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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

There are many areas of parenting that are debatable. We all have our own opinions and ideas about what is "best" and many times those ideas may clash with what others believe is "best" for their children. One of the few parenting choices that is not debatable is regarding breastfeeding. Everyone knows that breast milk is the BEST nutrition for our babies. Even formula companies compete with each other to see who can be the "closest thing to breast milk."

While we all know breast milk is the best source of nutrition, we all have to make the personal choice whether or not to breastfeed. I know many, many mothers choose not to nurse their babies and this isn't a post to make anyone feel guilt over that choice. Instead, this is a post to encourage those who do want to breastfeed and to share my personal experiences and what helped me to be successful with it when nursing my children. I also know there are mother's out there (I have a few friends who fit in this group) who want very badly to breastfeed and try to breastfeed but they truly aren't able to. I am not making some blanket statement that everyone can breastfeed so I hope no offense is taken from this post...the purpose here is to help and encourage!


When I was pregnant with my first child I wasn't sure what kind of mom I would be. The idea of nursing kinda bugged me and I didn't know if I even wanted to to it. Yet the more I learned about the benefits of breast milk for my baby, the more passionate about it I became. I nursed my son exclusively for nine months and he had a mixture of breast milk and formula until a year old. With my daughter I was very confident in my nursing abilities and nursed her exclusively until 11 months when I started to introduce whole milk into her diet then fully weaned her at 13 months. 

If you're pregnant and considering breastfeeding, here are some things I have learned that can help you be successful, and NONE of them have to do with the actually nursing process itself!



1. Pretend Formula Doesn't Exist: You know that years ago moms didn't have any other option. Nursing was the ONLY method available. It may sound silly but if you pretend like there ISN'T any other option out there, then you are more likely to be successful in nursing, because you simply aren't going to consider anything else!

2. Buy a top of the line Breast Pump and OPEN it: I bought a Medela Freestyle Breast Pump when I was pregnant with my son. That junk ain't cheap. We spent well over $300 on it. I was hesitant to open it. What if I couldn't nurse? What if I didn't want to? What if I gave up? My husband told me to open it because knowing we couldn't return it would be a BIG motivator to keep on nursing, no matter what!

3. Don't buy ANY Formula: Keep your house formula free. Throw out those samples you get in the mail. Turn down offers from people who are getting rid of their left over cans. During times when you feel like throwing in the towel it will not be EASY to give up. It will require a trip to the store to buy the formula and by the time you actually go get it you will probably just decide to continue nursing :)

4. Know that you CAN do it: I think most new moms, like myself, worry we won't be able to breastfeed. It was my #1 fear when I became a mom for the first time. My husband actually asked during our breastfeeding basics class at the hospital about how many women really cannot breastfeed at all. The lactation specialist said that with the right attitude and motivation, pretty much everyone CAN do it! 

5. Share Your Goals: Husband support is SO critical. Without Zach being there, helping me, supporting me, encouraging me, and even giving me some "tough love" in the early days of breastfeeding I truly do not think I would have been successful with it. As mothers we tend to have our first concern be for our children. Our husbands tend to have their first concerns be about US. So when we struggle with nursing and feel like giving in, they just naturally want to help us and make our lives easier. They can't understand what we are going through with nursing and many husbands will suggest quitting because they think it's what will be best for us. Share your goals with your husband. He needs to be your biggest cheerleader!!!

6. Know it WILL be Hard: I personally believe the #1 reason so many women don't try or stop nursing early on is because we feel like we are failing when it is harder than we expect it to be. The media tends to paint this pretty picture of nursing...it's supposed to come "naturally" and it should never hurt etc, etc, etc. As a new mom everything is scary. You're thrown into this entirely new situation and have a little life depending on YOU. When nursing does hurt, or it doesn't come naturally, we freak out. We automatically feel like we are failing at our most important job as a parent, feeding our baby! We take it personally, like something is wrong with US and then we end up quitting because it gives us one less thing to worry about. I know because I've been there. I couldn't for the life of me get my baby to latch properly. It hurt. I bled. I cried and cried during feedings for awhile. I've had mastitis, three times. I kept going through it all and guess what? The hard phase passes. It gets EASIER. Not just that, but it gets ENJOYABLE. There is nothing better than nursing a sweet baby and sharing that close bond together! I truly believe if new moms went into the nursing experience being prepared for it to be a little difficult and knowing that there will be struggles that more moms would tough it out. Just always, always remind yourself that the hard days will be over soon and that it is going to be worth it!!!

7. Have a Goal, But Take it One Feeding at a Time: With my son my goal was to nurse him for three months. Once I got there, my goal became six months. Once I got there, my goal became nine months. With my daughter, my goal was a year and I went beyond that as well. I think having a long term goal is great! However, it can also make you feel exhausted. On those tough days it can feel discouraging to think "omg, I have another year of this?" During those times it's so important to just take it one feeding at a time. Get through that feeding and then have the goal of getting through the next. I had a close friend of mine who felt discouraged and frustrated with nursing but she kept going one feeding at a time and nursed much longer than when she initially wanted to stop. Every little drop of breast milk is SO good for your baby so even "one more feeding" is better than quitting!

While I am no breastfeeding expert by any means, I know that my personal success with nursing had more to do with my MIND than with my BODY. I truly believe that if moms who want to nurse go into it with these things on their mind, then they WILL be successful in it! Whether your goal is a week, a month, or a year you CAN do it and you will be so thankful you did :) 

Other breastfeeding mamas...do you agree with my tips? Have some of your own? Please share!

5 comments:

  1. While I agree that breast milk is likely the best form of nutrition for newborns, I take issue with the idea that breastfeeding is worth ANY price that you must pay for it. Some women (and I understand that this is a very small group) truly cannot produce enough milk to properly nourish their children. I can attest to that, as I tried breastfeeding every 2-3 hours, pumping between feedings, drinking boatloads of water, drinking "Mother's Milk" tea, drinking a beer every day, and almost every other trick I could find to increase milk production with my first child--all to no avail. I never got the feeling of milk "coming in", never had fullness, and never pumped more than a few drops in the two weeks that I tortured myself over it. Thank God that formula DOES exist or my poor child would likely have starved. If I had it to do over, I would have enjoyed those first two weeks more and stressed over this non-issue a lot less. In the end, my child was well-fed, has developed into an incredibly smart, incredibly healthy, incredibly sweet toddler, and is no worse for wear, in spite of his formula-ridden infancy.
    So, I would say to new moms, give it your honest-to-goodness best. Try hard. But if, for one reason or another, it does not work for you, please do not beat yourself up over breastfeeding. Thanks!

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  2. I agree with all your tips, Emily! I would add that a new mom needs to be prepared for her new LIFESTYLE! Breastfeeding is not simple. Everything in your day revolves around the feeding times of an infant. Our breastfeeding class prepared us to take on the challenge for our sweet baby girl. However, I wish that I have truly understood that it's a one year lifestyle commitment. Since I only produce what my baby needs, it's baby girl and me together for a year. I'm 6 1/2 months away from a girl's night out! :)

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  3. I enjoyed this post Emily. I really liked the no formula in house tip.I have breastfeed both of my girls...my first for about 3 months and I am still nursing my almost 14 month old. The #1 thing I always tell moms-to-be that are thinking about going this route is the first 2 weeks are a pain in the boobs lol. Engorgement stinks but it doesn't last forever. The other big tip is don't be bullied by your pediatrician. Some will say they aren't gaining enough weight. weight and pumping is a poor indicator of milk output. you go by diaper count (if its coming out its going in). You should have 6 diapers a day pee counts as 1 and poo diapers count as 2. And there is a different growth chart that breastfeed babies should be on as well...I was blessed to have found a dr that supported breastfeeding 100% and knows his stuff bu i have heard horror stories from other moms.

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  4. Hi Emily, I agree with all of your tips. I am a working mom so it was also really important for me to share with my close co-workers and bosses that I was breastfeeding when I returned to work. I found that having people at work understand why I had to disappear three times a day or miss meetings to pump took a lot of the stress away. They were all very supportive and that helps so much. Also, when it got hard, I reminded myself that breastfeeding for one year is just one short year out of the total (hopefully long!)years of my life. Such a small amount of time when you really think about it and I found that it went by so much faster than I thought it would. I know I will miss the breastfeeding days when my kids are all grown so I tried to savor that bonding time together. I will add that I also had friends who did EVERYTHING and just could not make enough milk. Whereas, I did nothing special and made tons of milk. Everyone is so different.

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  5. Great post, Emily!
    I just want to echo #6. Do not decide in the first 2-3 weeks (or 6-8 in my case) that breastfeeding is too hard/painful/time consuming. IT GETS BETTER. It gets easier. The pain goes away. And during those first couple of weeks your hormones are clouding the picture and making you feel even more overwhelmed than you already are. Yes you ARE going to spend a lot of time feeding the baby. But guess what? If you formula feed you're gonna spend a lot of time feeding the baby AND washing bottles/making formula. My tip is to stick with it, focus on making it through THIS feeding. Also, I weaned my first child gradually and had no issues drying up. But I can imagine the pain of engorgement because you quit early on is just as bad or worse than those first few days of nipple pain. So think about drying up too before you quit!

    Also totally agree about the pump. Every time I think about stopping, I think about all the money I spent on a pump!

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Reading your comments makes my day!



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