Of all of the things I have done in my life, breastfeeding has been by far one of the most challenging. It took a good couple of months and a lot of help before we got into the groove of nursing, but in the end I was able to nurse my daughter for 17 months and the beautiful bond we created through nursing was definitely worth the struggles. With Baby #2 due in a matter of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about breastfeeding again and thought I’d share some of the things that helped us get through our nursing struggles in the hopes that other mamas needing encouragement will find some here!
10 Things That Helped Us Get Through Breastfeeding Struggles:
1. Keeping snacks close by
Nursing expends a ton of calories, so if you’re not taking enough calories in, you won’t have enough for your baby and your supply may suffer. As you’re a busy new mama sometimes eating is the last thing on your mind, but it’s important to take the time to do it. Snacks are a lifesaver and I quickly learned to keep some nearby for easy grabbing when you’re confined to your nursing chair. Snacks with good fats and protein are the best options – think nuts, cheese and fruit.
2. Drinking lots of water
In addition to taking in enough calories, getting enough to drink is crucial to your milk supply. In the early days when you’re just getting the hang of things you’ll feel depleted, so be sure to keep a water bottle nearby to keep yourself hydrated!
3. Trying to relax
Stress can contribute to your nursing struggles, so try to relax. Find a quiet and comfortable spot to nurse whenever possible. Take deep breaths and remember, you and Baby are both in this together! Nursing can feel overwhelming and stressful for some women when they’re just starting out, but relaxing as much as you can really will make a big difference.
4. Trying milk “boosters”
There are quite a few natural supplements and foods you can consume that can help boost your milk supply if it’s something you’re struggling with. When I was nursing I took Fenugreek which helped quite a bit and certain foods like oats, nuts and green veggies are lactogenic and can boost supply. Talk to your doctor or midwife and see what they recommend!
5. Getting a lactation consultant
I cannot even begin to tell you how helpful it was for me to hire a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding doesn’t come easily for everyone and having someone to help guide you through it is invaluable. Many lactation consultants even make house calls which is convenient for a postpartum mama who is still resting and healing up. Our lactation consultant helped pinpoint the things that were causing issues for us and helped us get back on the right track.
There’s this idea that breastfeeding is an all or nothing endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be! Over time I was able to increase my milk supply, but it never reached a level where I was able to exclusively breastfeed and I had to supplement with formula. At first I felt guilty about it, but then I realized that this was simply our journey and I was doing the best I could for my child. That will look different for everyone, so keep an open mind.
Another way to help establish your milk supply is though pumping. Your doctor, midwife or lactation consultant can make some recommendations for you as to how often you should do this, but it can really help for some people – not to mention it allows you to stockpile some of your milk for later.
8. Let it go
Nursing is hard work and it doesn’t always feel “natural” at first for many women. You are not alone, so don’t lose heart. At the end of the day, all you can do is your best – beyond that, try to let go of the expectations and don’t beat yourself up.
9. Going to a support group
During the first few months of my daughter’s life we went to a weekly support group with other nursing moms. It wasn’t something I would’ve envisioned myself doing before becoming a mom, but it was so helpful. All of the moms in our group had unique struggles – some had low supply like myself, others had oversupply issues, some were dealing with acid reflux and others had babies with tongue tie or latch issues. Even though we all had different struggles it felt so good to come together and just talk about it in a safe place with other mamas who understood. I highly recommend getting connected with a group in your area if you’re struggling.
10. Following up
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to follow up with your doctor. He or she may be able to make further recommendations or suggestions to help you on your breastfeeding journey.