There are few, if any, parenting topics more charged than breastfeeding. From onlookers shaming moms who nourish their babies in public, to the black and white “breast is best” camp, moms routinely site breastfeeding as the most emotional and difficult part of the newborn stage. Whether you breastfeed exclusively, you supplement with formula, or your breastfeeding journey wasn’t meant to be, this post is for you. As with many things in Motherhood, breastfeeding can be divisive and uniting. My hope is that your experience will be exclusively the latter, regardless of what your path holds.
Ideally, consider your feeding options before you give birth. There’s absolutely no guarantee you’ll be able to breastfeed or that you’ll want to bottle feed, but it’s helpful to take the time beforehand to educate yourself on your options and make sure you and your partner are on the same page. My advice to mothers is to always hold your desires with an open hand. Parenting is known for the curve balls it throws, so be ready to change plans if need be. I’ve known so many mothers who were set on breastfeeding, but for a variety of reasons, they weren’t able to, or weren’t able to exclusively, and it led to many of them feeling less than or unaccomplished as a mother. It’s great to prepare and educate yourself and certainly set your goals, but be gentle with yourself and understanding if you’re unable to nurse, or if nursing looks differently than you had thought. Breast milk is an amazing substance – truly liquid gold! But I do have trouble with the motto, “breast is best”, as I’ve seen many mothers undone when breastfeeding isn’t possible, filled with regret and dismay that they’re withholding the best from their child. Breast milk is wonderful, but “fed is best”, to insure a thriving, healthy baby. So open your mind and heart to the various ways that baby can be fed, while doing your best to reach your goals for you and your baby.
One of the sure fire pros of nursing is the simplicity of it – you only need a lactating breast and a hungry baby, and you’re set anytime, anywhere. There are some tools though, that are extremely helpful to have when nursing your baby. I highly recommend a nursing pillow when nursing. A good nursing pillow will relieve pressure on your back and neck, as it elevates the baby to the height of your breast. I loved the Jolly Jumper Boomerang when I was nursing, but even beforehand when I was pregnant for supporting my belly at night time. At the beginning of breastfeeding, the nipples can be extremely sore and sensitive, so much so, that some women stop nursing due to the pain. To protect your nipples from a painful latch or cracked skin, I can’t recommend nipple shields enough. They create a protective barrier between baby’s mouth and your breast as your milk flows through. They’re not a long-term solution, but while your nipples are healing, they’re a Godsend. And nursing does become more comfortable as you go, and eventually is painless for most women. After each nursing session, you can also apply a nursing balm to promote healing, as well.
Milk Supply Issues
Now that you’re all set up to nurse, milk supply can provide a new challenge. Whether you have too much milk, or not enough, it can be a stressful experience.
For oversupply, your breasts will feel hard and uncomfortable. Nursing or pumping will relieve the pressure. If your baby has already fed and you have excess milk, absolutely pump the remaining milk for another time. You never know when you’ll need your partner to feed baby, or your baby will need an extra feeding, so it’s always great having a breast pump and extra milk. If you feel so inclined, it’s also a beautiful act to donate your breast milk to your local NICU or a woman in need. Information on how to do so varies, but see what you can find online for your area. I used the Swing Breast Pump by Medela, and the Pump and Save bags for storing extra milk, as well as a dual hospital grade Medela pump – both were helpful, though the dual pumps are more efficient. If your breasts are still uncomfortably full, try a cold compress or Thermo Pads to soothe. It’s always a good idea to have a few breast pads in your diaper bag or on hand as well, to catch any excess milk. There are reusable and disposable options available.
When your supply is low, your breasts will feel soft and you’ll find your baby continues to root or cry for milk after a feed. All babies drink different amounts and each woman (even each unique breast) produces different amounts of milk. There’s no reason to fear that your supply is not sufficient for your baby unless your doctor or midwife has confirmed such after several weigh-ins with baby. If you have any concerns, contact your doctor or find a local breastfeeding clinic. Most hospitals host free breastfeeding clinics, so look for information there. A lactation consultant or trained nurse can be an invaluable help when you’re just getting used to nursing, so make sure you seek out help and resources. Some ways to increase milk supply include nursing on demand, pumping after each feed, getting plenty of rest (I know, that one is tricky!), staying hydrated, and trying to stay calm. Stress can be a trigger in low milk production, and it creates a vicious cycle when you’re stressed about low milk supply.
Nursing on the go
When you’re just beginning your breastfeeding journey, it’s easiest to learn in the peace of your own home. You’re learning a new skill and it can be hard at first, so don’t worry if it equates to hours on end in your bed. But once you have the hang of it, it’s great to be able to nurse on the go when you’re out and about. If you feel more comfortable, there are so many cute nursing covers that will give you a bit of privacy and help baby be less distracted by his surroundings. Finding a comfortable nursing bra or tank top also makes nursing when you’re out a lot simpler.
Breastfeeding can be an incredible experience! Our hope is that you enjoy the process and the extra time with your baby that feeding provides – whether that’s breast or bottle – and that you can be a source for encouragement in your circle of friends on this emotions-laden matter. We’re all in this together, mamas!
Emily is a Montreal-based writer and blogger, but most importantly, a mom of three littles (age five and under). She geeks out over cloth diapers, lattes, and will do just about anything to travel. You can find her on Instagram @emmorrice where she profusely overgrams pictures of her meals, kids and city.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Snuggle Bugz and it’s affiliates.