Image courtesy of Jessica Marchetti Photography
My top 10 breastfeeding tips and tricks… things that worked for me.
1. Build a varied support network. It’s not enough to just plan to meet with the hospital lactation consultant before you come home. It’s not enough to just have a good friend or relative who’s breastfed. You need to have support on many levels, and you need to remember that a lot of the time the advice others give you will be greatly affected by their own, unique experience. Get second and third opinions. If you need a friend to encourage you to keep going, tell them that. Sometimes friends don’t know how to best support you, and may encourage you to quit. If what you really need is a cheerleader, tell them that.
2. Have a pump from day one. Even if you don’t plan on ever feeding your baby from a bottle, you need a pump. I didn’t have one when we brought Kendall home, and within a few weeks I had to explain to Scott what to buy at Target while I laid in bed with a 103 fever and my first round of mastitis. With Leyna, I had to pump an engorged breast before she would latch. You don’t have to have an expensive electric pump. A manual pump will do the trick, and you can usually get them for less than $30 or $40.
3. Stock up on one-handed, healthy snacks. You’re going to be spending the majority of your time sitting down with your baby. It’s really, really hard to find time to eat a proper meal. Get cheese-sticks, protein bars, have your partner make you some sliced fruit, or a quartered sandwich. Smoothies are another great option.
4. Don’t be afraid of teeth, BUT... Teething babies don’t always bite, but in my experience, it’s happened with both of mine. They’ve never drawn blood. It still hurts like hell, though. While the natural reaction may be to pull the baby away from your breast quickly, DON’T. Instead, hold them very close to you, smooshing their face to your breast. This should make them unlatch very quickly. (Obviously don’t hold them there very long.)
5. If you want your baby to take a bottle, don’t wait too long and keep it up. I guess this is conflicting advice, because I know some say you should wait 6-8 weeks before introducing any sort of artificial nipple, so do what works best for you and what you feel comfortable with. That said, Kendall took a bottle when he was very young because he had to. I had mastitis and needed the rest. Then we took a few months off, and he never took one after that. I wish we would have kept it up. It was very stressful not being able to leave him. With Leyna, we started bottles and pacifiers within the first couple weeks/days. The bottles were only every now and then, as a means to give me a break, but the pacifier was and still is a frequent thing for her… and I am completely, totally fine with that.
6. Nurse when and where and how YOU want. If you want to nurse in public without a cover, ROCK ON. If you feel more comfortable covering up, go for it. If you would rather bring a bottle of pumped milk or nurse in your car, that’s totally your call. Don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about HOW you feed your baby. If you desire to nurse in public but are too nervous to jump into it, bring your baby and a good friend to a quiet park or bench to practice first. If you never find yourself comfortable enough to nurse in public without a cover, that’s fine! Don’t feel like you have to, but please don’t judge other moms who do. And please, never ever let anyone make you feel like you have to feed your baby in a bathroom… unless, I guess, you want to?
7. Know your rights. Breastfeeding in public, covered or not, is a legally protected right in most states. Go here to find out what your breastfeeding rights are, both in public and in the workplace, if that’s applicable.
8. Learn to nurse laying down as soon as you can. I know, I know, it’s scary laying down to nurse a newborn. They are so tiny, and what if you roll over them?! You won’t. Use safe co-sleeping practices, and even if you don’t ever fall asleep, you can still rest while laying down. It took me a couple months before I was comfortable doing this with my first. With my second, I was nursing her in the side-laying position in the hospital bed her first day of life (which felt much better than sitting up at the time).
9. Plan to keep the baby in your room for a few months. Oh, those nurseries are so fun to decorate, but, to me, they’re completely useless (or at least very expensive rooms to change diapers in) the first few months. Even if you don’t plan on co-sleeping, it will still be so helpful to keep the baby next to your bed in a Pack & Play or, even better, an attached Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper. Breastfed babies tend to wake more frequently at night (not always, though, and formula fed babies can wake frequently, too), and you’re not going to want to trek across the house to their beautiful nursery every time they wake.
10. Take care of yourself. All new moms need to do this, but if you’re breastfeeding, it’s really, really important you’re staying hydrated, eating enough and getting enough rest. If you start to get a fever or feel flu-ish, check your breasts immediately for hot-spots and hard lumps. It could be the beginning of mastitis, which will knock you on your ass SO. HARD. if you don’t catch it early. Call your doctor right away to see if you need antibiotics. In the meantime, hop in a hot shower and express your breast and massage the hard lump as much as you can stand. Drink a ton of water and get some rest.
Do you have anything you’d add?
By the time Kendall, my first, turned one, I had an end date in mind for our breastfeeding relationship. He had self-weaned down to 2 times a day at that point, and I was just… done. The 13.5 months that I breastfed him were a struggle at times, especially the first few months. I was very aware of every day that I breastfed him one day longer.
This time around, my experience has been much different. We had a small challenge at the beginning, getting Leyna to latch to my left breast was a battle the first few days. Once we moved beyond that, though, it was smooth sailing. Leyna, now a year old, still nurses 6 or more times a day (and night). She loves solids, she drinks cows milk, but she’s just not ready to give up nursing, and I haven’t felt the need to press the issue.
So all that is to say I’ve breastfed for a combined total of nearly 26 months now, and I’m still going. I’ve been through a few struggles, and have learned a lot. Maybe you can learn something from me, too.
Kendall is 3.5 years old and Leyna is 1 year old.