COLORADO SPRINGS — Lately, I've had a handful of friends reach out to me for breastfeeding advice and encouragement. I am no doctor, but I was put through the ringer with my first and at this point, considering myself somewhat of a pro.
It is hard to breastfeed. That’s not talked about much and often is the reason many new moms give up.
With my first child (who is now 4) my experience was awful. The worst. I had about a dozen infections along the way, a baby who would not (for the life of anyone) latch properly, donor milk due to low supply, pain, clogged ducts.
Oh the pain. No one talks about the pain. Engorgement, no sleep, empty pumping sessions, thrush, cracked nipples.
Spilled milk! Who cries over spilled milk? NEW MOMS do.
There were a lot of tears. Many days I felt like I was failing. We fought through it. We made it. Looking back, it was so worth it. With baby number 2 and 3 I was more confident and educated. That made a huge difference in our journeys. I knew what to expect and how to fix it.
My tips to success:
Know that it takes time
I thought the journey would come naturally so my frustration grew when it didn’t. Go in knowing it’s a learning process. I promise it does get dramatically easier the longer you do it. Milk supply levels off, feedings get much shorter and the pain goes away.
Stock up and lay low
Feed your baby, feed yourself and sleep. You’re in survival mode those first few days/weeks.
Pick your spot, whether it’s the couch, a glider or your bed. You’re going to be spending a lot of time here... and not always with a top on, so try to make sure you’re not within view of the neighbors 🤣 Grab snacks, water, nipple cream, a nursing pillow and a list of binge-worthy shows. Not a bad idea to pull up YouTube and watch a few videos on “proper latching techniques.”
Welcome to your new Friday night.
Forget the clock. Feed on demand.
It's very common for babies to cluster their feeding together during the day. Sometimes they want to feed 20 minutes apart. Sometimes it's a good 3 hours. One feed they’ll be stuck on that boob like glue for 30 minutes. The next it’ll be 5.
In my experience, it is much better to just go with their cues rather than watch the clock. If you’re feeding on demand your body will adjust to exactly what your baby needs.
In the first few weeks, that baby will be attached to you 85% of the day...everywhere you go.
Yep everywhere. Sometimes they’re hungry, sometimes they just need the comfort. This establishes your milk supply, creates a strong bond with noticeable cues and... honestly.... toughens up those nipples a little faster.
Talk with a lactation consultant
This is a must. Breastfeeding is tough and it can be confusing. Make sure you request a lactation consultant after the birth (it’s free). Get the proper latch right away. And bring your list of questions.
Is this a good latch? How often should I be feeding? What if they’re sleeping through the night, do I wake them? Why are my boobs so sore? Why do they feel empty? I can’t get much when pumping. Is my baby getting enough? When do I start pumping to build my supply?
Find a breastfeeding support group near you. I know it sounds funny, but it allows you to meet moms that are in the same season of life, going through the same struggles. I’ve met some great friends at these groups.
We met every Tuesday morning, laid out our nursing problems and lactation consultants were there to help. We weighed, fed and then weighed again to make sure our babies were getting enough milk. And frankly, we all just leaned on each other. It’s nice to have the support of your spouse, but people don’t quite get it unless they’re going through it. Your hospital likely provides the free service.
Talk to your partner
Be very vocal about where you need them to support you and encourage you. They want to help and it's hard for them to know what to take on.
Give yourself grace. Fed is best.
Breastfeeding is hard and it’s emotional. It’s also amazing and a blessing to be able to provide. The bond is incredible, but fed is best.
It’s okay not to breastfeed.
We don’t drive this home enough for new moms. I remember being terrified at the thought of formula. I sacrificed my mental health and physical well-being because of that. It worked for me in the end, but I’m here to tell you, it’s okay to give breastfeeding a shot and then decide it’s not for you. As long as your baby is fed, that’s all that matters. We need to stop judging moms on the decisions they make to care for their babies.
And breast milk cures everything. You know if you know.
If you have questions about how I'm able to handle a busy work and home life, join my Facebook Group - Brie and Baby Three to get involved in the conversation.