Breastfeeding is one of the most challenging things about new motherhood and the experience is so different with each child, even for mothers who have been down this road before. But while there’s no instruction manual for raising children, there is plenty of support available that can make breastfeeding less stressful.
If you’re expecting or still struggling to breastfeed, these 5 tips from professional lactation consultants may help you get a handle on what’s not working and how to make the process more enjoyable for you and your little one.
Pump From The Start
Having a new baby is exhausting, so in the first days after giving birth, the last thing you’re likely to want to do is to find time to pump, but here’s the thing, milk production is like the economy: it runs on supply and demand. In other words, if you want to make sure you have enough milk, you need to create demand, and pumping will help. That’s not the only advantage, though. By pumping, you’ll also be able to get help with feeding, taking shifts with your partner, or visiting friends and family, especially at night.
Take Advantage Of Resources
As we’ve already noted, new parenthood is exhausting, and one result of that exhaustion is that you may not feel up to doing exactly those things that will help make the process easier, like taking advantage of hospital resources.
For example, if you haven’t found a lactation consultant before giving birth, your hospital may be able to set you up with one. They can also recommend bottles for supplemental feedings, using either breast milk that you pumped or formula, if needed.
There’s a dominant narrative surrounding breastfeeding that, since it’s natural, you shouldn’t need much help to be successful. In reality, though, getting help is the best way to ensure you’ll be able to breastfeed long-term.
With that in mind, it’s important to ask questions and seek support from a lactation consultant. Ask questions about the process and, additionally, connect with other breastfeeding mothers.
This combination of professional expertise and support from women who are in the same boat can help you feel less alone in your struggles and offer a community for celebrating your successes and milestones.
It Shouldn’t Hurt
Just as breastfeeding shouldn’t be a source of emotional distress, it also shouldn’t cause significant physical pain. Yes, your baby may bite you occasionally when their teeth start coming in (and there are appropriate ways to respond to that), but if every feeding is painful, there are bigger problems. If feedings are painful, your baby likely isn’t latching correctly, so check with your lactation consultant about changes you can make to improve the situation.
Trust Your Gut
Maternal instinct is a real thing, and it’s important to trust your gut during your breastfeeding journey. That means, for example, deciding how long exclusive breastfeeding is right for you and your baby, when and how to approach weaning, and how much and whether to pump. While professional and community support can help you navigate the process, you’ll be leaning on those instincts to navigate parenthood for the rest of your life. Don’t let pressure from family, friends, or the internet convince you to ignore what you know is right for you and your baby.
In many ways, the amount of information available to families today about breastfeeding should make things easier, but instead, pressure from the media and online communities can actually do the reverse. As with everything else about our lives, then, it’s important to find those communities that nourish you and block out the rest. It’s the only way to make sure that you and your baby can both thrive.