In honor of National Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to do a post highlighting tips for how to be successful in breastfeeding your baby. It’s important to note here as I have in my other breastfeeding posts that not all women are physically capable of breastfeeding, and some don’t want to or can’t because of their employment – and that’s okay, as long as your baby is getting fed you are doing a great job! I would also like to note that I am not a medical professional, just someone who seriously lacked information on how to have a successful breastfeeding relationship and wish someone had told me these tips in advance. Breastfeeding is an amazing experience (as I wrote about here), and I hope that this post helps other women who want it to have such an awesome bond with their baby.
1) Educate Yourself
Learn everything you can about breastfeeding before you have your baby. Reading things like this are a great start, but there are tons of other resources out there as well. Most La Leche League groups have educational classes specifically for pregnant moms, which I wish I would have attended. Do not listen to your midwife or doctor when they tell you that you don’t need a class on breastfeeding and that all the nurses at the hospital are trained in breastfeeding so you will be fine, as mine did. Lots of new moms are confused and think that their baby isn’t eating enough or that they aren’t producing enough the first few days and falsely believe that they need to supplement. It is best to take classes, read, google search your questions, and soak in as much information on breastfeeding as possible before you have the baby so that you are equipped and know how to best handle the different situations that inevitably arise in our society
2) Use Formula as a Last Resort
Again, if you want to use formula from the beginning and not breastfeed that’s great, but if you do want to be successful at breastfeeding you should not give formula unless it is necessary. Every medical professional will tell you that breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your baby. However, doctor and nurses can also be quick to encourage you to use formula, especially at the hospital, as it makes their jobs much easier. If a doctor tells you your baby needs formula by all means give that baby some formula, but if a nurse at the hospital at 2 am tells you to give the baby formula to make both of your lives easier for that brief moment of time stand firm and don’t do it. I had a nurse at the hospital leave formula on the table next to me (yes at 2 am) and tell me that I should just use it so I could get some sleep. As I mentioned I was poorly informed in how to be successful in breastfeeding, but I had a gut instinct that I shouldn’t give my baby formula yet, so I didn’t. Trust your gut! At the time I had no idea how harmful even a little formula can be to the breastfeeding process. Every time your baby drinks formula instead of breast milk it tells your body to produce that much less milk, causing your supply to decrease. When your supply decreases, you may have to supplement with formula so your baby gets enough to eat. See what a terrible cycle it is? So even when that formula you got for free looks so good at 2 am (and trust me, it will), stay strong and resist the urge to feed it to your baby! Remember in the long run breastfeeding can be much easier and more convenient (although it isn’t for everyone) than formula and those nights of being awake every two hours will pass quickly. Plus, your baby probably isn’t going to sleep great right away no matter how you feed it.
3) Find Community
This is so important. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you to keep going when you feel like giving up and who can give you advice. Ask your family members who don’t understand or support breastfeeding to keep their negative feelings to themselves, and reach out to friends and family who understand the importance and beauty of it and will support it. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a husband who is more enthusiastic about breastfeeding than I am. Without his support and encouragement I would not have made it through those first few weeks. The rest of our families are not so encouraging of breastfeeding, but our parents raised kids at a time wen hardly anyone exclusively breastfed their babies so it’s hard for them to understand why it’s important to us. I found a lot of support through a secret Facebook group where women ask questions and seek encouragement from one another. I learned almost everything I know about breastfeeding through this group. If you are a breastfeeding mom or a mom who plans to breastfeed and are interested in joining it shoot me an email and I’d be more than happy to add you. Most larger cities have a La Leche League chapter as well where you can go to find community, and some hospitals have breastfeeding support groups as well.
4) Seek Help
Breastfeeding may come naturally easy to you. Your baby may latch perfectly upon your first skin to skin contact in the hospital and you may never have supply problems. However, it probably won’t. Request to see a lactation consultant while in the hospital. Have a follow up visit with them a couple weeks after you get released from the hospital if necessary. If you have supply problems, latch problems, pain, etc, don’t give up until you seek the help of a professional first!
5) Take Care of Yourself
Many factors go into producing enough milk for your baby, but one contributing factor is you eating enough and drinking enough water. Make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day, and if you exercise or do any strenuous activity that you stay extra hydrated. Breastfeeding is also exhausting. Therefore, make sure you rest as needed throughout the day and don’t overdo it. You are going to need energy to hold, lift, play with, and cuddle that precious baby of yours.Do you have any tips to add? Comment below! Need someone to talk to about breastfeeding? Feel free to email me! And of course, a picture of one healthy and happy breastfed baby: