Dear new mama,
Breastfeeding might be one of the hardest things you’re in for when it comes to your new baby.
That, and sleep. Getting less sleep is just a slap in the face. But so are painful, cracked nipples. I can’t describe the pain of that in words, and probably nobody wants me to.
But here’s the thing- it’s also one of the most wonderful things if it works out. If you can struggle through it, and if there are no other problems that prevent you from breastfeeding, it’s going to be worth it to push through the pain.
Through my breastfeeding journey, let’s just say moral support was one of the most important things. Wisdom from moms who have gone through it, some of them with multiple babies, got me through.
If it wasn’t for those moms, I might have stopped in my horrible month of non-stop clogged ducts. If it wasn’t for them, I might have cried on the floor more than once when I had to go back to work and figure out the wild world of pumping. Yes, I did cry on the floor. Just once, though. I cried not-on-the-floor a few more times, too.
Nursing for 10 months has been probably one of the biggest feats I’ve accomplished in my life. I’m not sure how long I’ll nurse Gemma, but we’re still currently going strong, and I don’t really plan to stop anytime soon. We’re just kind of riding it out and seeing how it goes.
I feel like I need to give back- to share the wisdom I’ve learned as so many other mamas so graciously did to help me through.
So here I am, bringing you 10 things I’ve learned from 10 months of breastfeeding.
Okay, there are really 12, but 10 tips in 10 months just sounds catchier, so let’s just pretend.
Also, I’m omitting some tips because I’ve written on this topic before. Find my other thoughts on breastfeeding here.
Newborn Stage: 0-3 months (ish)
1. You’re going to have to park yourself on the couch and feed your baby all the time. Find a good show to watch, and always have snacks nearby. Don’t be stressed about what needs done. THIS is your primary job right now. It’s really hard at the moment, but it will get easier. For now, just enjoy the “rest” you get when you have to feed your inefficient little nurser for 45 minutes at a time, 12 times a day. (You do realize that means you’ll probably be nursing pretty much your entire waking day, right? Okay, good.)
2. Lecithin is a godsend for clogged ducts. Ugh, my month of on and off clogged ducts was terrible (within the first month of Gemma’s life). I cried. I feared mastitis. I tried all of the tips I read online and nothing worked. UNTIL another mom suggested lecithin. I took Sunflower Lecithin all day long- 3 at a time, multiple times a day. Relief, friends! Sweet relief. It did end up causing some tummy issues for Gemma, so I cut down, but when a clog came back, a few doses worked like a charm!
3. Invest in a soft, airy cover. Covers are hard to deal with. If you even care about covering yourself (totally okay if you don’t-good for you!), try out a few different ones and choose which you like best- but a light material is going to be your friend.
5. Nurse on demand. At least, that’s what worked for me, and that’s what most lactation consultants suggest. A “schedule” at this point is not even a real thing. The baby eats when the baby wants, even when that’s 15 minutes after she stopped. This is good. There is no reason to try to set some sort of schedule because it’s going to change about a thousand times before your baby is actually old enough to be scheduled. Also, I’m not a health professional or a lactation consultant, so if they tell you something different, don’t listen to me! Every baby is different.
6. Try not to let staring people get to you when out in public. It was hard for me- but I reminded myself that I was doing the right thing by feeding my baby. If someone is uncomfortable- they can just look away. Why people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding decide to stare makes no sense to me.
The Older Baby:
6. If you’re going back to work, or plan to be away from your baby often, invest in a good pump AND a pumping bag. When I finally got a pumping bag, my life changed, because my pump parts weren’t everywhere all the time.
7. Also on pumping and going back to work...you are not a failure if you have to supplement! This was my biggest hurdle. I cried on the floor because I couldn’t pump enough. I only worked every other day, so my milk supply stayed fine. I just couldn’t get as much milk out when I tried to pump versus when Gemma nursed. This is common. There’s nothing wrong with your milk. Pump as much as you can and supplement if need be. Then, nurse ALL the time, as much as your baby wants, when you are at home to keep the supply going.
8. Around 7 months, you might have a distracted nurser on your hands. Around Gemma’s 8th month, I started to think she didn’t like nursing because she ALWAYS needed to see ALL OF THE THINGS going on around her and would be terrible at nursing other than when she was tired. Your baby probably does not want to stop nursing- the world around them is just wayyyy too distracting. If you are able to, find a quiet place to nurse, maybe even dark, and all will be fine.
9. Be ready for full on exposure. Around 8 months, when the distractions started, Gemma also decided she didn’t like to be covered, or even have something on her face when she was nursing. She still likes to lift up my shirt, the thing that is helping me be a little less exposed, every time I nurse.
10. Always wear nursing friendly clothes. Even if I’m sure Gemma won’t need to nurse while we are out, the days have come where I’m wearing a dress and realize she probably wants milk because we were out a little longer than expected. Wear flowy shirts that can be lifted easily and still give some coverage (until your child decides to expose you anyways...). If you hate layers like me, wear high waisted leggings or pants to help cover you when you have to lift your shirt to nurse.
When it comes to breastfeeding, my biggest tip of all is don’t isolate yourself.
If you don’t have other mom friends to talk to- find an online community where you can ask questions. There are tons of groups on Facebook. Obviously, people can throw out judgement like it’s their job, but try to find someone you can talk to that will be helpful and not judgemental.
This is a hard thing. Don’t do it alone. Ask questions to other moms that have gone before you.
And my second biggest tip is to do what is right for you. I was really set on breastfeeding and pretty determined, which got me through hard things like clogged ducts and pain and having supply issues when returning to work. I love it- it’s such a good bond between Gemma and I, and I love that I get to give her the nourishment she needs.
BUT, for some people, it just doesn’t work. It causes too much anxiety and stress. Whatever the reason is, if you have to stop, do what’s right for you.
On another note, here are some of the supplements and products that I’ve used a lot, many I currently use, minimalist(ish) style. Most of them do more than one thing, so you can have LESS stuff when you have these few things. I’m not saying all of these things are necessary- but they are for sure helpful!
Supplements I used (some I still use):
New Chapter Perfect Postnatal Vitamins (has nursing support)- I’m still taking this when I remember!
NOW Sunflower Lecithin- a Godsend for clogged ducts and also has benefits for baby's brain.
Brewer's Yeast- lactation support- great for making lactation cookies.
Quaker Oats Old Fashioned- also for lactation support. When I felt like my milk was low, I just ate a bunch of oatmeal.
Earth Mama Angel Baby Tea "Milkmaid"- The only lactation tea I enjoyed! The rest tasted like licorice to me which made me disgusted.
To go along with that- THIS easy “booby bites” recipe. You don’t even have to bake them! I’m all about that for new moms!
Products I Love:
Milk Snob Cover- This thing can roll up super small, so it is space saving. It’s lightweight, and it doubles as a car seat cover (much needed for tiny, sleepy babies) and a high chair cover or cart cover for older babies! I love it and still do use it as a cover even though Gemma doesn’t go for covers as much anymore.
Lansinoh Nursing Pads- I used disposable but if you want to waste less, reusable are good, too!
A nursing pillow of some sort. I found the Boppy to be my favorite (I did try a few). Can’t really imagine how those early days would have been without it!
Pro tip- find them secondhand on Facebook marketplace or even for free if you ask around and borrow from a friend!
A few nursing bras- I like the CAKYE Women's Nursing Bras for comfortable, at home wear, and their more padded ones for going out. Now, sometimes I just wear looser sports bras that can pull down, too.
That’s it, really! I wasn’t a huge fan of nursing tanks or nursing shirts/ clothes, though I did use them in the beginning (mostly Target/ Gilligan O'Malley brand). I mentioned before that I HATE layering, and I wasn’t planning on wearing just a tank in public, so they just weren’t great for me. In the beginning, though, and through the winter, I did wear them under cardigans when I was just hanging out at home.
On an ending note- I want to encourage you! If you're beginning your breastfeeding journey, you most likely are feeling overwhelmed, in pain, emotional, yep, all the things. I know. You can do this, though. If this is something important to you, if it's working out for you and your baby, push through the pain, and you'll feel both empowered and rewarded by your strength and the beautiful bond between you and your baby that breastfeeding becomes.