No one prepares you for how broken your body feels after giving birth.
Or how difficult breastfeeding can be, so I put together a list of 10 tips for successful breastfeeding that I believe would have helped me as a new mom.
Most of the literature I came across before having my baby focused on a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and how to care for a newborn. The few narratives I found online regarding childbirth ranged from rose-colored, euphoric visions to choppy, traumatic scenes from a gruesome horror movie.
While these experiences vary widely on a spectrum, mine fell somewhere in the middle. I had an uncomplicated delivery, but the pain of contractions made me feel like I was being tortured, albeit with an end in sight.
One of the first questions asked post-delivery, which may seem harmless to those asking but loaded for any new mother, is:
Are you going to breastfeed?
I’d had my mind set on successfully breastfeeding because my mother had nursed all four of her children. So growing up in that environment, it seemed natural to me that I would do the same.
What should seem like a natural step in motherhood became one of the most significant challenges I’ve ever overcome.
I wish I had 10 tips for successful breastfeeding that seemed applicable to what I was going through.
So many websites will pop up with tips and strategies if you google breastfeeding. “Nurse on demand” or “pump every two to three hours.” While these may seem simple, it’s not enough for a woman recovering from the worst pain nature could devise in support of species’ propagation.
The lack of nitty gritty information is partially why I started this blog, to act as a resource for working moms. You can read more on the origins of Circling the Sandbox here.
These 10 tips for successful breastfeeding are things I believe would’ve helped me, and I hope will help you.
Hormones are already out of whack; a newborn is crying out for you, and only you, for food or a diaper change. Speaking of diapers, you’re also likely wearing one because you’re bleeding for days or weeks after delivery. None of this is glamorous. It’s tough, but I can say it gets better.
Then comes the actual breastfeeding. Many people will say if breastfeeding hurts, the latch isn’t correct. Well, I hate to break it to new moms, but there is a bit of discomfort initially with breastfeeding. That makes sense, though, right? It’s the first time your breasts get used with such a purpose—no wonder your nipples are feeling a bit under the weather.
As a woman who successfully breastfed her daughter for over a year, there are a few things that would’ve facilitated nursing success while also providing me peace of mind, especially if I had ultimately not been able to breastfeed.
Here are my 10 tips for successful breastfeeding:
1. Lactation Consultant
Jill was a fairy godmother who flew up to my house in a white Prius. While she didn’t make everything better instantly, this lactation consultant gave me what no one else could: hope. Hope that things will get better along with validation that what I was experiencing could be overcome. It’s incredible how much better I felt by someone just sitting with me and saying everything would be ok. Unfortunately, not everyone has the money or lactation resources geographically available to them. If that’s the case, find a support group or network of breastfeeding moms.
Time is one thing I will never take for granted on this journey. I was able to take time off I needed to bond with my baby, making breastfeeding my main priority. So, I was highly privileged in that sense (I have my two cents regarding maternity leave in the USA, but that’s it’s own article since I could ramble on for many a page on this one).
3. One In-Person Support Person
Having a primary support person at your fingertips does wonders. Without my husband, it would’ve been much more difficult for me to breastfeed. He was always taking care of things around the house, running errands, and letting me take needed naps. He saved my nursing journey and my mental health at critical points postpartum. Whatever your situation may be: partner, no partner, family close by, or just a good friend, tap into the supports available to you. Don’t take on everything. Be kind to yourself.
4. Support Groups
While I never posted any questions in the virtual support group I joined, it was helpful seeing others’ stories and that I was experiencing the same things as other moms. Postpartum can be isolating, so to have access to others online was reassuring. Plus, there are moms in there that know their stuff! These groups vary in terms of platforms, but usually, there’s a discussion board, which is a lifesaver when having particular questions or concerns, especially if it offers a search function!
I had never heard or seen this discussed anywhere, but nursing on a chaise transformed my breastfeeding experience tenfold. Of all the 10 tips for successful breastfeeding on this list, this may be my favorite. Finding a comfortable spot and getting your baby into a good feeding position can be challenging. In the early days, I snuggled up on the chaise of our sectional, eating snacks and smelling my baby. Yup, and I still smell my baby because there’s a smell-time limit, especially after their college graduation. You can see why my daughter will be ready to be out on her own quickly…
6. The right pillows – a body pillow and a regular pillow
A body pillow saved me when side sleeping in my third trimester, and it also was a breastfeeding savior. A body pillow against my side while seated with a regular pillow across it, over my lap, was a super comfy feeding position. That way baby has the regular pillow as support while being elevated by the body pillow underneath. Pillows specifically made for nursing never worked for me. Also, if you’re going to buy a pillow, you may as well save some money and buy a multipurpose one instead of one with a pink tax.
While I had my fair share of screen time when beginning breastfeeding, I quickly found that my mind was going numb. My brain nearly rotted by the 6-week cluster feed when I was trapped in the same position for prolonged periods. At that time, my daughter decided she wouldn’t be going in the baby-wearing contraption that saved my sanity until that point…
8. Snacks (And Yes, Water is Your New Best Friend)
Do NOT underestimate the power of a snack when you are a dehydrated, barrel-of-emotions! While I didn’t find breastfeeding the weight-dropping miracle others do, it made me ridiculously hungry. So stock up, ladies!
9. Release Expectations
The first week I had my daughter home, I remember engorgement. I’ll say it three more times because that’s how bad it was. Engorgement, engorgement, engorgement!
Anyone who’s experienced this knows what I mean when I say that your breasts can be as big and hard as cinder blocks. I also remember my nipples being so tender that the thought of a passerby grazing my chest in a tight corridor was something of nightmares.
My body was sore, broken, and ill-prepared as family came to my home to see a baby I barely knew. I will tell you what I wish someone had told me. Honor your need for space, time, and feelings. Give yourself grace. You have just been through one of the most significant events of your life, and you need to take care of yourself. If you’re struggling, don’t place all the pressure on yourself to get things right. After all, what’s right for you and your baby is what keeps you sane.
Despite having 10 tips for successful breastfeeding at your fingertips, it may not work for everyone. And I want you to know, that is ok!
Some mothers breastfeed, formula feed, or some combination of both. Only you know your limits, and whatever you decide, or are able to do, is what is best for you and your baby.
10. Above All Else, Trust Yourself.
That needs no explanation. Good luck, new mama. 😊
I hope you found these 10 tips for successful breastfeeding helpful.
If you’d like to read about mental health balance, check out my post on nostalgia, hope, and mindfulness here.