I am so happy to announce I’ve completed my first six months of EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding! Baby has gained weight wonderfully and I’ve even been able to donate to other squishy babies. The world health organization recommends six months of ONLY breastmilk if possible, so now we’re cleared to add solids to baby’s diet!
I get questions about how to prepare for a successful breastfeeding journey all the time. I personally have had a fairly positive breastfeeding experience with my son the past 6 months or so, and I feel like it’s because I researched as much as I could and stayed positive when things did get a little rocky. Here and there I learned new information that I love to pass on to make someone else’s journey just a tiny bit easier as well.
This is my list of ways to prevent stressing as you start your journey.
Feed on demand
I cannot stress this enough. Putting your baby on a schedule will kill your production and leads to so many moms having to supplement. Feed your baby or at least offer the breast anytime they show signs of hunger. Even if you’re not sure, just offer!
It would kill me when someone would tell my son “there’s no way you’re hungry again” or tell me I was offering too often! Babies know when they’re hungry and they have tiny little stomachs. If he wants to eat 30 minutes later, hand me my freaking baby because I’m going to feed him. If they deny or don’t latch then that’s fine, you’ll eventually learn their specific hunger cues as you get to know your baby better.
Babies are trying to help our production boost by cluster feeding often and for long periods of time. Older people especially will try to tell you your baby needs a schedule. THEY ARE WRONG.
If you notice after breastfeeding for a while that you’re still not producing much, try power pumping by pumping for 20 minutes, taking a break for 10, and pumping again for 20. Even if nothing comes out the stimulation will aid in production!
Check for a Good Latch
So many pain and feeding issues start with a poor latch. Make sure your nipple reaches the back of baby’s mouth, and that their tongue is below your nipple. If you hear clicking noises that could mean air is being sucked in which is the sign of a bad latch.
Make sure baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip are aligned so that baby is not turning their head to suck. Your stomach and theirs should be pressed up against each other! Try to turn your head to the side and swallow and notice how much more difficult it is than when you’re facing forward.
Tongue or lip ties can also affect latch, so make sure to ask and get a second opinion from the lactation consultant or a dentist, consultations are usually free so there’s no harm in checking! Remember breastfeeding should NOT be painful and is usually the sign of an underlying problem.
Hydration is crazy important while breastfeeding. It is arguably the most important thing. Not only will it help prevent dehydration headaches and keep you feeling strong, but it’ll help your body continue to produce milk for your babe.
Dehydration leads to a drop in production, so don’t put off drinking some type of hydrating fluids. My personal favorite is coconut water based drinks like body armor or vita coco, but Gatorade or plain water will do too. You should be drinking water every single time you breastfeeding! Aim for 100 ounces a day.
Your nipples can get very raw, especially at the beginning. Take care of them early on to avoid cracking and bleeding! This means you should use coconut oil frequently to moisturize your nipples naturally.
There are other creams available, but this is the cheapest alternative and all natural. You can also use your own breastmilk by squeezing a little out and rubbing it on your nipples, just don’t wait until you’re in a ton of pain to take care of your nips!
I drank a ton of kombucha postpartum. The healthy live probiotics help with your gut health and the fermentation boosts production. Also, the good bacteria can prevent yeast infection in your nipples AKA thrush.
Work With a Lactation Consultant
This is never a popular choice for reasons I do not understand! If you’re having issues, meet with a consultant. The short session you have after birth is not always enough, and let’s face it you’re delusional after popping a baby out.
If you’re worried about baby’s latch or your technique, a lactation consultant can diagnose tongue ties (my son had a tongue and lip tie) or just help you see how many ounces are being fed each session. Insurance usually covers it and some are low cost. You can also join free local support groups such as La Leche League, among others. Do not be afraid to reach out!
Never Ignore Pain Or Redness
So many people say they think that breastfeeding is always painful, so they ignore the warning signs for some serious issues. You should not feel significant pain when nursing, especially after the first couple of weeks or so! Some soreness is normal, but if you feel throbbing, cracking, or pain deep in your breast it most likely indicates an underlying problem. You could have mastitis, thrush, or a clogged duct which is causing great pain and will only worsen if untreated. Listen to your body!
Do Not Rush to Supplement
I totally understand that sometimes supplementation is necessary, but we are often rushed to do so which can hurt production. If you start supplementing before it is necessary, your body misses out on all those early feeding sessions and in turn decides to produce less. Colostrum is fine for the first few days of a baby’s life, so do not stress about your baby not gaining weight or even losing some that first week or so.
When you do have to supplement, make sure to pump the entire time that baby is drinking from a bottle. This will stimulate your breast and help with production. If you do not pump every time baby drinks formula, you will only continue to drop in production. It’s a vicious cycle where you supplement because you don’t make enough, but will continue to not make enough because you supplement without pumping.
If the problem continues and you really want to breastfeed, please discuss possible issues with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
If Needed – Use Donor Milk
There are plenty of milk sharing groups! You can always try through the hospital, but a lot of the time that milk is reserved for premature babies or those with similar issues at birth. I have donated a ton of milk through milk sharing groups on Facebook such as Human Milk for Human Babies, and depending on your area you can find a variety of similar groups. You have to trust the mom giving you her milk, of course, and you are welcome to pay and ask for her to do testing if it helps you as well. I personally was not tested before donating, but it is all about what makes you comfortable! You’d be surprised how many people use donor milk to avoid using formula!
For those of you that are wanting to breastfeed, I hope you are successful and able to nourish your babies exactly the way you want to! If that is not possible and you choose to use formula, remember that a fed baby is a happy baby and we all do what we know is right for our little ones. No judgement here, I just personally wanted to breastfeed and just want to share my tips on how I was successful in doing so.