Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Get ready for me to talk way too much about breastfeeding over the next few days! I've been breastfeeding for the last three and half years straight, so it's very much apart of my current experience and reality.
I'm passionate about breastfeeding and have a lot of thoughts on it. I'm often asked what I did in the beginning after my babies were born to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship, so I wanted to share with you the steps I took with both of my babies. I naturally can only speak from my own experience (with two full term, healthy babies) so please don't take offense to anything said here. And please feel free to email me with any questions you may have!
1. I was determined. Before I even had my baby, I was dee-ter-MINED that it would work for us. People told me all kinds of negative stories and they just fueled my fire. Breastfeeding was the only option in my mind. Some people say to have a back up plan - my back up plan was going to be a phone call to a professional. My lifelong trait of stubbornness really came in handy with breastfeeding.
But, I think this first step is one of THE most crucial steps. If you say "I hope it works, but if it doesn't....", there is much more likelihood that it will not work out. You have to believe it's going to happen.
2. I enlisted professional help. As just stated, I had professional help ready. I spoke to my lactation consultant (also my midwife) in depth about it before baby arrived, I read the books she recommended, and I had her phone number programmed into my phone so that I could text or call her after the baby's birth. And OH DID I USE THAT NUMBER. Multiple times. A day.
The best book she had me read was called So That's What They're For. I thought the book looked a little dated and not that visually appealing, but man was it an informative book. It went into great detail about what realities to expect, common myths, and what a correct latch looks like.
3. I had my babies checked for tongue and lip ties within hours after birth. It's so crucial to have this done by a professional who knows what they're looking for. Tongue and lip ties are so common in babies and they come in varying degrees. Some are not that bad and don't need treatment, and others are so bad that if not caught in time, baby will not be successful at breastfeeding because they can't get enough milk out, they may fail to thrive, and mom's milk supply will be adversely affected among other issues. It's very likely that most unsuccessful breastfeeding stories are because of undiagnosed tongue and lip ties. (My milk never came in, my baby couldn't latch, the baby was losing more weight than normal, breastfeeding never stopped being painful for me, etc.)
4. I had faith in my body. I didn't wonder if I was going to make enough milk or if my baby needed more than I was making. I knew the first few days the baby was going to be getting the good stuff, colostrum, and that's all he needed. I knew it would take a few days for my milk to come in, but that the colostrum was enough and packed full of the good stuff that my baby needed. After my milk came in, as long as I heard him swallowing and making pee diapers, I didn't worry. I didn't watch a clock, I didn't try to figure out ounces, and I didn't fear that he wasn't getting exactly what he needed from me.
5. I did not have any formula in my house. I wasn't going to need it so why have it? This goes back to determination and faith in my body.
6. I did not give pacifiers or bottles for the first few months. I was my baby's pacifier and bottle. I knew that pacifiers could quell the suckling need of my baby and make him think he wasn't hungry. I knew that milk production is established in the first six weeks after birth, so the more he nursed, the more milk he "ordered". I also didn't give any bottles because milk is easier to get out of a bottle and I didn't want him to develop a preference for it. Artificial nipples can confuse a baby as well who is learning how to breastfeed. I didn't want to risk any of that.
7. I slept next to my baby. I honestly don't know how I would've survived breastfeeding through the newborn period if I hadn't have slept next to my babies. Newborns breastfeed frequently - both of mine nursed every two hours or less - so having them right there next to me made everything much easier. Newborns also usually soil their diapers during or after a feeding, so I just had my little station set up on my nightstand of diapers, wipes, and burp cloths. I never had to get out of bed in the middle of the night.
8. I listened and watched for natural cues that baby was getting enough. Gulping, swallowing, milk dripping down their chins, and frequent soiled diapers were all my clues to knowing that my baby was doing just fine. Nor did I worry that if he nursed twice in one hour, something was wrong. Babies fall asleep. Nursing can tire them out. They wake up and want more. Or they fuss at the breast because they're learning how to breastfeed just like you are.
9. I breastfed, constantly. I felt like I was a breastfeeding machine after my babies were born. I just pretty much stayed in bed or on the couch with a huge glass of water next to me (breastfeeding can make you super thirsty) and I just nursed all day whenever my baby would root or suck on his hand. Which was like...all day.
There were a few people, who will remain anonymous, that tried telling me my baby's cries meant he needed formula. "Awww, poor thing is hungry" was one of the exact phrases muttered in my presence. But I knew that was normal. I knew me and my baby could do this. My body made him and my body could feed him.
And you know what happened to that crying, poor little hungry baby?
He turned into this by two months. I'm pretty sure he was getting enough. (Although there isn't a dang thing wrong with petite and slim either. All that matters is that they are gaining and not losing after the first week). Healthy breastfed babies come in all shapes and sizes.
YOU CAN DO THIS, MAMAS! Get your research on, have faith, and enlist help would be my short version of advice.
Please share any breastfeeding tips that helped you!
My other breastfeeding posts:
Tandem Breastfeeding: My Experience & Tips
Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy: My Experience & Tips
The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding
5 Reasons Why I Chose Extended Breastfeeding
The Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding
thank you so much for this post! I wish I would have found it before I had my daughter. I was determined to breastfeed, but I didn't have the support. My husband was supportive but others were constantly saying "I gave mine formula and they turned out fine" and "you need to eat, I will hold the baby for now". This was frustrating. I also had so much pain that I would cry when she latched, and again, no help from anyone (I live in a rural area). The worst was the hospital sent me home with a diaper bag, supposedly for breast feeding moms, that had formula in it. The formula was the ultimate downfall, because after 4 days of little sleep and a ton of visitors, at 2 AM I broke down and I was convinced I couldn't do it any more. The nursery even gave a binky in the hospital. With all of this I felt like I was doomed to fail. I wish I would have had the support that you had. I regret not breast feeding. I am glad I found this post, and I will keep it in mind with the next baby, because I WILL be trying again, and I hope to find support next time!
Wow, I felt so sad reading your comment Cassie. It's so true, support is like 80% of it. If I hadn't of had my midwife telling me certain things were normal or helping me through mastitis etc, I know I would've thought I was doing something wrong or that something wasn't right because everyone around me was telling me to give him formula. And I can't believe they packed formula in your breastfeeding bag, what a joke. It's like they set moms up to "fail". I'm so sorry you had that experience and I really admire you for the desire to want to try again. I hope you find support next time too! Thank you so much for your comment xo
Do you have any books you recommend on breast feeding? Thank you.