Breastfeeding is one of the most beneficial things for a newborn baby and a new mother. However, for some moms it is also one of the hardest things to do postpartum. For something so natural, there are so many things that can go wrong and turn a bonding experience into a nightmare.
For me, the first two weeks after delivery were the hardest with a few bumps along the way. For the first month, breastfeeding was a thankless endeavor, with a lot of pain, stress and little bonding since the baby was hardly awake to look at me or to interact in any real way. There were many times that I asked myself if I should just give up.
Since Roark was born, I had to formula feed him twice. Once because he was dehydrated because my body was not producing enough milk and recently because I had a kidney stone and had to take narcotics. Both times could have ended my breastfeeding journey- my supply could have dried up or Roark could prefer the bottle. Both times I felt a little guilty and somewhat of a failure, even though I know neither of those circumstances were my fault or under my control. Apparently with motherhood comes with a good share of both feelings.
Nevertheless, I knew both times that I was doing what was best for Roark and also for me. Feeling like a failure does not even get close to feeling like you are hurting your baby. Now, 3 months into motherhood, I love breastfeeding and the quiet moments of bonding it provides Roark and I.
I am glad I stuck it out and gave it my best. I am also glad that I had great support around me that never made me feel like I had to breastfeed in order to be a good mom.
So here are some breastfeeding tips and tricks that I learned along the way.
Breastfeeding Tips and Tricks
- Take a class or attend a support group/lactation consultants – I can’t recommend it enough that you inform yourself as much as possible prior to birth. Learning about breastfeeding positions, the correct latch, how to increase and manage your supply and troubleshooting techniques are essential for a good experience. I took advantage of the lactation consultants at the hospital to come and look to see if I was doing the right thing. The class we took also helped us identify that my son was dehydrated when we brought him home and we quickly called the doctor. It could have been fatal for him to go much longer without food. Read more about taking a class here.
- Get a pump – I didn’t think I would need it, but I have used it so much for a variety of purposes like managing my supply after a growth spurt, building an emergency supply and pump and dump while I was medicated. See this post for tips on how to get it for free.
- Buy some supplies (nipple cream, shield, medicated patches) – I can’t say enough good things about the nipple cream. The shield and medicated patches may not work for everyone, but it’s good to know you have options to relieve the pain of the first weeks. For more postpartum supplies read this.
- Take care of yourself (water, snacks, sleep) – really basic advice, but so easy to forget when you are exhausted and taking care of a newborn. You should always have water and snacks around. When baby eats, you should too.
- Get support from people around you – for me, this was amazing! Having extra pillows, snacks and food brought over when I forgot to do it myself, made breastfeeding and taking care of myself much easier.
- Get the right support for your boobs – just because the girls are not your priority at this point, doesn’t mean you can neglect them. Get the right bra that is supportive and comfortable. It will make a huge difference in how confident you feel about breastfeeding on the go.
- Breastfeed in public (loose shirts, button down shirts, nursing cover) – while on the topic of breastfeeding on the go, if you are planning to still live your life after baby, you will most likely have to breastfeed in public. To make this transition easier, invest in some loose or button down shirts and a good nursing cover. The last one is optional based on your comfort level of course. But don’t be afraid to go out to eat, shop or run errands. I took Roark out when he was 2 weeks old. If he was hungry, I fed him. We eat out at least twice a week and nothing has changed in this aspect when we had a baby. Now that Roark is 3 months old, I can see that taking him out in public early is starting to pay off. It’s a little different than before, but all the stress of dealing with a new situation is going away as we get more practice and Roark gets used to going out and about with us. We are training him for a life of travel friends, and as we know, good travelers are very adaptable.
- Get some formula – you may never need it, but it’s good to have on hand for emergencies. In both cases we had to give Roark formula, the decision was made fast. We had no time to go to the store, come home, mix it, warm it up and then feed him. Newborn babies eat often and they get really cranky when hungry, so imagine taking you 30-40 mins to just get the formula to feed him/her. Super stressful! That is why it’s good to have some formula on hand.
- If you travel or hike, a bottle is a great alternative – we tried this out during our first road trip with Roark. I pumped some milk into a bottle and fed him on the way to Loveland. It worked out perfectly. We didn’t have to pull over during the 1.5 hrs we were driving and he did not mind eating in his carseat. On the way back we had to pull over in a gas station to feed him because I didn’t have my pump with me. I think this would work out really well if we go hiking too. I will have to give it try and report back. Of course, Roark has no problem going back and forth between the bottle and the breast. If that was not the case, I would stick with the breast exclusively.
- Change positions to relieve pain – it’s much easier to keep trying the same hold in the beginning when you are trying to get the hang of breastfeeding. But once you feel more comfortable, try to switch things up. I started varying positions to relieve some of the pain and it worked really well. My favorite is laying on my side in bed facing Roark. This position doesn’t require me to hold his head or body and allows for manipulation of the breast to get the correct latch. Trying to hold a newborn bobbing head with one hand, and your breast in the other and time it perfectly for that latch is a lot more complicated than it sounds.
- Troubleshoot blocked ducts with heat and massage – a couple of weeks ago I started feeling some soreness on my breast and soon after that a huge lump started forming. I freaked out! Pretty soon I realized I had a blocked duct and things were getting extremely painful. You know, the shooting pain through your eye socket painful! I googled remedies right away and started hot compresses and vigorous massaging while breastfeeding. The best way to keep the area warm was to microwave a pouch of silicone beads I had handy. That worked like a charm! I also had Roark breastfeed solely on that side for two days while I pumped the other side. My nipples were really sore after that, but the duct was cleared. Blocked ducts can lead to inflammation and mastitis so it’s was good to take care of it right away. It’s not I could ignore the pain anyhow.
I hope these breastfeeding tips and tricks help you in some small way. If you are a mama and have tips that worked for you, please share them in the comments below. I still have a few more months to go so anything helps!
Until next post…