra time on your hands!
5. Eat and drink water
I read somewhere that a nursing mom’s appetite trumps a pregnant woman’s appetite and I’m hear to say that this is so true! I’ve never eaten so much in my life until I started breastfeeding. You’re constantly hungry because you’re burning so many calories by producing and feeding your baby. Keep snacks handy and lots and lots of water. You’d be surprised at how thirsty you become after feedings. I always joke that I feel like a piece of beef jerky after feedings and need to rehydrate!
6. Nursing camisoles are a game changer
There is a lot of talk about buying the right nursing bra to have ready to go to make yourself more easily accessible to baby. While the nursing bras are great, nursing camisoles are amazing! They are a legitimate camisole that come in different colors and styles so you can wear them around the house or when you’re out and about. These things really make you accessible when it comes to feedings and you’re not having to fight with a shirt and bra ensemble while your baby screams of starvation.
7. Don’t be afraid to nurse in public
Nursing in public is definitely a hot topic and because of all the scrutiny mothers receive, I shut myself indoors for months with my son. I was afraid to nurse in public for fear of a confrontation from someone and it made me resent my choice to breastfeed. I went stir crazy being cooped up. I eventually got past my insecurities and ventured out which made me and baby happy to be back in civilization. Don’t be afraid to venture out while nursing!
8. Don’t pay attention to what other people think
Along with nursing in public, don’t pay any mind to others. You are nursing your baby because it’s your choice to do so. Anybody else who disagrees with your decision can keep their opinions to themselves. And if they don’t keep their opinions to themselves, don’t be afraid to continue doing you. It’s none of their business. “You do you, boo boo!”????
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Like I’ve previously stated, breastfeeding is hard. It takes time, lots of energy, tears upon tears, and words of encouragement to get it going smoothly. Just know that if it is what you want to do, you have to stick with it through the challenges. If the challenges become too great to handle, your sanity is more important and knowing that you tried your best is the greatest praise. In my experience, my son and I got a good rhythm going when he was roughly four months old. It was a LONG four months but we did it. Babies become more proficient as they get older so be patient; it’ll all work out beautifully.
10. Cherish the time you have nursing your little one
Breastfeeding is a journey that has an end and when you’re in the thick of it, you often wonder if it’ll ever end (I’ve been there)! But as time passes and your baby gets bigger, you slowly realize that each day brings you closer to the end. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing to nurture a human being that you spent months growing inside your body then birthed. A women’s body is an incredible thing! Don’t take it for granted and enjoy your journey as much as possible!
What are some other tips you have for breastfeeding? Let me know in the comments!