There are so many things to think about when you are preparing to breastfeed your baby. To help you make your breastfeeding journey a successful one I have rounded up some tips and tricks to help you have a successful journey.
This physically challenging experience is one that many mothers enter into mentally unprepared. Managing your expectations is amongst the most important but under-rated ways you can prepare. Then, there are foods to help with supply and of course some ‘been-there-done-that’ nuggets of advice that only a mama who has completed her journey can offer.
Let’s get into it!
Manage your Breastfeeding Expectations
Firstly, expectations will pave the way for whether breastfeeding will work for you or not.
It is super important to have realistic expectations when entering into the world of breastfeeding. Placing high expectations on yourself to succeed will only make it harder for you. Especially, if your journey ends sooner than you would like. It also adds increased pressure on your already tough job as a new mama. Stress itself can impact supply, putting your entire lactation journey in jeopardy.
Here are some things I thought you ought to know (and expect) about breastfeeding.
Breast-Feeding Can Hurt Pretty Bad in The Beginning
The trick is to make sure you are prepared for the experience. Bleeding, chapped nipples being sucked on is not comfortable so make sure you gear up and are ready to soothe those nips.
If you pack one item in your hospital bag, make sure it’s a tube of this amazing Lanolin Nipple Cream. It actually saved me from giving up breastfeeding. One tube should last you until after your nipples get used to the sensation of breastfeeding.
After feeding put some expressed milk on your nipples and let it air dry. Then slather this cream on and let your nipples breath!
You can also use these Hydrogel Breast Discs to soothe your nipples once or twice a day. Make sure to pack some in your hospital bag!!
My pain went away around the 2 week mark. Just hang in there, it does get better.
There Is More Than One Way To Do Latch/Unlatch a Baby
My nurses in the hospital (and at home visits) only taught me one way to unlatch Jax from my nipple. That was to stick my finger in his mouth to make him open it.
The difficulty with this, was that he would start to suck on my nipple AND my finger together. Then there’s the one time I knocked his gum with my nail and he cried so hard (and then I cried so hard).
I came across this video one 3am feeding (crying) session, which completely changed my experience. I have to say that I owe the success of our breastfeeding experience to this video.
If you take away something from this post, it’s to watch this video (and buy the lanolin cream).
Successful Breastfeeding Takes A LOT of patience
In the first few weeks before stumbling upon The Yellow Nursery’s video I was regularly getting frustrated with the experience. Jaxon was too. For a sleep-deprived new mother, being patient isn’t exactly easy.
A really important take away from this is that you need to stay calm if you want this to work. Your baby is totally new to this too and they are just as confused about the whole experience as you are. I mean, they had their food delivered on a silver platter through a tube in their stomach for 9 months and now they have to work for it? Stuff that!
Make sure you have the support of your partner so when you need a break you can rely on them to be there for you. A neck massage, cup of tea and a conversation are wonders for the soul when you are busy living, breathing, and dreaming breastmilk.
Your Supply Will Take A While To Level Out.
One minute you have no milk. The next, you bend over to pick up a fallen washcloth and start spraying your husband’s leg on the couch. (Hah yes that happened).
It can go up and down like this for months or even through your entire journey. I found my cycle (when it returned at 11 weeks post-partum) really affected my supply so I would make a conscious effort to up my supplement and water intake during this time.
It’s OK if your breastfeeding journey ends sooner than you planned
I planned to breastfeed Jax for 6 months and had decided that anything more than this was a bonus. We were really lucky to make it to 8 months. Once he got teeth I just couldn’t do it anymore.
We had reached our goal and were done.
I found it important to have a realistic goal. I decided that if I could breastfeed, I wanted to make it to the time Jax was eating solids. No nutritional reason for this, just a goal I had in my mind. I also decided that if I couldn’t breastfeed that would be ok too.
It’s important to have realistic and reachable expectations. If I had originally planned on 12 months and ended at 8 I would have been crushed.
But if your journey ends earlier than you expected, it’s important to know that you have not failed. Whether you are unable to breastfeed anymore OR you make the CHOICE to formula feed, fed is best.
There is no shame in feeding your baby formula. As long as your baby is fed and happy, you are doing an amazing job mama!
And these mamas agree!
Food to Help Lactation
Once you have your mindset sorted and expectations in alignment, it’s time to focus on how to gear yourself up physically to have the best chance at success.
For a successful lactation journey, your diet will need to incorporate all sorts of ingredients that help you produce milk.
Breast-feeding alone can burn between 500-800 calories a day! That’s a pretty grueling workout!
Many women claim that breastfeeding helped them lose weight. But let me tell you that now is not the time to worry too much about the baby-weight.
In order to make sure you are giving your body the best chance of producing high quality breast-milk in the quantities your baby desires, you will need to do some research on how many calories will work for you. This will change depending on your weight and energy needs.
Here are some ingredients which have helped me in my 8 month long breast-feeding journey. These foods are known for promoting breast milk production. They are high in protein, calcium and galactagogues.
Whether it’s whole oats or quick-oats, they are very easy to incorporate into your diet.
This is actually an ingredient in making beer… BUT, hold off on the alcoholic bevvies for now and head to your local health food store for some powdered yeast instead!
THIS Brewer’s Yeast from Lotus is what I use and it’s great!
These tiny seeds are great for keeping you regular as well as increasing your milk supply.
These three main ingredients plus a few staples from your pantry and we are good to go. But for the adventurous mums out there:
Other foods said to be good for breast milk production:
- Green leafy veggies
- Fennel seeds
Check out how I use these ingredients to boost supply!
When You Are Ready To Quit Breastfeeding?
For us it was an overnight decision but I still made sure we were truly prepared for a pain-free ending to our breast-feeding experience.
For us, it was at 8 months when Jaxon got his first teeth. For some, the ‘milky way’ lasts much longer, and that’s fine too. No one can tell you when to give up breastfeeding.
As long as you are prepared for the weaning process.
If you would like to read more about how we ended our journey pain free, check out my post HERE
- Download a baby tracker app – tracking feeds as well as left/right breast and pumping is a full-time job, doing this on little sleep means you should use all the help you can get! Check out the one I use in my post 5 Phone Apps You Need for Pregnancy and Beyond
- Wash-cloths – buy in bulk and store these in EVERY room of your house. You never know when you are going to be faced with a shirt full of spit up and tissues are horrible for the environment
- Snacks and water – Store emergency oat bars and bottles of water next to your breastfeeding station/s (also known as in the nursery, on the lounge room coffee table, in the bed-side table, etc.) I used to get an overwhelming thirst as soon as my let-down hit and once you are all comfy with a baby attached, you won’t want to move and risk the crying for a glass of water.
What you put in your body will be what your body turns into milk. Your emotions, mindset and stress levels will also have an effect on your milk production so it’s important to get your head right as well.
Being realistic in your expectations of yourself will help you enter into this experience with less stress and more compassion for your beautiful body as it learns to do the most amazing task, feed your baby.
Did you have any tips for mamas who want to breastfeed?
Leave a comment below!