As I said before I am not an expert on breastfeeding. But after fifteen months of breastfeeding I feel confident enough to say I am an experience expert. The past fifteen months I experienced everything from difficulty latching on, feeding on demand, pumping milk, breastfeeding chairs, biting, refusal to nurse due to over-stimulation, night nursing, sleep deprivation, feeding in public, judgement and questions from the outside world, the best nursing outfits, weaning and most importantly; the joy of breastfeeding! So if you are a breastfeeding mama or about to become one, be sure to read on!
In my previous breastfeeding blog I have written about how and why I started breastfeeding. Our start wasn’t an easy one, but nonetheless I have been breastfeeding Isaya with a lot of joy, delight, satisfaction and pride. I am very happy I’m able to do this for and with her. And I would (and hopefully will, one day) do it all over again. But there are a few things I know now that will make certain things easier if I am blessed with another baby. Some tips, tricks and reassurances I picked up along the way. And why keep these to myself? Hopefully they will make you feel a little more confident if you are new to breastfeeding or help you out if you are struggling while nursing your little one.
1. Get educated
As I wrote before, I became somewhat of a breastfeeding nerd during my pregnancy. I read a lot of books and online articles, took a breastfeeding class, asked questions. It has helped me tons to know about the proper way to latch on, breastfeeding poses and possible obstacles. In the last months of my pregnancy I felt very confident about feeding my daughter and when we ran into trouble after Isaya was born I knew about my options and where to find the right information to get through our struggles. I would highly recommend getting the La Leche League ‘Breastfeeding Bible’ and signing up for one of their classes. Check out their website to find your local LLL.
2. Ignore the naysayers
There are going to be people who tell you it may not be possible to breastfeed or that it will be extremely hard or something else that will screw up your confidence. Don’t listen to them. Medical complications aside, you have boobs and you want to use them to feed your baby, that is the end of the story. Confidence is key. Now that my baby is weaning I sometimes feel insecure about whether or not I will have enough milk for a feeding. Aya will get impatient, I will get stressed and it will take a lot longer for my let-down reflex to occur. As soon as I relax and tell both of us to be patient, I regain my confidence and Aya gets all the milk she needs.
3. Ask for help. Now.
It is very common to run into obstacles the first days or weeks as a nursing mama. It’s normal. It’s surmountable. It doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding or it will be difficult for the rest of your nursing days. If you ask for help that is! Don’t wait. Seriously, if in the first two or three days you experience pain or your baby doesn’t want to latch on or your milk isn’t coming, don’t torture yourself. Just call La Leche League or a lactation consultant and ask for help. They can help you identify and solve the problem. I realize a lactation consultant can cost quite a lot of money. But the investment is definitely worth it (just make sure she’s well recommended). Allow yourself and your baby peaceful, joyous and fulfilling breastfeeding sessions.
As I said above stress stops your milk flow. Try to relax. Make sure you are sitting comfortably, your baby is in a comfy position, relax your shoulders, arms, legs, belly and most important: breathe. Breathe slowly and calmly and the rest of your body will follow. If you have a very sensitive baby (like I do) it’s quite possible your baby is not relaxed at all when you are trying to start a breastfeeding session. Your baby’s mood can definitely influence how you feel and therefor how you feed. But the other way around is also true. So just chill out and breathe and your baby will do the same
5. Breastfeed on Demand
A lot of people are going to want to put you and your baby on a schedule. I’m not saying ‘don’t ever get your baby on a schedule’, but just let it come a little more natural. Don’t let your baby cry and get yourself all worked up just because it’s not “time to feed”. Your baby is not a machine. Just feed on demand the first few weeks, or as long as works for the both of you. It will keep everybody happy. We got on something that looked like a three-hour schedule around two or three months. I was ready for it then: ready to be able to plan a little more ahead and have more time between feedings. If you have to start work sooner, you probably need to steer in this direction a little faster, but try not to force a schedule on you and your baby you aren’t ready for. All it will do is cause unnecessary stress.
6. Get a chair
Get a chairI don’t want to make you feel like you need to invest in an expensive nursing chair to be able to breastfeed. Because honestly that’s not the case. The first six months I did fine without a chair. But once we bought ours I was like ‘why did I not do this sooner!’. So not a necessity, but definitely a tip. We bought one when Isaya moved into her own room and I wanted to sit on something comfy during night feedings. But I ended up feeding her in the chair during the daytime as well, because it became our chill- spot.
7. Sensitive Baby Guide
The first three months or so of Isaya’s life she was totally content to drink whenever and wherever. She didn’t seem to mind the world around her. Nothing would distract her and I could feed her in the busiest places. But this all changed when she got older. She would become agitated if I wanted to feed her outside of our home. She would be so distracted by all the things and people around her that I would end up sitting there, with an over-stimulated baby and my boob out. No fun. So basically I stopped breastfeeding in public. This put a restriction on our freedom and my confidence, because now I had to plan ahead more and either pump milk before we left or be home for a feeding. Gradually I eased us back into being able to nurse in public, by first practicing feeding in different rooms of our house, then in other houses and eventually café’s, the library, the beach, anywhere really. Staying calm, being patient and letting Aya focus on me, not the turmoil around her, helped a lot. The flexibility and freedom we got back makes me very happy and makes our life a lot easier.
8. Have a Reply Ready
I have had my fair share of questions about how long I planned on breastfeeding. You will know the difference between someone asking out of interest or with judgement. If someone asks me ‘how long are you going to go on with this!’ instead of ‘do you have an idea about how long you want to breastfeed?’ my reply always is ‘uhm, probably until she is eighteen’. This usually makes people realize they are overstepping. Humor helps or if someone is really insensitive just use blunt sarcasm. Have a reply ready. Something for breastfeeding in public, something for feeding on demand, something for pumping milk at the office, something for extended breastfeeding. I found that not having to come up with something strong to say while I am nursing and feeling vulnerable prevented feelings of insecurity, regret or anger afterwards. It may seem sad to have to think about this beforehand, but really you are just putting up a protective shield so you and your baby can breastfeed in peace.
9. Pumping Milk
I pumped milk at the office from the time Aya was seven months until she was fourteen months old. In these seven months I gained a lot of experience with pumping milk at work. So be on the lookout for a whole new blog on this subject!