Wednesday, July 11, 2012

10 Breastfeeding Tips to Make Life a Little Easier

When I was pregnant, the one thing that scared me the most was being unable to breastfeed my baby. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. Some were horror stories and always emphasized how hard it was. Some told me it's easy and the only reason some people have problems is because they are selfish. Here are some myths I heard over and over again. A note to all those people out there, that doesn't help. (Here are some positioning and latch tips that WILL help). But breastfeeding was and is very important to me so I did my best to understand what was about to happen to my precious boobies. I started doing research, stocking up on tips, taking classes and reading books! In just a few months I had learned enough to educate a village. Even then, I was scared. According to many researchers, only 1%-3% of women truly can't breastfeed their children. With that statistic I decided, I CAN do this, no matter what.  So below I am going to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then I am going to give you ten tips that will make your life SO much easier.


The Truth:
        Breastfeeding can be hard. There are moments where you are exhausted, your breasts hurt, and you just want your body back. But breastfeeding is also very rewarding.

Some benefits for baby include:
  • Reduced risk of SIDS
  • May protect from allergies and long term illnesses.
  • Boost IQ points
  • Protect from childhood obesity.
Some benefits for you include:
  • Reduce stress and chance of postpartum mood disorders (formally known as postpartum depression)
  • It's free!!
  • Weight loss (You burn about 500 calories a day when exclusively nursing)
  • Helps uterus return to normal size
  • Reduces your risk for some types of cancer
  • Easier night! (no having to get out of bed and make bottles)
  • Bonding moments
  • (My favorite one) You get a little time without a Period WOOOO!
  • Helps with keeping you NOT pregnant (doesn't prevent, you WILL need birth control of some sort)
The lists could go on. There are so many reasons that breastfeeding is worth it. So why does it have such a bad reputation? Why do people think it is SO hard? Learning to breastfeed is the hardest part. Like I stated above, there are nights when you are exhausted. However, this comes whether you are formula feeding or nursing. Those first few weeks are hard as you try to establish a good latch and are nursing on demand. I had a few break downs myself. A baby makes you exhausted no matter what but add sore nipples and that is some women's breaking point. At first, you and baby have to learn a good latch. If you don't, your nipples may chafe, crack and even bleed. You never want to get to this point. If it really hurts, break the latch and try again. A good latch should not bring you to tears. <<Ha. That statement is so funny to me because any nurse or lactation consultant will tell you, "if it hurts it isn't right!". THEY LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Any breastfeeding mom will tell you, it hurts at first. Initially you will feel a stinging sensation but it should go away within a minute or so. Regardless, your breasts will be sore. They will feel heavy and when your milk comes in, they will get engorged. My best advice, stick it out. in a couple weeks, this will pass. Once you establish a nursing relationship, breastfeeding is pretty easy. The hardest part for me is pumping. If I have a birth to go to (as a doula) or a long class, I have to prepare weeks ahead of time. I don't mind pumping, but nursing is simply so much easier I have been spoiled. Despite the moments when I want my body back, I wouldn't change a thing. Breastfeeding is so much easier than formula feeding for me. I do not have to make any bottles, wash or disinfect any bottles, or run out of formula in the middle of the night and have to run to the store. Plus, the diapers don't smell so bad ;)
See that belly? Looks like I didn't make enough milk ;)
The honest truth: Breastfeeding is worth it if it means enough to you. Never let others scare you into thinking you aren't making enough milk. If baby has wet diapers daily, you ARE making enough. Weightloss in baby means nothing. (Most baby's lose weight right after they are born but then gain it back a couple weeks later, this is normal.) As for the lovely ladies who breastfed when we were babes, they mean well but we have learned so much about breastfeeding since then that recommendations have changed.

Ten Tips to Make Life Easier:
  1. Take a breastfeeding class. As I emphasize in all of my posts, education is KEY in making life easier. A breastfeeding class will help you understand how the breast functions, what a good latch is, what a bad latch looks and feels like, different positions, etc. The information I learned in my breastfeeding class was priceless!! There are also some informative videos you may want to check out.
  2. Do NOT keep formula in the house. It is too easy to 'supplement' if you are worried you aren't making enough milk, if your breasts hurt or even if you are tired and want to give dad a shot. Those first few weeks are the hardest, but of you supplement with formula, it will be harder. Your milk supply will drop. Baby's virgin gut (hey there's that phrase again, HINT: research) will disappear and all that hard work will go to waste.
  3. Have a pump available from day one. Once your milk comes in, your breasts will get engorged. Having a pump helps relieve even the worst pain and helps you store up a stock for later. When buying a pump there are some things to think about. The brand DOES matter. The only two brands I would ever recommend are Ameda and Medela. Pumps made by formula companies rarely work (they are produced by formula companies, think about it for a minute...). Ameda and Medela pumps work very well and usually come with warranties. This is important. Also, please remember that how much you pump has no reflection on how much milk you are making. Baby sucks in a different way than a pump therefore producing different results!
  4. Have/Create a good support network. Support is just an important as education. If no one supports you and people constantly either brush nursing off as easy or push supplementing/quitting, you will get discouraged. You need support. Why I say have/create is because many new mama's don't have a good support network. Our parents grew up in a time where formula was a luxury. Many of our moms never breastfed and others breastfed differently. (I was one of the lucky ones with a great support system, my mom was the bomb diggity!) If you do not have the support you need, you can create a network for yourself. La Leche League has some wonderful forums where you can talk to other moms struggling and often times, there are breastfeeding support groups in your area. Do some research :)
  5. Nurse when and wherever you are comfortable.  Know your state laws on breastfeeding, they protect you. Do not let others dictate how you feel about breastfeeding. You may be comfortable nursing in public with or without a cover. You may want to nurse in your car or in a private stall, however YOU make that decision, not anyone else. I would never eat my dinner or feel comfortable feeding my child in a bathroom public or not. Each state has their own laws that protect breastfeeding moms. In the state I live in this is the law:  Find out your state law here.
    ________ permits a woman to breastfeed her infant in any public or private place and prohibits anyone from restricting or limiting this right.   Find out your state law here.
  6. Cluster feed for a few hours before bed time. This is one I wish someone told me in the beginning. Remember those 'break downs' I mentioned having earlier? Funny story, one night my daughter was up every forty five minutes and eating for about a half hour each time. Resulting in, well you do the math. I started crying and trying to wake up my husband because I just needed something (I had no idea what it was). I was at the end of my rope. Picture me, holding a newborn, hunched over, half asleep and just letting it all out. It was so pathetic. So I did some research, I found out about cluster feeding. Nurse every hour, or even closer together, for about 4 hours. I nursed every half hour from 7-10 when my babe was a newborn. This resulted in longer stretches of sleep. (aka instead of waking every forty five minutes and feeding for thirty, I would get about a 3-4 hour stretch of sleep.) I feel like cluster feeding saved my life haha.
  7. Keep baby close at night. Even if you decide not to bed share, keep a bassinet or pack n play next to your bed. This way you can pick baby up, latch them on and snooze while they eat. Remember that adorable nursery you decorated? Forget about it for a couple months. Which leads to the next tip...
  8. Learn different positions, ESPECIALLY side lying. Side lying has a bit of a learning curve, but once you master it there is no going back. Sweet sleep will return to your life and all will be well. Side lying is a position where you and your babe face one another whist lying on your sides. Baby latches and you fall asleep all cuddled up. Peace will return in your life.
  9. Before sitting down to nurse, prepare. There is nothing worse than that moment when you are nursing and realize "OH MAN, I have to pee" or "I am soooooo thirsty". Keep snacks, water, entertainment, pillows and your phone close by. Having a designated area helps reduce the chaos when baby gets hungry. 
  10. Check your breasts often. Is there a lump or hard spot? Try to massage it out. Many breastfeeding woman get blocked ducts, mastitis and other painful issues. Keep track of cracked nipples and use Lansinoh Lanolin (purple bottle) on them. You have to take care of yourself. Stay hydrated, eat enough, pay attention to any changes.
More information:

Remember, it gets easier with time. Only 1%-3% of women truly can't breastfeed, so if this is important to you, you can do it!!!!! If you ever need personal support, there is always a lactation consultant somewhere or feel free to contact me. I am a good listener and may be able to help.

Good luck with your little nurslings, may the milk be with you.

What did I miss? 
Any tips you've learned over the years?
Comment below with your thoughts!
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  1. Great points! I'm especially glad you brought up cluster feeding--you'd think we'd know that humans don't run like clocks! For some reason, we've got this idea in our heads that babies should eat the same amount, at the same intervals, day in and day out. Nobody does that--not even adults, so why should babies? Babies grow to the tune of a half pound or so a week (at least mine do. They've got fat little butterball bellies too :) and that takes a lot of nursing!

    Babies love to cluster feed in the evenings and sometimes during big growth spurts too. A great piece of advice I got from another mom: If you get out of sync with your baby and s/he just seems constantly fussy and upset, drop everything for two days and just nurse! Don't worry about the housework or running errands--just give your baby undivided nursing time. Life will improve dramatically. Of course, this is easy said than done when you've got more than one child, but the point is to focus on your children with all the love and affection you've got.

    1. Cluster Feeding is a breast feeding mom's best kept secret, it needs to be yelled from the rooftops! haha.

      That's a wonderful tip! Sometimes nursing is all baby needs to set things straight. I would also add to drop everything and nurse if it looks like baby is about to have a melt down. I'm pretty proud to say that breast feeding (and our trusty wrap)are the two things that have kept our shopping trips melt down free and easy!

      Thanks for your input


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