It’s World Breastfeeding Week and this week’s theme is Breastfeeding Support! I’m very excited to be participating this year by sharing some helpful breastfeeding tips for getting mama and baby started off on the right track. 🙂
I knew well before my first pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed my babies. I also knew that there were elements in our society that have been trying to convince women that breastfeeding isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be and that formula-feeding is just as good, if not better and more convenient, than breastfeeding.* Because of that, I knew I had to arm myself with the best tools and resources so that I can make every effort to give my babies the best start at life.
*Please note that this post is not intended to be an attack on mothers who choose to feed their babies formula. I’m simply pointing out the unfair pressure placed on mothers to choose formula-feeding over breastfeeding without a clear understanding of the realities of each choice.
Even though breastfeeding is as old as civilization itself, it doesn’t necessarily come as easily or as naturally as one might think. Just like every pregnancy is different, every breastfeeding experience is also different; and without the help and support needed in those crucial first weeks, many new mothers can end up feeling defeated, inadequate, or like a failure.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the proper tools, resources, and support, most (if not all) breastfeeding obstacles can be overcome, setting mama and baby on the right track for a long, successful breastfeeding journey.
Ask for help.
Nowadays, hospitals will have lactation consultants on hand to help you get started on the right foot. If not, you can always contact your local chapter of La Leche League, an organization dedicated to helping and supporting breastfeeding mothers.
And don’t underestimate the power of surrounding yourself with a supportive group of women who’ve already been there and are more than willing to offer tips and advice – ask your friends and relatives or join a breastfeeding support group at your hospital or birth center.
Reading up on breastfeeding is another great way to arm yourself with everything you need to know about the realities, challenges, and rewards of breastfeeding. If you know what to expect, you’re more likely to stick it out and hang in there until the end. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League is a great resource.
Get the right tools.
Yes, even breastfeeding has a set of tools to help make your experience easier to manage.
My number one recommendation is to invest in a good nursing pillow. My favorite is the Boppy Pillow, which helps get baby in the right position for nursing and is also great for tummy time and propping baby up.
One of the best tips I learned recently is to create a “breastfeeding toolkit” with the tools listed above, in addition to a water bottle, a protein bar, a burp cloth, some reading material, baby nail clippers (best time to clip them as they doze off!), etc. That way you always have what you need on hand and all in one place!
**Giveaway! Check out the awesome prizes we have lined up for you in our World Breastfeeding Week giveaway at the bottom of this post!**
Ditch the schedules.
Especially in those early weeks of the breastfeeding journey, feeding your baby “on-demand” (meaning feeding him whenever he asks) is the most conducive to successful breastfeeding. You may have heard that it’s important to put your baby on a feeding schedule, but the truth is when your baby is hungry, he’ll let you know – and your job as a breastfeeding mother is to follow his cues and feed him. On-demand feeding is most important in those first weeks when your milk is coming in and your supply is being established, so go ahead and feed your baby whenever he wants. Over time, your baby will start falling into a schedule on his own, so don’t worry – just go with the flow. 🙂
Learn the hunger cues.
Contrary to what we might initially believe, crying is a very late sign of hunger. If you’ve ever tried getting a crying baby to latch on, you know just how difficult it can be! So it’s important to learn the early cues so you can catch them and start feeding your baby before he starts crying. Babies are born with the natural reflex to look for food – it’s called the “rooting reflex.” Touch or stroke your baby’s cheek and he’ll most likely turn towards your hand and open wide. If you want to get a good latch, this is your chance! Other signs to look for are sucking on fists and hands, smacking lips, or opening and closing the mouth. For a great list of hunger cues, check out this post from KellyMom.com.
Eat a healthy diet.
Breastfeeding is hard work, and you need all the energy and nutrition you can get to help your body keep up with the physical demands of feeding and nourishing a growing baby! Breastfeeding also burns upwards of 500 calories a day, so if you thought your days of “eating for two” were over, think again. A good, healthy breastfeeding diet includes lots of proteins, calcium, iron-rich foods, leafy greens, fruits and veggies, and lots of DHA-rich foods (like wild salmon, sardines, and eggs) to promote baby’s healthy brain development.
Don’t forget to hydrate! It’s important for breastfeeding moms to stay hydrated so be sure to keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times. I have both the Takeya bottle and the Lifefactory bottle and love them both for different reasons. 🙂 Lay off the juices and other sugary drinks and stick to plain or naturally flavored water, caffeine-free teas, homemade smoothies, or fresh-squeezed juices.
If you’re concerned about your milk supply and looking for ways to increase your supply, Amanda from Natural Living Mamma has a great recipe for an herbal mamma’s milk tea, and Kassie from Going Green With the Grizls has a yummy lactation cookies recipe I can’t wait to try!
RELAX! It seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we need a little reminder. 😉 Most important of all is to r-e-l-a-x! Relax about the idea of breastfeeding, and also relax while you’re breastfeeding. If you’re nervous or having a difficult time, take a few cleansing breaths to help you relax and refocus your efforts.
Are you currently breastfeeding or have you breastfed in the past? What kinds of obstacles did you have to overcome on your journey? What other tips or advice do you have for first-time breastfeeding mothers?
Olivia @ This West Coast Mommy
Great tips here! I’ve breastfed for the last 3 and a half years through 2 little girls, and I agree with all your suggestions, especially to ditch the schedule. I linked up my WBW article. Thanks for hosting!
Really great post! I was a LLL Leader back when I just had my two boys. Now that I have nursed 4 kids for a total of 12 years, I still say I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The ONLY thing I might do differently is to introduce pumping/bottle feeding, just as a sanity saver.
Sarah, you have listed some fantastic advice; this is a wonderfully supportive article! I have to admit that I was planning to host a breastfeeding stories link up myself, because I write a post for World Breastfeeding Week every year. Since your post is about tips and mine would be more story focused, maybe I’ll do it anyway. Readers, what do you think? Could we use another breastfeeding link up?
I am all for breastfeeding! I think it crazy when doctors recommend mothers start supplementing or ditch breastfeeding altogether, within weeks of the baby being born. All babies are different and will therefore grow differently! Moms just need to keep trying and all they need is encouragement from other breastfeeding moms! Of course the right tools are nice to have as well!