My breastfeeding journey started 7 years ago. My first try only lasted for 4.5 months, so I considered it a fail. My goal was 6 months to a year. I had fallen short. At that time I didn’t commend myself for going as long as I did because my focus was solely on the fact that I hadn’t reached my goal. I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could have done differently. So I vowed to do as much research as I could so that I would be prepared for my next child. When that time came, I took a breastfeeding and newborn basics class. I learned SO much and was very prepared for my next experience.
If you’re a new mom, or a repeat mom, you may encounter mothers who say “uggh I would never breastfeed, it hurts too bad.” You may have family who says “That baby isn’t eating enough by just drinking your breast milk.” Then you may join a mom group in person or on social media that makes the breastfeeding journey seem like it is the easiest and most satisfying thing. The truth is, breastfeeding has both negative and positive experiences. Breastfeeding hurts you mentally, physically and emotionally at times, but it is also the best thing in the world seeing your baby grow, thrive and reach milestones off of your body alone! Everyone has their own way of making breastfeeding work for them and their baby, but here is a list of things that has helped me on my journey.
- RESEARCH– Many women make the mistake of waiting until they have their baby to learn how to breastfeed. While there are lactation consultants in the hospital, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into before delivery. Most of the times, the hospital’s LC is making rounds to all the moms and you never know how long it may be before she gets to you. You need to understand how breastfeeding works and what your purpose is before beginning this journey. When you do your research, you are able to identify when things are going right and wrong. You’re able to work through the tough times a little easier when you understand what is going on. You are also able to recognize when it’s time to seek help when you’ve run into an issue that you have no idea to how to fix. Take classes, watch videos, etc.
- LACTATION CONSULTANT– Find a lactation specialist/consultant in your area and visit them prior to having your baby. They are there to answer any questions you may have ahead of time, teach you nursing positions, teach you about the proper diet, warning signs, good signs and more. It’s great to build a relationship with them so that you are comfortable to reach out during your breastfeeding journey if you should ever run into an issue.
- COCONUT OIL– Many women love lanolin or other nipple creams, but I love coconut oil. It’s natural with no added ingredients. It also works as an anti-fungal cream and can help prevent thrush on baby’s tongue or your nipple. HOWEVER, you can also save money by using your milk! Just express a little and rub it on your nipples to help with cracks, dryness, sensitivity and pain. Using your breastmilk also helps your baby to smell and latch when putting them to the breast.
- SUPPORT SYSTEM– Please make sure you have a core individual or group around you that supports you, breastfeeding and your journey. Make sure they are attending as many classes they can with you. Take them research and talk about it with them so that they are knowledgeable. Make sure they view breastfeeding as something positive and are willing to motivate and support you when things are getting rough. Make sure they are supportive enough to advocate for you if there was ever an issue with your pediatrician or a stranger who has something smart to say out of their mouth when you’re nursing in public. If you didn’t have a doula during birth or don’t have a support person or team, hire a postpartum doula. I talk about the benefits of one in my post 10 Reasons to Hire a Doula.
- NETFLIX/HULU- Mam! Cluster feeding during your breastfeeding journey is very real and you need to be prepared! They happen during growth spurts, but you can also experience it during teething or when baby is feeling ill. Find you a nice show or Netflix series to watch and binge! Some of my faves are Sons of Anarchy, Orange is the New Black, Grace & Frankie, New Girl, Jane the Virgin, Somewhere In Between, Revenge, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and 7 Seconds. You can never go wrong with Law & Order: SVU either. Hulu has great shows as well. I love watching Food Network, movies and the show Black-ish on there.
- HEALTHY MEALS/SNACKS– I don’t know about you, but breastfeeding makes me HUNGRY! It’s because feeding your hungry baby is burning calories. No matter how much you want to crush a bag of chips or some cookies, try to fill yourself up on healthy foods and snacks. Fruits, veggies, nuts, salads (spinach based) and oatmeal are some of my favorites! Smoothies are also a great choice. I’ll be honest and say that I definitely choose some unhealthy pleasurable snacks and foods at times lol.
- WATER- Water should have been your bestfriend during pregnancy, and it’ll need to be attached to your hip during breastfeeding. You may wake up in the middle of the night like you haven’t had anything to drink in over a week. Staying hydrated is important in our every day lives, but it is also vital to a successful breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is more of a supply and demand process (the more you nurse baby, the more your breasts will produce milk), but if you do not have the proper water intake you risk depleting your milk supply.
- CONFIDENCE/DRIVE– Confidence is key. You have to be confident that you are doing a great job. That your baby is growing. That your nipples will be ok. That you are the best mother to your child. When breastfeeding gets hard, you begin to feel weak and question if you should continue. You wonder why you did it in the first place. You have to be confident in your purpose and have the drive to push forward and through the hard times. You’ve got this mama!
- KNOWLEDGE ABOUT PUMPING AND PACIFIERS- Breastfeeding is extremely demanding and causes sleep deprivation, lack of self-care, or the ability to have down time. Having dad or your support system to feed baby breastmilk from the bottle may seem like your saving grace, but hold on. You may want to give the baby a pacifier because you need something else to sooth him/her, but please wait. Please do not introduce another nipple to your baby until after 4 weeks if you want to continue to breastfeed. Introducing a nipple too early can cause nipple confusion. Of course pacifiers work for some babies, but you don’t want to take that risk of ending your breastfeeding journey early. If you want someone else to feed the baby, hand express into a little medicine cup or use a spoon to feed the baby. Also, pumping before 4 weeks increases your chance of getting mastitis. In the first month, your baby will continue to nurse every 2 hours, or as little as 30 minutes when cluster feeding. Through this, your baby is regulating how much milk should be produced. Pumping tells your breast that the baby needs more milk, so you’ll produce more milk. This will cause an oversupply and painful engorgement resulting in mastitis. You’ll have a painful knot in your breast(s) and experience flu-like symptoms. I hear it’s extremely painful. Outside of whatever the doctor prescribes you, you will still need to nurse baby so that they can get your boobies back in order. Try your hardest to wait until your baby is a month old before introducing a pacifier or bottle.
I find this list pretty neutral and usable for all moms, but it’s a different experience for every mother. I realize that some mothers go back to work and need to pump. I don’t have experience tandem feeding a newborn and toddler, or with twins. I also have no experience with nursing after a c-section. Those mothers must-haves may be different. My must-haves have helped me to go 14 months strong (and counting) thus far. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and hope you send that same energy my way as I search for a must-haves list on how to ween a baby from breastfeeding lol.