Breastfeeding is, hands down, one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my life. Birthing a 10-pound, 8-ounce baby without so much as an aspirin was nothing compared to the challenge that breastfeeding was for me (you can read more about my breastfeeding journey here). Long story short, during my first go at breastfeeding with my daughter, I was never able to make enough milk for her and had to supplement with formula. I still nursed her half-time until she was 17 months old.
This time around, breastfeeding has been much easier. My son will be 2 months old tomorrow, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to nurse him exclusively. Part of it is simply because I have a different baby who is a different nurser, but a good portion of my success is thanks to some things I learned after breastfeeding the first time around. I wanted to share these tips in the hopes that they might be helpful to you in your breastfeeding journey. I’m obviously not a professional – just a mama who has struggled through and figured a few things out along the way.
10 Tips to Make Breastfeeding Easier:
1. Educate yourself.
I wish I’d read more about breastfeeding before I had my first baby. I read everything there was to read about birth, but not much about what comes after birth. I had no idea that breastfeeding could be such a struggle, and because of this, I think the challenges hit me even harder. Read books, read articles online, talk to friends… just educate yourself as much as possible.
2. Stock up on nursing supplies.
Having all the tools you’ll need on hand will make breastfeeding a much smoother experience. A breast pump, nipple cream, nursing pillow…these are all things you’ll appreciate having around (here is a list of some of my breastfeeding essentials).
3. Research tinctures and galactagogues.
I am not a medical professional, so I won’t presume to tell you what concoctions of herbs and foods you should ingest in order to boost your milk supply BUT, I will tell you that there are plenty of galactagogues (foods/herbs/tinctures/medications) out there that can work wonders on your milk supply. I’ve had definite success with some of them, so do your research and ask your doctor for suggestions.
4. Work on that latch from the start.
Getting a good latch can be one of the most challenging things for new nursing mamas, but it is well worth the effort. If you start off with a bad latch and don’t work to correct it, you’ll have a much more difficult time correcting it down the road. An improper latch can cause your baby not to get enough milk, not to mention that it can be painful, which is definitely not something you want. Create good habits from the start by working hard to get that latch right early on.
5. Have a lactation consultant on speed dial.
I cannot emphasize the helpfulness of a good lactation consultant enough. I had no clue what I was doing as a first-time nursing mom and a lactation consultant was able to give me amazing tips and tricks to help me figure out how to make my breastfeeding experience much more comfortable, effective, and enjoyable for me and my baby. Many lactation consultants will even come to your house, so don’t hesitate to connect with one during those first days of breastfeeding to get the extra help you might need.
6. Find a support group.
When you’re in the midst of working with your baby to figure out breastfeeding, it can feel really overwhelming and isolating. Finding a local breastfeeding support group can be incredibly helpful. I found one near me when I was nursing my daughter and it was so comforting knowing that I wasn’t the only one struggling. It was also great to be able to bond with other new moms as well.
7. Don’t watch the clock.
I made the mistake of becoming too uptight about a feeding schedule and nursing for specific time increments and I felt super stressed out just watching the clock and writing everything down all the time. Try your best to listen and watch for your baby’s hunger cues, feed when you notice them, and don’t watch the clock. Just relax and try to embrace this season of life where feeding your baby is one of your primary tasks.
8. (Try to) Relax!
Being able to relax when it comes to nursing can be really difficult when you’re struggling. Perhaps your baby isn’t gaining enough weight or you’re dealing with oversupply or allergy issues… these things can feel really overwhelming. But, the more you can relax, the better your experience will be. Babies can sense stress and stress can also affect milk supply, so take some deep breaths, light some candles…whatever it takes to help you feel calm.
9. Realize it can be challenging.
Sometimes you give it your all and nothing seems to be working and you feel like a failure. Just know that you aren’t alone and that so many other women out there have also struggled with this. Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it always comes naturally.
10. Think of it as bonding time.
I must admit that those early days of breastfeeding were really difficult for me. It was hard being treated like a milk vending machine by my newborn and feeling like I was banished to my couch with only a nursing pillow as a companion 22 hours a day. But eventually I was able to reframe my thinking. Nursing wasn’t just a chore… another task to accomplish. Nursing was an opportunity to bond with my baby. After that, I began to soak up more of our time together instead of letting it overwhelm me.
What things did you find helpful in making breastfeeding go more smoothly?