You follow the mommy bloggers, social media magnets, and video mavens. You listen to your mom, your mother-in-law, your doctor, your neighbor, and your best friend. You know that breastfeeding can keep your baby healthier, help you lose weight, promote bonding with your baby, and more. While all important and valid, none of this information prepares you for those early post-delivery moments: when you are holding your baby and ready to breastfeed, but your baby won’t latch, when your neck and back ache, or when your baby wants to eat for what seems like hours on end but all you want to do is sleep. Breastfeeding is hard! While your body producing breast milk is natural, breastfeeding needs more than nature. It requires patience, practice, and a lot of self-love. Yet, wow, is it worth it!
So, where do you begin? Here are 5 of the best-kept secrets for overcoming breastfeeding challenges.
Breastfeeding Tip 1: Say Ahh!
Babies need to open wide and say ahh! Babies that try to latch or attach to the breast with mouths that are not open wide enough will likely only latch onto the nipple. This causes the pain most often associated with the early days of breastfeeding. Encouraging babies to open and spread their lips (tickling their cheeks or chins, repeatedly saying “open wide”) can help them learn how to get a good latch and more of the areola (the area around the nipple) into their mouths. If your baby doesn’t get it right, use a clean finger to break the latch and try again gently. This is the practice part; when you get it right, it will feel better for you and make breastfeeding more comfortable and efficient for your baby! A good latch means a better flow of milk.
Breastfeeding Tip 2: Practice Good Posture!
Posture is just as important as positioning. We know that having good posture helps keep neck and back pain at bay, but it is amazing how many women forget their posture when they start breastfeeding. Often, a new (or experienced) mom will lean down to reach the baby to nurse. But instead, the baby should be brought to you! By keeping your neck and back straight, you can better avoid pain and discomfort. Use a good chair or couch with an armrest or some firm pillows to keep you propped. Do this every time (even when you are tired), and you (and your body) can better handle the frequent feedings. While being aware of and finding your favorite breastfeeding position is important, you can still end up slouched and uncomfortable. Babies sense your discomfort – if you relax, they relax.
Breastfeeding Tip 3: Every Baby Is Unique
One breastfed baby is not like another. Even if this is your third child and your other two nursed without issues, every baby is different. Don’t be discouraged if you have to go back to the basics and practice good positioning and latch. Be patient with yourself, especially knowing that as a mom of multiple children, you are working harder than ever. Your new baby will catch on just like his siblings, but it may take longer, and you may have a difficult time keeping your stress levels down. Your self-care will be more important now than ever before as you are pulled in different directions amongst your children. Lean on your circle of support and ask for help often.
Breastfeeding Tip 4: Try A Breastfeeding Specialist
Breastfeeding specialists exist and are ready to answer your call, text, or email. When you have a leaky pipe, you call a plumber. When you are having trouble seeing, you make an appointment with your eye doctor. Specialists are the answer when faced with something that isn’t working. If you think that breastfeeding isn’t working for you, it isn’t what you expected, it is more challenging than you thought, or you simply want someone to talk to about how much your baby is or isn’t eating, then look no further than a board-certified lactation consultant. There is too often a hesitancy to reach out for help after the hospital stay ends. Many insurance programs cover lactation consultants, and you can get virtual support via video chat, texting, or apps. The US Lactation Consultant Association is a great place to start. The only dumb question about breastfeeding is the one you don’t ask.
Breastfeeding Tip 5: Uncovered Or Covered Up Its Up To You
Your baby might not like to be worn, wrapped, or covered while nursing, which is okay. There is an excellent and much-needed industry devoted to keeping your baby close to you and keeping you comfortable when nursing in public or just out and about. Just because it works for your friend or neighbor doesn’t mean it will work for you. And some babies are just not happy eating under wraps! Communities around the US are changing laws around breastfeeding in public, creating safe and quiet spaces for breastfeeding moms, and making sure that workplaces offer breaks, areas, and support. You know what works best for you and your baby, and it is important that you advocate for that wherever and whenever you need to.
Regardless of how you feed, your baby is your number one fan. When feelings of anxiety overwhelm you, take a timeout, and just sit and cuddle your baby. You are all they need!