Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby. It is so intimate and bonding, and I am truly privileged to have been graced with the ability to breastfeed. I know so many people who just couldn’t and really hurt because of that.
That being said, it’s freaking HARD.
The possible infections, chapped and bleeding nipples or the fear of “is my baby getting enough”. There’s the constant attachment to a baby who nurses almost nonstop, the physical and emotional burden that is put on you by being their sole source of nourishment or the wardrobe malfunctions that come with leaky breasts. NOT TO MENTION the “damned if you do damned if you don’t” from people who think for some reason that because they are a person who exists in the universe they have some god given right to comment on your breastfeeding.
If you go into breastfeeding acknowledging how difficult it could be, you are either going to be pleasantly surprised that it was easier than you thought, or its going to be exactly what you expected. Either way, keeping a realistic outlook will help you navigate through the first month.
“Once I get through this, it will be way easier than a bottle.”
That is what I kept reminding myself when I felt like giving up, and it’s VERY true. Waking up, mixing a bottle and cleaning out little parts of a bottle at 2 am is hard. It’s harder to do that full time then to struggle through breastfeeding for a month or two.
OBVIOUSLY there are health benefits; breast milk is the perfect food for your baby! However when I encourage people to continue breastfeeding, I stay far away from that. Everyone knows that, at this point it’s like DUH. If their doctor hasn’t told them then some other concerned citizen has, we don’t have to beat people over the heads with that information. One thing I will say to those people is my only child who wasn’t breastfed is my oldest, and she is the healthiest out of all of my kids.
So if you want to breastfeed, here is my advice to you.
1) Be careful who you confide in.
I am very fortunate to have friends that are supportive of me and REAL. I remember texting one of my breastfeeding friends saying “this sucks!!” and she was like “I know, freaking kids man!” BUT then you get your extremes. There are people who take your vulnerability as a chance to kick you when you’re down, and there are people who think breastfeeding is weird and will encourage you to stop. Find your village, and stick with them. I think it’s important to listen to mothers and remember that even though you are struggling you aren’t necessarily giving up-you just need to get it out. village, and stick with them.
2) Breastfeed with intent.
Your intent is to breast feed, focus on that and that alone. Don’t worry about apps, logging which side you fed on last, pumping or trying to get your supply up. Your body will create everything you need for your baby, and women have been doing this for generations. You will be ok!
3) The pain goes away.
In the beginning my nipples cracked, bled, and I cried. No one told me it would be painful. If you plan on breastfeeding, you need to push through that pain and keep your eye on the prize. Eventually this will be easier. I bled and cracked so bad with my daughter, cracked a little with my middle child and had no pain at all with my youngest. Every baby is different, and our bodies react differently all the time. Like I said before, expect the worst and hope for the best.
4) Don’t go into this with expectations of your baby.
They are not a lazy feeder, their exhausted from delivery. They’re not stubborn, just learning how to latch and is doing what she thinks will work. It’s a really tough road at first, and just remember that your baby has also never done this before; compassion helps so much.
5) Get your spouse on board.
If you take a breastfeeding class, make sure your partner goes with you. Having a supportive spouse is huge in breastfeeding! I gave up on breastfeeding my oldest and I know it was because I lacked a good support system in my relationship. It was amazing to me how motivated I was to breastfeed my oldest son even though I had never really been a huge breastfeeding advocate. It was completely because with my husband’s support I truly felt like I could do anything.
6) Do not supplement the first few days.
Feed and feed and feed some more. This is a hard one for me to advocate for too much because I have BEEN THERE. You are tired, you have bottles and formula and all you want is a hot shower. If you are at that point, just do whatever will make this experience better for you. For me this is more of a personal rule. I just believe for myself that if I exclusively breastfed while baby and I were both learning how it gave us a better chance of continuing. However, I know MANY people who gave their baby one bottle every night before bed so they could take a shower and the baby would sleep for a few hours and went on to breastfeed without any issues. I do not judge that at all-like I said this was my “me” rule. You do you boo.
Don’t be afraid to supplement after the first few days (me rule, again. Supplement in the first few days if you want! This is YOUR baby!). Once you feel like you have your bearings, it’s OK to give dad the baby and a bottle and go take a hot bath. Technically, that should be the law. It should be a punishable offence to NOT do that. I am huge on keeping the pump locked up for the first month after you have your baby, but some women swear by it. If you end up pumping and have enough for your husband to take over a feeding let him!
8) Create a sacred space.
I think it is worth it towards the end of your pregnancy to create a calm, relaxing place that is quiet and out of the way. Add a well-stocked snack drawer and a good quality rocking chair and you are set. I gave up breastfeeding with my daughter, and I got close with my oldest son. Having a dedicated space for breastfeeding in the early stages was such a stress reliever for me this time. Especially with my older kids! I just popped some cartoons on in my room or opened a puzzle on my bad and they lounged around on my bed while I fed their brother. We all got to be together and comfortable and that is really the key. That and hydration. Lots of water. You want your pee to basically be clear.
9) Sleep at night.
I am sorry I am so against pumping at night. The websites say “make sure you pump in the early morning and at night because that is when the milk is highest in fat and your baby usually nurses less during this time” but…when are we supposed to sleep?? If you are like me and you have other children, you don’t have the luxury of “sleeping when they sleep”. You sleep at night. I have NEVER woken up to pump or woken my baby to feed. HELL NO.
10) Don’t be afraid to stop.
You don’t owe anyone anything. Formula will NOT kill your baby. If you are finding that breastfeeding isn’t for you, stop without shame or guilt. I tell everyone to give it a try, why not? But if it isn’t for you there are plenty of very good other options. It’s important to remember that your mental health is also key in taking care of a baby. You can give him or her all the breastmilk in the world but if you aren’t happy they sense that. Take care of yourself; you just had a freakin’ BABY.
So I am not a Doctor, and this is not meant to give anyone medical advice. My children were relatively healthy, full-term babies. They didn’t need any extra calories, my milk came in within a few days and I never had any experience with tongue tie. If your pediatrician has given you different directions then you should listen to them!
Comment bellow with any tips that you might have for other mothers! It takes a village!