Before I discuss my breastfeeding journey I want to preface it by saying everyone’s journey is different and breastfeeding is not for everyone. However, I do believe there’s a stigma and almost a taboo for a mother to nurse her child in public and that needs to change if we want mother’s to be successful with breastfeeding.
Being a physician, I felt even more pressure to breastfeed my babies because it was the healthier thing to do and people expected that of me. What people didn’t know was that my work did not provide dedicated pumping time for nursing mothers. So I had to sneak away between patients hoping an acutely sick patient wasn’t walking in during that 15 minute time frame.
It was likely the most challenging aspect of being a new mother but in hindsight I’m so happy I did it.
Here are some tips that helped me successfully breastfeed both my children for over a year!
Take a Lactation Course:
About 2 months before your due date take a lactation course (preferably with your partner). I enrolled at my local Pump Station store, but hospitals provide this course as well. While this class is not a guarantee you will successfully nurse, it does give you an idea of what to expect and what to do in order to get over some of the challenges you may face. It’s important to include your partner so he/she understands what the breastfeeding journey entails.
2. Get the Right Tools
Yes, even breastfeeding has a set of tools to help make your experience easier to manage.
- My number one recommendation is to invest in a good nursing pillow. My favorite is the Boppy Pillow, which helps get baby in the right position for nursing and is also great for tummy time and propping baby up.
- Nursing pads (either disposables or reusables) are also another must – no one wants to deal with the embarrassment of leaky boobs…and yes, your boobs will leak so better be prepared!
- Nursing cover to use while out and about with your new baby
- A good nipple cream like Lansinoh is also good to have on hand to prevent sore, dry, or cracked nipples. You can also use some coconut oil or just express a little milk and spread it over the nipple area after each feeding to act as a moisture barrier.
One of the best tips I learned is to create a “breastfeeding toolkit” with the tools listed above, in addition to a water bottle, a protein bar, a burp cloth, some reading material, baby nail clippers (best time to clip them as they doze off!), etc. That way you always have what you need on hand and all in one place!
3. Ask For Help
Nowadays, hospitals will have lactation consultants on hand to help you get started on the right foot. If not, you can always contact your local chapter of La Leche League, an organization dedicated to helping and supporting breastfeeding mothers. In Los Angeles we even have lactation consultants who will drive to your home and assist you like My Nursing Coach.
I also found KellyMom to be a wonderful site about all my nursing concerns like how often to pump at work to maintain a supply.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
Breastfeeding is hard work, and you need all the energy and nutrition you can get to help your body keep up with the physical demands of feeding and nourishing a growing baby! Breastfeeding also burns upwards of 500 calories a day, so if you thought your days of “eating for two” were over, think again. A good, healthy breastfeeding diet includes lots of proteins, calcium, iron-rich foods, leafy greens, fruits and veggies, and lots of DHA-rich foods (like wild salmon, sardines, and eggs) to promote baby’s healthy brain development.
Don’t forget to hydrate! It’s important for breastfeeding moms to stay hydrated so be sure to keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times. I have both the Hydroflask and the Lifefactory bottle and love them both for different reasons. 🙂 Lay off the juices and other sugary drinks and stick to plain water, caffeine-free teas, homemade smoothies, or fresh-squeezed juices. I aimed for about 80 oz of water per day.
If you’re concerned about your milk supply and looking for ways to increase it, start by taking lactation enhancing supplements like fenugreek. My smoothie bowl recipe also contains several ingredients which help increase milk supply.
5. Ditch the Schedules
Especially in those early weeks of the breastfeeding journey, feeding your baby “on-demand” (meaning feeding him whenever he asks) is the most conducive to successful breastfeeding. You may have heard that it’s important to put your baby on a feeding schedule, but the truth is when your baby is hungry, she’ll let you know – and your job as a breastfeeding mother is to follow her cues and feed her. On-demand feeding is most important in those first weeks when your milk is coming in and your supply is being established, so go ahead and feed your baby whenever she wants. Over time, your baby will start falling into a schedule on her own, so don’t worry – just go with the flow. 🙂
6. Learn the Hunger Cues
Contrary to what we might initially believe, crying is a very late sign of hunger. If you’ve ever tried getting a crying baby to latch on, you know just how difficult it can be! So it’s important to learn the early cues so you can catch them and start feeding your baby before he starts crying. Babies are born with the natural reflex to look for food – it’s called the “rooting reflex.” Touch or stroke your baby’s cheek and he’ll most likely turn towards your hand and open wide. If you want to get a good latch, this is your chance! Other signs to look for are sucking on fists and hands, smacking lips, or opening and closing the mouth. For a great list of hunger cues, check out this post from KellyMom.com.
Are you currently breastfeeding or have you breastfed in the past? What kinds of obstacles did you have to overcome on your journey? What other tips or advice do you have for first-time breastfeeding mothers? Comment below!