Breastfeeding was trickier and more exhausting than I ever imagined it would be. Looking back, of course, I have nostalgia and nothing but good feelings towards giving my children the best start nutritionally. I still tear up when I read the letter I wrote my daughter just a few days after our last nursing. I knew it was our last child and I needed that closure.
According to WHO (World Health Organization):
“It gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide.”
“…breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. They are less likely to have type-II diabetes and perform better in intelligence tests.”
“Infant formula does not contain the antibodies found in breast milk. The long-term benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and children cannot be replicated with infant formula.” 
All of the above are the reasons I personally chose to breastfeed my children. It was not about losing weight quickly or trying to prove a point, for me it was instinctual and natural. I do not judge other mothers and their reasoning not to breastfeed. My situation is certainly different than other mothers and that situation was conducive to my success (i.e. decent time off work to establish breastfeeding, a support team, a private nursing mothers room at work, and an employer who supported my pump time needs).
My mother breastfed all three of her children exclusively and I grew up thinking that is what you do when you have children. My husband was on board 100%, which I cannot thank him enough for his help, understanding, and listening to breastfeeding talk pretty much 24/7 for 6 months. My awesome co-worker and friend Staci also gave me so much great advice. I am also stubborn and was determined to make it work.
I want to pass along some mother to mother advice to the first time mommy and for mommy’s with several kids. It’s tricky to navigate breastfeeding and certain advice may really strike a chord with you.
I hope some of these tips can help! I put out a message on social media and got some great responses from mom’s. Some advice of my own is also mixed in.
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not motherhood is a beautiful journey and the great equalizer. Babies are precious all across the world regardless of race, gender, or culture. Parenthood is an experience I am privileged to be apart of.
First time Mommy Advice
“Rule # 1 is to feed the baby. Supplementing does not mean the end of breastfeeding. It’s a little more tricky to combo feed, but some breastmilk is better than no breastmilk.” – Cyndi (children ages four and one)
“Don’t quite on a bad day. Wait until everyone is calm, and then you can make a decision with no regrets.”- Cyndi (four and one)
“At work (in the NICU) I have the privilege to see a lot of moms do well with breastfeeding, and a lot of moms give up for several reasons and there is one thing that makes all the difference in the world… Your attitude towards breastfeeding. … I think my one piece of advice for first time moms is YOU have to decide 100% that breastfeeding is what you’re doing, otherwise it will be awful for you and baby.” – Megan mom to (Charlee 6, Henry 3)
“Get help from a professional (an IBCLC)… Most hospitals have a free group you can attend, even if you did not birth there.” – Cyndi (four and one)
- “Take a breastfeeding class during the pregnancy so all of the terminology isn’t so new, but don’t expect that to totally prepare you. You will still probably look at the baby when they are born and think “Ok, now how the heck am I supposed to make this happen?!”
2. “When you check in to the hospital, ask them up front to have a lactation consultant (LC) visit you ASAP after the baby is born. The sooner they get in your room, the sooner you can learn how to avoid a bad latch which is the primary thing that leads to sore nipples.” – Danielle (mom to Kiley 5 and Caden 2.5)
“Changing latches definitely helps drain the breasts better (thus increasing production in my experience) and keeps them from getting too sore. However at first, use whatever feels most natural to help you establish a good latch.” -Genbumom (4 year old and 16 month old)
- “Try and try again! In my experiences with breastfeeding things are always evolving. From latches to holds; try embracing new things. Both of my babies liked the football hold as newborns. Once they got a little bigger they liked the belly to belly hold the best. I noticed that if I change my holds it changes their latch slightly, which can be both good and bad.
2. “Breastfeeding hurts, keep trying. After having my daughter I forgot how much those first few weeks really hurt. It does get better! Your body is tough and so are you. Once your body gets used to breastfeeding that pain goes away. It’s just like labor and delivery, once you’ve made it past that point, you forget how much it hurt and focus on time with your baby and those precious moments where you are bonding an a way only breastfeeding mothers can understand.” – Stephanie
“Eventually when the several week of engorgement is over you will think you aren’t making enough milk anymore but the fact is when you were engorged you were really “overproducing” so when you find that you don’t fill up as fast or as big it’s because your body adjusted to babies needs.” – Genbumom
- “Read the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding…it was a game changer for me!” -Alyssa (mom to 8,6,4, and 2 (expecting in Dec)
- “Don’t let other people’s discomfort with you feeding your child stop you from feeding your child wherever you are. If YOU are uncomfortable feel free to find a private space or a quiet corner but I found being able to say “would it be appropriate to give my hungry baby a bottle here?” Helped me realize how silly it was to avoid feeding my babies for some other adult’s sake.” -Alyssa (mom to 8,6,4, and 2 (expecting in Dec)
- “When the LC comes into your room, if you can stand it, let her be “hands on.” I mean, let the person grab your boob and show you how it’s done.”
- “I found a body pillow to be both helpful during delivery and for wrapping around my waist to feed. I had a boppy at home, but the body pillow was bigger, softer, and had multiple uses.”
- “When at all possible, use nursing time for skin to skin contact. The skin to skin contact, or kangaroo care, helps regulate the baby’s body temperature, blood sugar, metabolism, and mood. It has brought stillborn babies back to life and saved the lives of numerous premies.” – Danielle (mom to Kiley 5 and Caden 2.5)
“Hang in there- For something that is so “natural,” it may not come “natural” at first. Remember that you and baby are both learning how it all works! The first few weeks you might be sore, tired and feel like your days are spent with baby attached to your breast. Once I got past the first few weeks and felt more comfortable with nursing, I absolutely loved it and enjoyed being able to provide for my baby in a way that no one else could” – Kim (mom to two: Zoe, 4 and Karrine, 11 months- still breastfeeding).
“Try to sleep when baby sleeps! I sware if I took a nap I had more milk. It’s like it recharged my supply each time.” – (Genbumom- Mom to 4 year old and 17 month old)
“I was never a pumper (absolutely despised that dang thing) I only pumped at work… 12 hrs away made it unavoidable. Both of my kids were little pigs. During the day I fed one side at a time, but didn’t pump the other because I always felt drained. That way at night i feed both and it sometimes worked.Towards the year mark I did use fenugreek (both babies) and 2 rounds of Reglan with Henry. And water, water, water…. And the occasional beer always gave me a boost in production for some reason?” -Megan mom to (Charlee 6, Henry 3)
Like Megan, with my first child I got a boost in production from Hoppy Beers (hence my developed taste for IPA’s). I would only drink only one as to not dehydrate myself and drink water afterwards. I did this only once my son slept throughout the night. Alcohol does take time to cycle out of your breast milk and the baby should never consume breast milk with any alcohol in it. For nursing my daughter, this didn’t work but Steel Cut oats seemed to help my production. It’s an experimentation to find what works.
Truly what works every time is the best nutrition, stress reduction, sleep, and lots of water! There are some essential oils that are safe for breastfeeding mom’s to use if diluted properly (always check with your doctor and child’s pediatrician first) such as Lavender, Frankincense, Lemon, Roman Chamomile, and Orange. Essential Oils can help reduce stress and anxiety for both mom and baby.
Some Advice from Genbumom
Pediatricians offices will allow you to come in any time for a weight check. If that is the reinsurance you need that baby is growing, take them in. Get out of the house- it’s good for you and the baby. Call ahead of time so they know you are stopping in.
There was never a lactation consultant I didn’t call or a friend that didn’t give me at least some sort of new (and helpful) advice. Ask away. Women love to help. And the great part of being a parent is you make your rules and you know your baby best. What worked for one may not work for you, but there is always someone there to support you. Add at least 3 numbers on speed dial of people you can call- a lactation consultant, a La Leche league rep, a trusted friend, your mom, or your mother in law.
You may go through an “I cannot stand my husband” phase- this is normal. You are hormonal mom! He didn’t carry a baby for 9 months then get up 4 times a night/20 million times a day to be a human udder. A little resentment & jealousy is normal of his “freedom” compared to yours. Don’t let it harm your relationship though. Appreciate that man and what he does to help out! If you establish guidelines from day 1 and everyone knows their role it helps a lot. Discover your ‘nighttime’ parenting roles and breastfeeding will be a lot easier!
I had one child suck me dry on both sides. I had one child that was content with one side most of the time. Your body matches your baby’s needs. All women produce different amounts/consistencies. It’s VERY rare a woman doesn’t make enough milk to meet her baby’s needs. If baby is growing/ soiling enough diapers they are getting enough.
Comfort nurse! Don’t be afraid of it, sometimes baby just needs mommies smell or voice or something to suck on. A little non-nutritive sucking never spoiled a baby. They outgrow it too. You will not be a pacifier/ milk machine forever! If they want to suck it’s not always because they are hungry, so don’t think you don’t have enough milk. Your body is amazing and there is always something there for baby to taste and get comfort from.
Your baby may “choke” a little bit on milk at first during a morning feeding. It can be helpful to squeeze or express some before nursing so it doesn’t squirt in baby’s mouth so fast at first. Your breasts will often be very full, especially if baby hasn’t nursed in a few hours.
Remember: Every week gets easier!
Take a break when you need to. Baby may need a break from you too, especially as they get a little older. Learn to trust those around you to help out. It’s hard when you are super attached to the baby, but even a half hour out of the house is good for you.
Pump when you can, whenever you can. It will keep your supply up. If you are returning to work you will need the stored milk supply. I didn’t get my pump out until 2 weeks before I returned to work with my son. I had it out every day after I had my daughter, even if a short session. Once my daughter starting going to bed at 7, I still pumped at 9:30 before I went to bed. My supply stayed up better and I had enough stored I didn’t have as much anxiety about returning to work.
“Co-sleep. Have your baby next to your bed in a safe place like bassinet or whatever, but have them as close to you as possible. Your breathing & sleeping and CO2 expiration will help queue your baby’s sleep. It will also reduce the distance you have to go each time baby wants to nurse in the middle of the night, which is especially helpful during the aforementioned cluster feeding.” – Danielle (mom to Kiley 5 and Caden 2.5)
Put your used breast pads or a baby washcloth that you slept with the night before in bottom of the bassinet with baby. She can smell mommy all night long. It can help comfort some babies to smell mommy. I personally think the safest spot for baby is in a basinet or crib, but you can keep them close all night long other ways. – Genbumom
Some moms will argue with me on this one, but I say do not send the baby to the nursery. Use this time to get to know your baby and shove that boob in their mouth every time they open it. Practice, practice, practice while you have resources surrounding you to help. Develop the bond, let your baby know you respond when he or she cries, with gentle touch and life sustaining nutrients. – Danielle (mom to Kiley 5 and Caden 2.5)
The quote above is from one of my best friends. I respect her so much as a mother and an all around genuine person. We respectfully have different takes on a few things but I love our varying experiences and opinions!
My take on sending to the nursery: Send them to the nursery a time or two if you really need to. Thank your nurses for this help! I had C-sections. I needed the rest and with my second child my husband only stayed one night with me in the hospital, it was nice having the nurses get my daughter asap when I was slow to get out of bed. They would bring baby to me immediately, hold and comfort her while I got situated, maybe used the bathroom first, and got ready to nurse. I was in some pain and this was so helpful!
“My first baby was an exhausting birth experience; I was so dedicated to nursing though, if you really want to nurse, you can probably still make it happen even after a C-section or difficult delivery. It took several days for my milk to come in. I pumped, I nursed every time my son cried, I got help from every nurse and lactation consultant on duty, I relaxed about it as much as I could. I worried. And yes, we had a bout of supplementing with a few small bottles. It bothered me to do it, but in the long run we established breastfeeding. My son did have his tongue chord snipped to help with his latching (his tongue chord was short). It was over in 1 second and he only cried for a few. I thank the nurse that noticed this right away!
Try for at least 2-4 weeks post c-section to breastfeed if you have your heart set on it; it does get easier after a few weeks of recovery. Enlist your husband to help at night; he can get baby changed and ready while you (slowly) get situated to nurse. Chances are if you do this, you will still be going strong after a few months.”- Genbumom
TIPS FOR TWO or MORE: Breastfeeding when you have other children
- Give them a job to do while you are nursing. Have them tell a story or sing to the baby. Have them rub your feet. Keep them busy.
2. Allot time for special one-on-one cuddling with your toddler so they are given the same opportunity for bonding and closeness.
3. Don’t hide from the toddler – let them understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and that they did the same (if true).” – Danielle (mom to Kiley 5 and Caden 2.5)
“Breastfeeding my second was easier because I had done it before, but it still was a challenge with a 3 yr old. I made a few totes full of sensory items and a few new little toys that she played with while I breastfed. It worked pretty well.” -Megan mom to (Charlee 6, Henry 3)
- “I kept snacks in a basket in the back bedroom room for my toddler. My son was only 2.5 at the time, he was still in diapers and still could not be left unattended (hence the time I went into the kitchen and cake was all over the floor!) I would set him up with an activity while I nursed my daughter (he loved these homemade flash cards I made). I tried nursing in our living room, but he had too much space to roam, staying in the smaller bedroom with snacks, a TV, books, and toys. It really helped.
2. My son mimicked me breastfeeding and it was cute to see him trying to take care of his baby doll. Don’t be afraid to let your male children show acts of caring and nurturing, it’s 100% normal for them to ask about your breasts, what you are doing, and mimic caring for the baby. Allow this- it’s healthy and normal.
3. My husband encouraged me to get coffees for us on Saturday mornings so I could have just a little “me” time. Sometimes I would take my son also for some 1 v. 1 time. It’s important to switch it around also. Sometimes your toddler just wants 1 v. 1 time with you at home alone, so alternate between getting out and staying in. Build a fort or snuggle and read books. Dad or grandparents can take the baby out.”- Genbumom
Remember- do what is best for you and baby and take care of yourself
Your physical and mental healthy is above all else what is most important. If you have any feelings of depression, please call your Obgyn, delivery hospital, or primary care doctor. They are there to help and they do understand. Post partum depression and/or anxiety is no joke and is different than the typical baby-blues. You won’t know if you don’t call to discuss your symptoms. There are ways to manage the emotional and physical stress after childbirth especially the added responsibility of nursing.
When you conclude nursing your hormones shift and things get all whacky again. I don’t think we talk enough in our mommy circles about the shifts after nursing is done. I wonder if some day we will have a post-nursing category in our medical dictionaries to explain the difficulties a mom may go through emotionally and hormonally. Again, talk to your doctor.
That particular bond changes and it’s the end of something. It can be sad. I encourage you to write a letter or note to your child about your experience breastfeeding them and what you look forward to next for some closure.
These are just a few tips. I actually have enough for a 2nd post, so that will be coming soon! Thank you for all the special mommies that contributed their sage wisdoms. It was much appreciated!
Feel free to comment. Did you have any post nursing difficulties? Why did you decide to nurse or not nurse? This is a welcome forum for mommies!
La Leche League Our Mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.
KellyMom.com This website was developed to provide evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting. I am the mother of three lovely children, and I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I hope that my articles are helpful and encouraging. Thanks for visiting!
PregnancyAbout.com Tips on Pregnancy, Parenting, Breastfeeding, and Pumping. Link is straight to pumping advice.
- WHO Ten Facts on Breastfeeding http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/en/