I know this isn't the first or second post I've made about breastfeeding, and it probably won't be the last. To be honest, breastfeeding is a huge topic for new mothers because it is one of the most important aspects of your new life as a mother.
With all of the natural, mother nature & life giving that breastfeeding is, surprisingly it isn't an easy thing to do. By no means am I a pro, I only have one child, but now that Baby P and I have made it this far I'd like to share a few tips and tricks that got me through the first 6 months.
1. Baby steps: Make it through the first week.
The first week at home with your new baby will be full of firsts.This is the time when you will be figuring out how to be a mom and care for your infant without the help of a 24/7 staff of doctors and nurses. If you are a first time mom, this can be stressful, especially when you throw breastfeeding into the mix. In my personal experience, BF in the hospital was pretty easy, and even when it wasn't I had a lactation consultant just a few feet away. Once I got home we struggled, but just like my mom and so many other women told me, things got easier once we got past that first week.
At one point I did consider going to formula because my nipples were cracked and bleeding, feeding was painful and frustrating for us both and I had no clue if she was getting enough milk. Besides practice and getting the right gear, my mentality helped me through this. If you are mentally
determined to do whatever it takes to BF your child, you will make it through. My advice is to be mentally prepared for the fact that it may not always be easy. Focus on the benefits for you and your baby. The first week will suck probably but if you mentally have the strength to push through the physical pain you will make it.
2. You gotta have the right gear
There are a few basics that you should get before you start: Nipple cream for protection and breast pads for leaking. You will also need a breast pump. Check with your insurance before giving birth to see if you a eligible for a free, insurance supplied pump. Some companies like AeroFlow will help you get it. If not, you can always pick up a manual pump from Target or Walmart for $35-$45 if you cant afford to buy an electric one. If latching is difficult or you happen to be away from your baby being able to pump will be a great help in feeding you baby and storing milk for later.
Nursing bras will also help you remain comfortable while sleeping at night, not to mention they will keep those breast pads in place for you. I have about 5 of these. If you don't want to get these, bralettes or sports bras could also be an option, depending on the fit.
And finally, if latching is difficult you may want to try nipple shields. These are a silicone nipple that you can place over your nipple to help your baby latch correctly. They also allow sore/cracked nipples the chance to heal while continuing to breastfeed, mostly pain free. Personally, these saved my breastfeeding journey. We used these for 4-5 months until Baby P self weened from them.
3. Drink water & eat plenty of food
Outside of keeping your feeding/ pumping sessions frequent, it is really important to make sure you intake enough water and calories to maintain your milk supply. Personally, since breastfeeding I am always thirsty and ravenously hungry. I try to eat healthy snacks, especially snacks that promote the production of breast milk, like almonds, but my main thing is drinking a ton of water. I have been able to keep up with the demand of my greedy baby and I attribute that to how much I eat and drink. On days that I don't drink as much water, I don't hit my daily pump quota.
4. Do your research and ask for help
If you have questions about stocking up on milk, consuming alcohol while breastfeeding, the shelf life of expressed milk, or literally anything you should do your research and ask questions. I like to look on sites like La Leche League, Medela, Kelly Mom or the American Academy of Pediatrics. I'm also a member of a few Facebook mom groups that specifically post forums & topics about breastfeeding. The Leaky Boob and Black Women Do Breastfeed are two of my favorite Facebook breastfeeding groups. The women are generally nice, not judgmental and talk about every aspect of breastfeeding. You will easily be able to find a woman who is in a similar situation to you because the diversity in these groups is amazing. When I say diversity I don't mean race, I mean there are 1st time moms to seasoned vets, moms who breastfeed 4 months to moms who breastfeed past 14 months. It'll be easy to find your niche.
5. Don't put extra pressure on yourself about always being prepared. Just go with it.
Sometimes you won't be able to have enough pumped milk while you're out. Don't stress, just feed your child to your comfort level. If you feel like you need to dip into a changing room, or the car, do that. If a room is not available, don't feel ashamed or out of place if you need to feed your child at the dinner table. Always remember that feeding a hungry baby is never wrong and everybody else will just have to deal.