I am not a lactation consultant or any kind of breastfeeding pro by any means. I’ve only been in the breastfeeding game for about five months. However, in that short amount of time I’ve learned a lot … some through my own experiences and some through the experiences of others. Here are the best tips I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Breastfeeding is not easy.
It’s important to head into your breastfeeding journey knowing that it isn’t easy and it rarely comes as naturally to new mothers as society would lead us to believe. Also, know that it’s really common for bumps in the road to arise. My son had jaundice and really struggled with nursing those first few weeks because he was so lethargic. Maybe you’ll struggle with lip/tongue ties, supply issues, latch problems…whatever it is just know that it’s totally normal and that most issues can be worked through with the right support.
2. Speaking of support, make sure you have it.
Whether that’s a close friend you trust, your mother, or your lactation specialist. Know who that person is going to be that you can turn to for advice when it gets hard…because it will get hard.
3. Get your partner involved.
Some partners bottle-feed pumped milk or supplement formula to help out their spouse, but bottle feeding isn’t the only way your partner can help. They can bring you drinks or snacks while you nurse, they can be intentional about giving you time to nap or take and extra long shower, they can make sure all your supplies are clean and that your nursing station is always stocked, they can do skin on skin with baby … seriously, the possibilities are endless. Let them help.
4. Set up a nursing or pumping station.
Find a spot in the house where you don’t mind spending a lot of time those first few months. For me, it’s the big comfy chair in the living room. This was the best tip I got because it meant all my supplies were on hand whenever I needed them. And my husband has done a great job of keeping it stocked. Have everything you might need at your fingertips…water, snacks, diapers, wipes, chargers, remote, book, pump, haakkaa breast pump, nursing pillow, breast milk storage bags, nipple cream, burp rags…you get the point. There is nothing worse than having a sleeping baby on you and having to get up because you’re starving. You’ll be super grateful for that emergency stash of trail mix!
5. Make sure you are comfortable.
Sounds like common sense, but so often we just find a space and throw the baby on the boob. Anytime you are going to nurse (or pump), take a pause and make sure you are comfortable. Do you have the cover you need, if you use one? Do you have the right amount of privacy? Are you in a comfortable position? That one is important!
I got some great advice once about this. Make sure you are bringing the baby to you and not the other way around. So use pillows and blankets, whatever you need to get both of you in a comfortable position. Make sure you aren’t hunched over and killing your back. Also, if you need to take a five minute break, don’t hesitate to hand the baby off to your partner and step away for a few minutes to gather yourself.
Test different positions and schedules to see what works best for you and your little one. Try out different nipple creams if you don’t love the first one you get (AND GET NIPPLE CREAM). Don’t be afraid to try out a new pump or a different formula if you’re not super impressed with your first choices. There are literally thousands of products and options out there for nursing and pumping, so don’t limit yourself.
7. Ice packs!
There are special ice packs just for breastfeeding. Buy them and thank me later.
8. Remember every ounce counts.
Whether you breastfeed for 10 minutes or 10 years, you’ve given your baby a gift and that needs to be recognized and honored.
9. This isn’t forever.
That’s the good and the bad news. Yes, the beginning might be hard, but after a few weeks or months (three months for us) you will figure out what works for you. You and your babe will know each other better. You will enjoy that time staring into each other’s eyes as they wrap their fingers around yours. You will both sink into the comfortability of this special time together. You will have a routine and you will find that nursing has in fact become natural to you. That’s when you’ll realize that one day this journey will end… and it’s coming up faster than you thought it would, and that will make you sad.
10. Know when it’s the end.
It will come, maybe sooner than you want to or later, but it’ll come. It might be that your baby has made the decision to quit nursing or maybe it just doesn’t work for your lifestyle anymore or it’s causing too much pain or anxiety. Maybe you’re ending your journey because your kid is almost three years old and showing no signs of slowing.
However, and whenever it happens, find a way to be okay with it. As I said before, whether you nurse for a short period of time or for years, your journey is valid. Make the right decisions for YOU and YOUR baby. Whether that means switching to formula after a few weeks or practicing extended breastfeeding into toddlerhood. Follow your gut and follow your heart.
Breastfeeding is a journey like no other. For all the struggles we faced in the beginning, there have been just as many loving memories made along the way.
What has your breastfeeding journey been like?