I have been blessed to have successful breastfeeding experiences with both of my girls. It was not always a pleasant or easy experience, but one I am thankful for. I was able to breastfeed my oldest until around 14 months, and I am still going strong nursing my 8 month old daughter.
Several of my friends are now new or soon-to-be new moms and so I have been thinking of breastfeeding advice. What advice do I wish I had before my oldest was born? What has been most helpful to me in my many months of breastfeeding?
There are many helpful resources, lists, and tips out there for breastfeeding moms. Some of those lists though are a little excessive or overwhelming! Seriously, one list of “must have’s” I came across had 30 items on it. I am currently nursing my second child who is 8 months old, and that overwhelmed me! As is true with many parenting resources and lists of “must have’s” there is no universal list. Because everyone’s experiences and situations are different there is no universal solution or how to.
Whether it is child number 1, 2, or… even 7, nursing can be tough! You and your baby are learning something new together, and with that comes obstacles. Some moms have more challenges to deal with that make nursing even tougher (like mastitis, a baby not latching, postpartum depression, sickness, going back to work, and so many more things!).
Since everyone’s experience and circumstances are so different I am not going to leave with 5 easy steps to breastfeeding success. (Pretty sure that doesn’t exist!) Instead I am going to share with you 5 attitudes that have helped push me through the many challenges of breastfeeding my girls. Hopefully they will help and encourage any of my fellow breastfeeding mama friends out there!
Here are my 5 Essential (Attitudes) for Breastfeeding:
Yes, breastfeeding is natural (so is labor! And well, we all know that isn’t easy either!) and beautiful, but at first it may be awkward, difficult, and painful. You will need patience as you navigate this new thing together with your baby.
This is true for all of your kids, not just your first. After the first baby you may know more what to expect with breasfeeding, it is still completely new to the baby. Learning something new takes practice and that requires patience through the process. Be patient with yourself and your baby.
Ability to Ask for Help
Depending on your personality this may be easier or harder. But don’t be afraid to ask for help! This could mean seeking a lactation consultant if things aren’t going well, a mom friend who may have some advice or experience to share, or even your spouse to help you juggle the baby, the baby, the boppy, the burp cloth, etc. It’s easy to feel like you are doing this whole nursing thing all alone (especially since you are the one with the boobs to feed your baby!), but there are people around you to help and support you.
With my oldest daughter I had some difficulty getting her to latch correctly. Eventually a lactation consultant gave me a nipple shield to help out. I am so glad she did! It helped tremendously and after a few weeks I was able to go without it. But without the help and advice of someone else I wouldn’t have had the same success.
Asking for help may also mean asking for help with your other responsibilities so you can focus on feeding your baby and sleeping (when you can!). It’s ok to ask someone to come entertain your older kids for an afternoon, bring you meals, or do other chores and errands for you. I am sure there are at least a handful of friends and family members in your life who want to help, and these are practical ways for them to lighten your load so you can focus on you and your baby. You don’t have to be Supermom, ask for help or just accept it when offered.
Sometimes you are going to want to give up. Breastfeeding can be hard and exhausting. In the first few weeks (or even months) you may just want to quit. Don’t give up! Persevere.
The beginning can especially be hard to persevere through. In your first 6-8 weeks your body is still recovering from labor (which can be really tough!), your sleep schedule is different, and you are adjusting to a whole new normal. Adding breastfeeding on top of that can sometimes seem like too much.
When you feel down or like giving up think of the positive reasons you wanted to breastfeed. Write them down if you need that reminder. Also feel free to tell a friend or a spouse what difficulties you are facing and allow them to encourage you.
Take it one day (or even one feeding) at a time.
You can do it!
Don’t doubt your abilities or be self-conscious of needing to feed your baby. As I mentioned before, you can do this! You are more than capable! Some people may have negative things to say about breastfeeding in general, or specifically, nursing in public. Don’t listen to that negativity. Take care of your baby and do so with confidence!
I would consider myself a pretty modest person, and when I started breastfeeding I thought, “There is no way I can do this outside of my house (cover or no cover)!” I found confidence in breastfeeding and now I am not ashamed to feed my baby anywhere I go. I use a cover most of the time, but many times I don’t even bother.
The confidence I have allows me so much more freedom! I am not ashamed of me having to feed my daughter. It is part of my life as a mom and I do so proudly.
First of all, flexibility is just a valueable attitude to have in parenting in general! In regards to breastfeeding remembering to be flexible is helpful because sometimes your baby might have a different schedule than you. For my girls, I have pretty much fed on demand (the first 6 months especially) and with that comes certain challenges. There can be “cluster feedings” that last an eternity and you feel like you will have this baby permantley attached to you forever! Sometimes hourly feedings are what your baby wants and it can be frustrating to get anything else done (sleep, eat, or maybe a long awaited shower!). Be flexible. Know that your baby needs you now in very specific way, but it doesn’t last forever.
Flexibility also comes in handy when you do start to venture out with yout little one. You may think that if you feed them before you left the house they should be good 2-3 hours, but that is not always the case. Your baby may want to nurse while you are in the check out line at the store, or out for a walk, or any other inconvenient time for you. Be ready to make time to stop and feed your baby when needed, or bring the right baby carrier to feed them on the go.
Trying to be flexible and in tune with your baby’s needs is not easy. But when I am able to let go of my rigid schedule and instead be flexible and aware I feel so much more relaxed. It taks practice (and whole lot of patience!), but it really can be help you be successful when it comes to breastfeeding your baby.
Good luck breastfeeding mama friends out there! You can do it! Remember to have patience, ask for help, persevere, be confident, and flexible!