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Let’s be real; breastfeeding is HARD! Breastfeeding is even harder as a first-time mom because honestly, you don’t have a clue as to what you are doing or what you are supposed to be doing. Yes, there are all these resources available out there to tell you what to do. However, when the time comes to actually do the breastfeeding thing, it can prove to be challenging. I consider myself a studious person who has always had a plan for everything in my life (even when the plan doesn’t actually go according to MY plan). But breastfeeding… that had my life on a whole other level!
Recently, I celebrated the fact that I finished my breastfeeding journey with my son. He is now 15 months old and let me tell you, I did not envision this day coming. Because we had a rocky start to our breastfeeding journey, I thought for sure that we would not make it to the recommended year mark. Now that this chapter has closed, I wanted to take the time to share some actual real life tips about breastfeeding that I think other moms could benefit from reading. I would like to reiterate that these tips are based solely on MY experiences and are not to be used in lieu of medical professionals’ advice. Every mom is different! Some things might work for you while others may not.
1. Be Realistic
You will hear or read from other sources that breastfeeding is recommended until your baby is at least six months old, but it is highly recommended to breastfeed up to baby’s first birthday. With that in mind, I know many moms want to do what is best for their baby and this recommendation could put added stress onto moms that is not needed. For myself, my long term goal was to make it to my son’s first birthday. In reality, I had a ton of other things going on:
- Learning to be a mom
- Recovering from birthing a human
- Ragging hormones
- Trying to figure out this new phase in life
All this pressure was enough for this new mama and I didn’t need to feel pressured by anything or anyone else. As a result, I gave myself some grace when it came to breastfeeding.
My first goal was to make it to two months of breastfeeding. Once that goal was met, then I made another goal to make it to four months, and then six months. I continued this revision of my goal every two months up until my son’s first birthday. The reason for this was to lessen the strain that breastfeeding can put on a mom (new or veteran). A goal that can be met within two months is more inspiring to attain than a goal that can be met in 12 months. Seeing that I could meet my goal a little bit at a time gave me the confidence and the encouragement to keep going. I let myself have those small victories along the way. Every mom is different! You do what you think is best for you and your baby.
2. Water is LIFE
I don’t think anyone can truly understand how thirsty you will become while breastfeeding until you’ve done it yourself. You literally have a human sucking nutrients from your body and you have to re-hydrate in order to produce more and to keep yourself healthy as well. When you think you’ve had enough water, DRINK MORE!
3. Nursing Camisoles are Worth the Investment
I’ve seen quite a few memes that find humor in the dressing process of a breastfeeding mom. For real though, your mind contemplates how easily accessible your boobs will be in each outfit before you make a decision on what to actually wear. By the time you’ve figured out how to nurse your baby without exposing yourself in that cute shirt, you’re over it!
My best friends through my breastfeeding journey were my nursing camisoles! One easy click to release a boob and then put it away in one simple motion made life a little easier. Before having nursing camisoles, it was difficult to maneuver my shirt in a way that allowed me to see my baby while still being modest. Nursing camisoles are available in many colors and patterns which makes it easier to wear out, dress them up a bit, or just wear them for comfort around the house and to bed. I lived in my nursing camisoles for an embarrassingly long amount of time.
4. Breast Milk Supply
So this is a tricky topic because every mom is different, therefore every body produces differently. In my experience, I was informed by my discharge nurse to expect my milk supply to come in around three to five days after birth. For me, I had a vaginal delivery with no complications and I did have an epidural. I share this information because a woman’s labor and delivery can change the outcome of when you should expect your supply. And right on schedule for me on day three after birth, BOOM; massive, leaky, painful boobs.
Because your body doesn’t quite know what to do yet with this new stuff, your breast milk is very unregulated and just producing at uncontrollable levels. This could mean you are over producing or under producing; it doesn’t matter which side of the spectrum you are on at this point. What does matter is listening to the cues of your baby. The newborn stage is a TOUGH road when the baby is constantly feeding. You can expect some levels of discomfort because most likely, you’ve never had something constantly sucking on your boobs before. In order to regulate your supply, your body has to know when to produce and how much to produce. This is done by allowing your baby to nurse on demand. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship; the more your baby demands, the more your body will supply.
Another thing to consider in order to increase your supply is to pump between nursing sessions. Again, every mom is different. You will find some sources that say not to introduce the pump until ‘X’ amount of weeks while other sources tell you to start pumping right away. Do what is best for you!
For us, I began pumping four days postpartum. This decision was based on the need to increase my baby’s weight. He had lost a dangerous amount of weight after birth. His pediatrician recommended that I breastfeed and then pump right after. This meant that he could have another couple of ounces from a bottle after each feeding, which brought his weight back up. I continued pumping for months after and ended up creating a freezer stash of breast milk!
6. Forgive Yourself
We are not perfect, no matter how hard we try. In a perfect world, breastfeeding wouldn’t be so hard, we wouldn’t need to spend money on other sources of nutrients, and there would be no stigma against breastfeeding in public. Unfortunately, that isn’t the world we live in. Breastfeeding is a marathon you haven’t been able to train for and the sleepless nights ahead will mess with your mind and your emotions. IT IS OKAY TO HAVE FEELINGS! It is okay to admit that it is hard, to decide if breastfeeding is not for you, or to make decisions to keep your sanity.
I have been in a state of desperation where all I wanted was two hours of uninterrupted sleep when my son was four weeks old. So, I gave him a two ounce bottle of formula that I had on hand. I felt so guilty the next morning after doing it and I cried over it for far too long. I didn’t hurt my son by giving him formula. However, all the pressure that is put on breastfeeding made me feel like I had failed him. Motherhood is hard enough as it is; feeding your baby shouldn’t have to be such an emotional task.
Now that my breastfeeding journey has ended…
Since I am no longer breastfeeding, I wanted to share my journey with others and hope to have an impact on someone’s life. If you’re a mom like me who searched all kinds of breastfeeding related questions at all hours of the night hoping for some magical answers, I hope that my post gives you some hope that things will get better! Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience and I do miss that precious time with my son. I look forward to trying to breastfeed again if we have more children in our future. Next time, I won’t be so hard on myself. Becoming ‘Mommy’ has been the sweetest gift I could have ever asked for in this life. You’ve got this, Mama!