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As I begin my breastfeeding journey, I figured I’d check in with you and let you know what I’m learning. While I’ve researched as much as I could about the mechanics of breastfeeding while I was pregnant, nothing could prepare me for the actual logistics. My intention is to equip you with the tips that’s helped me so far.
I set out with a goal of giving my daughter breastmilk exclusively for 6 months. I believe in the superiority of breastmilk over formula and cringe at some of the ingredients in today’s formulas. In fact, I haven’t found even one formula I like enough to keep around the house in case of emergency!
But, for my last 2 kids, I never was able to establish an exclusive supply and supplemented with formula almost immediately. Nighttime feedings were especially hard for me (this mama likes to sleep!) and I gave in way too easily! This time around, I vowed to try harder and work smarter- after all I am 8 years older and a helluva lot wiser than I was with my first daughter!
So here are some tips:
1. Buy what you need! While I generally consider myself low maintenance, I did find it helpful to invest in certain tools to help make breastfeeding life a little easier.
1. Earth’s Mama Nipple Butter for anytime I need it, especially the first 72 hours. Lanolin based creams are supposedly laden with pesticides, which I want nowhere near my baby or myself. Earths Mama is lanolin- free and works really well for sore cracked nipples.
2. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow makes having a baby hang on your boob for hours at a time just a little more manageable. It allows the baby to lie flat on it which is helpful and has back support.
3. For nighttime feedings, I outfitted my next bedroom lamp with an orange lightbulb called the Sleep Ready Light Bulb so as to not wake up any more than I have to. Standard bulbs contain’blue light’ which halts the production of melatonin making it harder to go back to sleep. I often found I was able to turn around and go back to sleep after putting the baby back in her crib after a 2am feeding.
4. My last major nursing purchase was 3 nursing bras , the best one being a comfy one with no underwire. Around my house, though, I opted for no bra.
2. Take care of your needs before feedings: Taking care of yourself is more than simply buying all the nursing accessories. It’s about taking a minute to get yourself a bottle of water, your cellphone or the remote control before you begin, EVEN if that means the baby starts crying. Maybe you need to pee before nursing or buy a season of any show to binge watch while nursing... whatever it is that you need, remember that it’s ok to keep the baby in the crib for a few minutes for your own sanity!
2. Keep Your Breastfeeding Expectations in Check
On Pinterest, there’s a photo of a lady who pumped 100 ounces and ended up donating extra milk to a milk bank. Her entire freezer was milk bags! While I’m sure her tips are great, reading these posts has done nothing but bring up feelings of inadequacy in me. After all, I am pumping no more than 2 ounces daily at this point and will hit the 100 ounce mark approximately never. My 6 month goal is lofty enough, so I cannot also be comparing myself to others. I simply will work on breastfeeding on demand and let my body do its job. And I certainly won’t be expecting to bank 100 ounces of breastmilk in the freezer! Whether it’s through Pinterest, Google searches or a friend who’s nursed her kid for 3 years, don’t bother comparing yourself to anyone else. This is YOUR journey.
3. Don’t unnecessarily eliminate food groups from your breastfeeding diet! One of the biggest hurdles to breastfeeding seems to be moms’ own dietary restrictions. Ladies are unnecessarily restricting themselves from some of their favorite foods and end up confused and agitated over what to eat. Studies show that women actually cut breastfeeding short because of this food issue. The truth is that moms can eat ALMOST ANYTHING they want! (I think caffeine and alcohol are the two big no nos unless you pump and dump). So far I’ve had greens, raw vegetables and fruit, beans and legumes without issue. I’ve even had cauliflower without causing gas in my baby. I will continue to try individual foods to see if my baby has any adverse reactions, but we should be paying less attention to what moms can’t eat and focus on reminding them to eat a full healthful diet.
4. Find some new favorite recipes that include breastfeeding superfoods. Also on the subject of food, now is a great time to add some nursing boosters to your diet. Some of my favorites include flax meal which I made muffins out of, miso which I love in soup and this eggplant recipe , beets in this immunity boosting juice and so so many soups (see here and here ).
5. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it! When my first daughter was born, I was immediately advised to supplement with formula to help her sleep a longer stretch at nighttime. I was told formula is heavier and better at the last feeding. I was also told the baby wasn’t getting enough breastmilk so without formula I was effectively starving my own daughter. Plus, I was given a TON of formula and Enfamil coupons from the hospital, where all you had to do is put a nipple top on and shake- you didn’t even have to know how to make a bottle! I caved in to all the chatter, gave bottles from the start and, because of that, my milk supply was never amazing. I chalked it up to being one of those people just not good at nursing.
Over the past 9 months I learned way more about nursing and about life, namely, never listen to anyone over my own gut. My instincts are saying that I can do this whole breastfeeding thing!
I surround myself with other nursing moms, advocates of breastfeeding and a lactation consultant. When my daughter was latching horribly at first, and we learned she has several barriers to effective nursing, (shallow gape, high palette, short frenulum to be exact) I powered through. When I came down with 104 fever because of mastitis (due to her tongue tie and other problems), I continued nursing. (I also cured myself without the use of antibiotics, but that is a story for a different day). Andthis is all before my baby was 2 weeks old!!
To me, effective nursing is about consistency, nursing 8-10 times a day every day when your baby is a newborn. It’s about slowing down your day to a halt to make sure ever 2- 2 1/2 hours Baby is eating. Because of my love of sleeping, I nurse extra during the day and my baby currently sleeps 5-6 hours at night. I am aware of how lucky I am that she was born knowing day from night! I will monitor her weight gain at doctor appointments to ensure she is eating adequately. If her pediatrician says she is growing well and gaining weight, I won’t double guess my milk supply.
One last thing- My daughter has been known to cry after a feeding, which made me nervous that she was still hungry and not getting enough. Instead of panicking, I just leave her on extra time. Maybe she’s having a growth spurt or feels like cluster feeding before bed. I don’t overthink things, just follow her cues.
I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite breastfeeding tips! Drop me a line through the blog or Instagram and I will put it up on my Instagram stories for others to learn!