My training as an RN – beginning in 1999 – led me to have a very strict view that “breast is best” – no exceptions. Because of the world view I held, I was adamant that the only way to feed our son, Caleb, born in 2013 was by exclusively breastfeeding him. I have to say it was an extremely challenging experience for both of us. Caleb had an undiagnosed tongue and lip tie, which at the time I had no idea how impactful that would be to the success of our journey. I didn’t understand the basics of breastfeeding because I thought it was natural and assumed my inner instincts would take over.
I honestly thought you just put your baby to the breast and the magic happened i.e. perfect latch, no pain, amazing milk supply, happy mom and babe, choir of angels singing, etc. I experienced low supply, and what I recognize now was a hungry baby that never slept more than 2 hours at a time and barely held to his growth curve. Holy man was I exhausted, defeated, depressed and then feeling guilty about how much I was NOT enjoying my experience of motherhood. We found our groove in time and I exclusively breastfeed till 11 months, but I still have scars both mentally and physically. Looking back I wished things had been different – hindsight is 20/20 as they say!
Fast forward 21 months to the birth of my daughter – my world view had changed to “fed is best” and I understood all the ways I could give my baby breastmilk. I had done a ton of research and this time around I knew the mechanics of breastfeeding and understood how important a deep latch was. I knew to have Olivia assessed for a tongue/lip tie right away. I knew to ask for help and support as soon as possible so we could set ourselves up for success.
I had heard of galactagogues and knew how important nutrition and water intake were to our journey. I understood that certain medications could help or hurt my milk supply. I had a double pump and was excited to start building a freezer stash right away. Most importantly, I felt less stressed about the whole experience and had taken the immense pressure off my shoulders of being the only one who could feed my daughter.
Here are my top tips for successful breastfeeding:
- Educate – arm yourself with as much knowledge about how to achieve successful breastfeeding before your baby comes. Have your partner participate in the learning with you so they can provide support to you as well – especially in the middle of the night!
- Support – know who the supports are in your community as well as virtually, and reach out early – before your nipples are cracked and bleeding!
- Practice – keep in mind that neither you nor your baby have done this before. Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and nailing it down can take time. The more you practice, the quicker things will fall into place for both of you. I suggest bringing your newborn baby to the breast at least every 3 hours in the beginning.
- Grace – give yourself grace – grace to learn this skill and the space to make a different choice if you need to. Maybe you thought you’d love breastfeeding, but you don’t. Ditch the guilt and embrace your options: pumping your breast milk and giving it to your baby by bottle; using donor breast milk; using a combo of breastmilk and formula; or switching to formula altogether. Only you can make the best decision for your family.
Please reach out with any questions you might have or for education and support. There are Mama Coaches all across North America and we can also assist you virtually. Wishing you all the best on your breastfeeding journey! Here’s to a happy and healthy World Breastfeeding Week in 2020.