Six Tips for Breastfeeding Success
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and as I just gave birth to my second child last week, I have been reminded of how incredibly difficult breastfeeding can be. While I am committed to seeing it through to the other side, if you are here because you too have struggled with breastfeeding I want you to know two things.
- It gets better.
- I hear you.
I was blessed to breastfeed my oldest son, Jackson-Blaise, for almost 18 months. It was an incredible bonding experience. He was rarely sick in his first two years of life, and was and is a generally a happy healthy boy. That being said, when he took that first latch on his first day outside of the womb I thought for sure I had given birth to a demon spawn. I mean, how can a baby, with a mouth full of baby gums, press down with such precision to cause, by far, one of the most painful experiences of my life? I recall tearfully crying out for help while still at the hospital, only to be met by a smiling lactation consultant who praised both me and baby for the “perfect” latch. I knew then that breastfeeding (at least in the beginning) was not going to be what I had imagined. Now that I’ve been freshly reminded of how difficult it can be in the early days, I’ve compiled a list of tips and products you’ll need to make transitioning into breastfeeding an easier experience.
Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
1. Have Your Breastfeeding Essentials Handy
In the beginning, you’ll likely be breastfeeding on your couch or glider during the day, and in your bedroom at night. Have both of these spaces equipt with your essentials. Which should include any of the following:
A boppy helps to prop the baby up so he’s in position while feeding.
A breast pump like the Medela Pump & Style Advanced.
Newborns can rarely empty your breasts of all the milk you have, so it’s good to have a pump to relieve engorgement.
Once you’ve pumped, use breastmilk storage bags like these from Medela, NanoBebe, Lansinoh, or Kiinde Twist, to freeze your excess to save for days when your supply may be low or you’ll be away from your baby. The Pump & Style Advanced also comes with a tote bag as well as a freezer pack so you can transport your freshly pumped milk from work, school, or anywhere on the go.
A breast pump is also great to help stimulate your supply in the event that your supply is low. Use it to pump a few times a day to increase your supply. You’ll also want to add some Fenugreek or Blessed Thistle supplements into your diet to help with milk production as well.
Nipple Butter or Cream
There is no way around nipple pain when it comes to the early days of nursing (it gets better), but I have found using Earth Mama Nipple Butter between nursing to be a godsend. Lather it on between your nursing sessions, then cover your nipples with a nipple sheild, and your nipples will thank you.
These cannot be used with nipple cream, but if your nipples are especially achy, try these cooling gel pad for relief.
You’re going to leak. Have disposable nursing pads on deck. Stuff them in your purse for on the go as well. At home, I keep them inside of my nursing bra so when I’m nursing from one breast, the nursing pad catches the leakage from the other breast.
Heating Pads will help you to open up any clogged milk ducts, while cold compresses will help to slow down production if you are engorged. Try this reusable hot/cold pack. Freeze it to make it cold, or throw it in the microwave to make it hot. Since I suffer from overproduction and engorgement, I use the heating pack to open up my ducts, nurse the baby, then use the cold one to calm my breasts down after I’m done nursing. This will send a signal to my body to slow down production to only make what the baby needs.
Silcone breast pumps are a must. Since I overproduce, a little leakage doesn’t bother me, however, if you are like most nursing mamas, every last drop is precious. A silicone breast pump can collect the leakage you’ll have from one breast while baby nurses from the other. Milk collector, however, is not its primary function. It actually works to pump out the thicker, more nutritious milk you produce, otherwise known as hindmilk or “let down”. I keep the silicone breast pump in my bedroom for night time feeding, when stumbling around with an electric pump just isn’t feasible. Also, I’m often able to draw out more milk with the silicone pump than I can with the electronic one. Lastly, it suctions onto your breast so it’s hands free. I can easily draw out 4 ounces of milk from one breast while baby feeds from the other. If there is anything you purchase from this list, let it be this item.
If you’re struggling to keep your baby on your breast for longer than a minute or two, try a breastfeeding necklace. They help to hold baby’s attention so you can nurse longer.
Even though I work from home and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, I think it’s important to give a breastfed child one bottle of breastmilk a day. This way, the baby gets used to being fed from a bottle. There are, of course, a million bottles to choose from on the market, so you’ll have to do your research to find the best for you, however, I really like the Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit.
This starter kit allows you to pump, store, organize and feed your baby all from the same pouch. The kit comes with everything you need (except for the pump) to get started on your nursing/bottle feeding journey. I also like the Medela bottles as they also work directly with my breast pump.
2. Join a breastfeeding support group
There’s nothing like having the support of women around you who are going through the same thing you are, even if those women are strangers. Joining a support group online or in your neighborhood is perfect for moms who might be the only one in their friend circle who has or just recently had a baby leaving you with no one to turn to for advice. There are a number of breastfeeding support groups you can find on Facebook but the one I recommend is Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Moms. The group is designed to offer encouragement, support, and evidence-based information through community and friendship to help expectant and nursing moms to reach their breastfeeding goals. It’s also a great way to make friends and meet new people in your area. You can also ask your child’s pediatrician for local resources, or find a local group via La Leche League.
3. Communicate with your partner
Communication is key. Talk to your partner about your wants and needs. Oftentimes our partners feel helpless because we are the ones doing all the work when it comes to feeding the baby. Through communication, you can explain to your partner the process, where all your supplies can be found and what they do, and how they can be of assistance to you during any given time. Andre keeps my nursing supplies clean and sanitized and gives our son one pumped bottle of milk a day. This way, he too, is involved in the process of breastfeeding our child.
4. Get help
If you can afford it, consider getting a postpartum doula or mommy’s helper until you get into the swing of things. As a working mother of two, I know I will need all the help I can get. I have found a great housekeeper to come to my house twice a month to help with cleaning, and I’m currently interviewing mommy-helpers to help with school pick up and drop off. Stress is the fastest way to dry up your milk supply, so I recommend making things as easy on yourself as possible.
5. Take care of yourself
This sounds easy but I assure you it’s one that is easily overlooked. Make sure you’re eating healthy and getting all of your nutrients. You have a baby who is getting nourishment from you so you have to be sure to stay on top of your own nutrition which will call for an additional 500 more calories per day. Does this mean you should be counting calories? Absolutely not. If you choose to eat something greasy or sugary that’s fine too. Besides, breastfeeding is a great way to lose weight, so if there was ever a time to not worry so much about calories, now is that time. Don’t forget to keep taking your prenatal vitamins, though. Your baby needs all the nutrients he can get.
6. Don’t worry about anyone else – this is YOUR journey
While breastmilk is the most nutritious food for your baby, exclusively breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. Supplementing with formula is more than okay. Or, if you’re only able to nurse for a few weeks, that’s okay, too. Do the best you can, mama. You got this!
Share your breastfeeding tips below!