When I was pregnant with my first child I created images in my head of what the experience of breastfeeding would look like. It would be a time to connect with my baby, provide nourishment, and share a gift that is really special. I was lucky. He got it right from the beginning. (I think he absorbed the advice that I shared daily with patients-you see I am a Lactation Consultant.) He nursed like a champion, in fact, it was bottles he was not so fond of, but I digress.
Fast forward two years to when my daughter was born. She was smaller than her brother and latching was a bit more challenging. She tended to open her mouth just enough so that it was excruciating (well beyond the 10 second zing that would be considered normal.) I worked hard to get her to open her mouth wider by applying gentle pressure to her chin and her latch improved within a few days. Once again, I considered myself lucky.
The truth is that breastfeeding is not instinctual. It may be natural, but it is not always easy. And it takes the average Mama about 3 weeks to get it down. But once that magic happens, it is a truly amazing journey.
Here are some things to keep in mind-
Take A Prenatal Breastfeeding Class. Learning about Colostrum, the importance of oatmeal, use of breast pumps, and other tips gives you insight. Information is power. Get as much information while you are not sleep deprived with a newborn.
Get Help Early. Most hospitals have Lactation Consultants on staff. They should be able to trouble shoot and offer support. They can often help you obtain a breast pump through your insurance company.
“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Figure Out Who Is On Your Team. Breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint. You need allies who can support you on days that are difficult. They are family members who will rub your shoulders. Friends who will share tips. And neighbors who will cook you a meal. Find these team members to help carry you through the tough times.
Go To A Group. I know support groups can be daunting. It’s hard to get out of the house, open up to strangers, and participate in discussions. But the camaraderie and information can be so helpful. As someone who facilitates two breastfeeding groups, I love to watch friendships develop at my groups. If you are north of Boston, check out Stork Ready. Or do a Google search to determine where the closest breastfeeding support group is located.
Set Small Goals For Yourself. Preparing to breastfeed for 12 months (the current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics) is daunting. When you run into breastfeeding speed bumps it seems like an eternity! Tell yourself you hope to nurse for a week, then a month, and then see what happens. It makes the impossible seem possible.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself. I cannot tell you how many mothers come to see me and blame themselves for low milk supply, giving a little bit of formula, and not loving the whole breastfeeding thing. Mothers are the most important player on the breastfeeding team. And making sure that she is ok is crucial. If you follow me, you know that my saying-“Guilt is a useless emotion so check it at the door.”
Eat Mama, Eat. Moms who breastfeed need 500 extra calories to produce breastmilk. Yup! You read that correctly. Eat what makes you happy (read chocolate and ice cream on those exceptionally trying days.) Foods high in protein help Moms have more energy, but a balanced diet is really the best option. Don’t worry if you get crumbs on the baby’s head-it’s all good!
Reach Out For Support. Sometimes you need the assistance of a trained Lactation Consultant. Trouble shooting early can help you avoid pain, fears, and help give you guidance. As the owner of Joyeux Parenting, I love helping families as they begin their breastfeeding journey. It is a privilege for me to offer support and help to those who need it most. If I can help you and your family please call me at (617)970-2154 for more information about my services.