Breastfeeding is hailed as the most natural thing in the world, yet it comes so unnaturally to so many new moms. While some seem to just effortlessly latch the baby to their breasts directly after birth, many moms struggle to breastfeed for the entirety of their nursing experience. As a parent, I find comfort in talking to those moms who have more experience than I do, so I asked moms who exclusively breastfed their babies for their number one piece of breastfeeding advice. Moms love sharing their thoughts and experiences because, for the most part, most moms want to support and encourage one another. They want to ease the struggles of all new moms, because once they have their babies they realize just how tough mom life can be.
I wish I was given breastfeeding advice when I was a first-time mom. I definitely could've used some. But, I was the first out of my friends to have kids and no one knew anything about breastfeeding. When I had my daughter, I was a faithful follower of the "breastfeeding is natural" philosophy, because I didn't know any better. When I couldn't figure out how to get her to latch, I got nervous and asked for help in the hospital. The lactation consultant offered me a nipple shield and, from that moment on, my relationship with breastfeeding went from bad to worse to nonexistent. The nipple shield, while I am sure helpful to some moms, was detrimental to my breastfeeding attempts. It became a crutch and I wish I asked for more help and was taught how to latch my baby without the nipple shield. Within a week, I switched to exclusive pumping and mourned my very first, and very personal, parenting fail.
I learned from my mistakes, though, like all moms usually do. When I was pregnant with my son, I wouldn't let the lactation consultant out of my sight until she taught me exactly how get him to latch. I asked for every piece of advice from every professional and every mom I could find. I joined breastfeeding groups on Facebook and found so much support. In fact, one of the moms in one of the groups practically saved my nipples from falling off. I struggled through bleeding nipples, clogged ducts, an incorrect latch I didn't realize was incorrect for a while, engorgement, tongue-tie, and finally persevered. I successfully breastfed my son for 10 months and until my milk pretty much disappeared. I loved breastfeeding my son, despite the first two months of hell. I would still do it all over again, especially since I know what these moms know:
"The best advice I ever got was that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. If it hurts, it's probably a poor latch. Breastfeeding might be a little uncomfortable initially, but that should subside after a minute or so. If it doesn't subside, check your latch. If there is pain, break the suction with your finger and try again. A deep latch is what you want."
"Surround yourself with supportive people including a licensed lactation consultant."
"If something doesn't seem quite right (you think baby isn't getting enough because all she wants to do is nurse, it's painful, etc.), reach out to professionals. A board certified lactation consultant or a La Leche League Leader genuinely want to help and you won't be bothering them with your questions."
"I never heard about weighted feeds before, but it would have been so helpful. If you’re worried about your baby not getting enough milk, you can weigh them before and after a feeding to see how much they ate. Buy a Haakaa suction pump to catch excess milk from the other side while you are nursing. I built my freezer stash during my maternity leave just by using the Haakaa."
"It's not natural! Everyone always says how natural breastfeeding is, and for some it is, however for many women it's very hard! When you're having difficulties see a lactation consultant."
"Nurse on demand."
"Take it one day at a time."
"Breastfeeding doesn't always come easily, but it will become easier as you both gain experience and baby gets bigger. Get the help if you need it. Don't worry about buying those expensive 'nursing tops' for every day use unless you particularly like one. A good nursing bra and common sense about what tops you wear will suffice for most situations. If you're trying to pump and are unsuccessful, you might need a different sized flange or a different pump style. Ask for help."
"Don't automatically assume your supply has dropped when you stop being engorged all the time a few months in. It's normal! Your body is adjusting to how much your baby actually eats."
"Never quit on a bad day."
"My advice would be to just give it a try. I didn’t even attempt to breastfeed my first two because I was young and self-conscious. With my third, I was 30 years old and decided to just give it a try while in the hospital after my third C-section and she latched on like a champ and we never looked back! I exclusively breastfed her for almost her whole first year, and she still, at 15 months, nurses more than she eats solids. I never once pumped, so that means no one else could feed her, but this actually led to her having an amazing sleep schedule, not to mention a priceless bond between us."
"Ask to see a lactation consultant right after delivery. They can help get you started on the right foot. My daughter was premature and had difficulty latching. The lactation consultant recommended syringe feeding and it really helped."
"Nurse on demand 100 percent. Don't let anyone scare you into making your baby wait. Unless they are having a serious issue with blood sugar or weight gain, [feed] on demand and don't force them or wake them up to eat. On demand also means whenever/wherever needed. You don't need to hide, and you'll be more successful if you can feed anytime including in public. I had five babies, four of whom were exclusively breastfed."
"Don’t be scared to feed how and when you and baby wants. If you want to nurse uncovered in public, do it. If you want to be covered, do it. Just don’t feel obligated to do it any certain way. Do what you and baby want ignore everyone else."
"Read up on cluster feeding. I had no clue what it was, never even heard the term until we were on our third day of a nightmare week. Knowing what [cluster feeding is changed] how I responded to the 'task.'"
"Nurse often in the beginning, every two to three hours. Don't let the baby just sleep, you can put the baby on without waking, but you need to establish a good supply. And when pumping, don't just pump for five-10 minutes. Let that pump stay on and you'll get a second letdown. I nursed my first until 14 months and second until 17 months. I also was able to donate a lot of breastmilk."
"Keep going. Stop setting deadlines, even when you want to give up. I made it to one year with both of my babies and it makes for the happiest memories of my life."
"Relax, don’t let small setbacks discourage you from continuing breastfeeding. Find support groups online or in person to get you through the first few weeks."
"Calm down and relax."
"Patience and don't be too hard on yourself. You can only do the best you can and you rock. (Hardest and at the same time most rewarding thing I did for my kids as babies.)"
"Make sure you understand [what] a proper latch looks and feels like before you leave the hospital."
"During the first few weeks, be prepared to nurse for majority of the day (and night). So, make sure you have everything you need next to you, most importantly the remote. Bring a 24 case of water to your bedroom and drink a bottle after every feed during the night."
"Find a friend (or group of women) who has had a successful breastfeeding experience. Though each woman's journey is different, they will always understand better than anyone else what you are going through. Breastfeeding is not necessarily easy and having someone to talk to about it can make a world of difference to you and your child."
"Wow, I could say a lot. I breastfed for two and a half years. I think some women are scared to ask for help and it's really important to be open with others and ask for help, especially when there are resources to help in the hospital or outside the hospital. Some women have it easy and some don't. I think trying your hardest before completely giving up is important. Don't pressure yourself and don't give yourself a deadline. If you can do a year, great, if you can only do three months, that's also great. The first three to six months are the most important anyway."
"Going on two years tandem nursing my twins. I wish people knew that the percentage of women who truly can't physically breastfeed is actually very, very low. Far lower than we are led to believe. I hear all the time from women that they couldn't breastfeed because they never produced [enough breast milk], couldn't keep their supply up, couldn't get their babies to latch, etc. These are issues that can typically be worked through with research, support, time, and patience. Those first several weeks are the toughest and require a lot of trial and error."
"If you find yourself prone to blockages, consult with a lactation consultant and/or your doctor, but consider some simple home remedies. I was prone to horrid, frequent blocks, particularly in my left breast. I found taking sunflower lecithin regularly, using moist warm compresses combined with gentle massage, and loads of nursing from varying positions almost always remedied the issue. It is amazing how well a gentle vibrating massage using the hard, round backside of an electric face brush and/or an electric toothbrush can help break up and loosen blockages."
"Always have snacks and water close by, some of those feedings can last and I would get so hungry and thirsty."
"Every drop counts. Whether you feed for four days or four years, every drop counts."
"Nurse whenever your baby is hungry and wherever your baby is hungry. No one gets to tell you where you can and cannot feed your kid. Don't wake your baby to feed. She'll wake up when she's hungry.""
"Have patience but stay committed. Use all the resources you have available: other moms, any breastfeeding resource center you may have access to, Facebook groups, anything. The more information I had and the more people shared their experiences with me, helped tremendously. I’ve been going 15 months strong thanks to all of my amazing resources and support."
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