As expectant moms, we put a tremendous amount of work in the preparation of all things motherhood. We work on nurseries, birth plans, prenatal and postnatal care and picking out the cutest outfits for our bumps and our little ones. The hardest, most anguishing decisions I’ve made had to do with simply feeding my newborn. There is no absolute in breastfeeding. Every birth, latch, and circumstance is different. What works with your first child, will very well probably not work with your future children.
Making the commitment to breastfeed, while rewarding and life-changing, is a roller-coaster in experiences and emotions. As a new mom, I had no idea the challenges ahead of me, or the way I would feel about my body providing life for the tiny being that viewed me as their new 24-hour buffet.
Fast forward seven years, and I have just recently weaned my second child, my “baby” boy at four years old. Along this journey, I have spent an immense amount of time speaking with other mamas going through it as well, a sisterhood that has been there for advice. Below I have compiled, as much as this mommy brain can remember, my tips and advice to help you have a successful breastfeeding experience.
It can hurt like HELL
Pain is an understatement when it comes to those early days and weeks of breastfeeding. Milk coming in and letdowns make you feel like you are in labor again. Yet, you aren’t and your nipples are on fire as well. There are many conditions and adjustments that will alleviate this pain, most of which start with helping get the correct latch and position that is best for you. I promise, this immediate pain will also ease as your baby gets bigger and you heal from birth.
Take ALL the time you need
With my first, she was so small that her latch and sucking ability were affected and it was like trying to fill up a gallon bucket with a faucet drip. I read all the advice on how to give them both sides during a feeding, with a burp in between, that I was misguided into stressing over it instead of letting her do her own thing on her own schedule. We both had to just lay there in the best position for the time it took and that was that. Learning how to slow down and sit on the most comfy chair all day with my boppy pillow rather than feed her for a specific amount of time every few hours was hard at first but then it became our time and it was cherished.
Call on your support system STAT
Family, friends and specialists were there to support the highs and lows of breastfeeding, from a personal and critical standpoint. My husband would bring me water and rub my shoulders so that they wouldn’t cramp while hunched over getting the right latch. My friends would answer my crazy middle of the night texts about nipple cream and spit up. A lactation consultant kept me from giving up about a month in because I could not get my first off of a nipple shield. There are many online resources and groups that can be that system if you do not have one at home.
Have NO shame in your game
My boobs were constantly being pulled out of my shirt, fiddled with and practically put on show the duration of my time spent nursing. At first, I pulled blankets over them; purchased special and expensive nursing tops, left the room and pretty much shielded all eyes away. That took too much work and stressed me out even more. I am not saying I walked around with my shirt open but every collar in my wardrobe was stretched beyond my bra line. It was freeing to loosen up about it and once I did, I realized that nobody really was looking and I worried over nothing. Own it. Be damn proud that you are doing it.
Do NOT give up
While it is hard, painful, time consuming, and the trifecta of exhaustion (mental, physical and emotional), persevere. Growth spurts, pumping for time spent away and having someone connected to you all the time are mountains to climb, but the slope down is not quite as tough and goes way too fast. I miss the cooing sounds while swallowing, the post feeding snoozes and the instant stop button to crying and fussing.