Tuesday, March 11, 2014

7 Tips for Breastfeeding Success

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As a disclaimer, I should admit that I am not a professionally trained lactation consultant or even a member of the La Leche League. I am simply a mom who has been down this breastfeeding journey a few times, and I've figured out what works - and what doesn't ,- along with all of the things I wish I'd known before I started trying to nurse my first baby.

7 Tips for Breastfeeding Success - Mamas Like Me
When I got pregnant with our first son 9 years ago, I was ecstatic. I was also a young, new mom who read every baby book on the shelf. I quickly found the books and articles spouting off the joys and benefits of breastfeeding. I was 100% on board and couldn't wait to start this natural bonding with my son. If only it had been that easy.

 After a difficult labor, I had a hard time establishing our nursing relationship right away. I was too scared to try it in front of the nurses and my husband. What if I did it wrong? And, when I did try to nurse him, IT HURT A LOT! Those fools that tell you that breastfeeding is easy are obviously forgetting those first few weeks. I tried to follow everything the lactation consultant told me, but he was hungry all. the. time. There was no break and I was still in pain.


Two days later, we ended up right back in the emergency room because our little one wasn't pooping (or even really peeing). I just couldn't make this nursing thing work. And then I got mastitis. Any mother that has ever had this will tell you that it's like a cross between the flu and someone actually ripping those sensitive parts of your body right off. After that, I gave up. I threw in the towel because it hurt and I was going back to work and I hated it. Every time my child cried to be fed, I cried!  I felt so guilty, vowing to make it work next time.

My other attempts at nursing were much more successful. I actually just finished nursing my youngest a few months ago when he turned 17 months. Here's what I wish I had known eight years ago with my first:

1. Breastfeeding is NATURAL but it doesn't always come NATURALLY- I was not breastfed and I did not grow up seeing women breastfeeding. It's okay if it doesn't come right away, don't give up. Almost any difficulty in nursing can be overcome!

2. Find an Advocate- I felt so alone trying to nurse my first baby. I didn't have family to turn to with questions. The hospital's classes were far away and becoming a mom before all of my friends meant that I was in uncharted territory. I wish I had known about the La Leche League or had joined a Moms Club earlier. Once I did, I found lots of women who were full of information and support. Hearing their personal stories gave me the confidence that things would get better if I could just make it through those first few weeks, and then through the growth spurt at 6 weeks....and 3 months...and the trials of teething...

3. Don't Let Society Intimidate You! - I have been very fortunate that I have never had a stranger make me feel uncomfortable about nursing in public or even had a strange look. I always try to use a nursing cover to be as discreet as possible, but when baby has to eat, - baby has to eat! I have nursed in restaurants, parks, amusement parks, museums, Disney attractions, pools, and everywhere in between. If my baby can be there, he can eat there.


4. It IS Possible to Work Full-Time and Nurse - While I was unable to do this with my first son, I have since managed to run a home daycare and nurse my children. I have also cared for babies whose mothers work full-time and provide milk for them. It requires determination and a good double-electric breast pump, but it can be done. Once you get the hang of pumping, freezing, and storing breast milk, it just simply becomes part of your daily routine.
 7 Tips for Breastfeeding Success - Mamas Like Me 



5. Find the Right Breastfeeding Products to Help You - Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times. The experts are right when they say that it shouldn't hurt if you're doing it right, but that doesn't mean that you won't be sore or tender at times. Ibuprofen can help relieve this, especially in the beginning. Lansinoh lanolin cream can work wonders at soothing dry nipples before they become cracked or infected. Also, having the right nursing bra for day and night can help lend support and hold nursing pads in place to absorb any leaking. Just be sure to change them often to avoid extended exposure to moisture. 



6. Don't Give Up! - The hardest part of nursing your first baby is resisting the urge to give up. There are actually very few women who can't nurse because of medical reasons. Most women, like myself, give up because it's hard, because it's time-consuming, or because they just don't have the support that they need. If this is something you really want to do, don't let anything stand in your way. It does get easier, and, once you hit your groove, there is truly nothing like the bond between a mother and a nursing baby. 

 7. Don't Beat Yourself Up if it Doesn't Work. - This statement is a direct contradiction to #6, but I feel it is so important for me to add this. If you try to nurse and it doesn't work for you (no matter the reason), it does not make you a bad mother. It does not mean that you love your child any less. No one will argue that breast is best, but your baby will be just fine on formula. I have known many formula-fed babies (myself included) that were smart and well-adjusted and they all knew that their mothers loved them! 


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