When it comes to breastfeeding, there's no shortage of advice. In fact, it can boarder on overwhelming. How is a new mom supposed to know what works and what doesn't? Breastfeeding can be difficult all on its own and without attempting to wade your way through an endless sea of often unsolicited advice which, more often than not, won't apply to you and your baby. Having said that, I don't think we, as nursing women, should ignore pieces of solid breastfeeding advice from other moms entirely. While we are more than capable of figuring out what works best for us and our unique situations, it can be beyond beneficial to listen to others who've been there, done that, and have the breast milk-soaked t-shirt to prove it.
Personally, it didn't take me long to realize that the act of feeding another human being with your body isn't always easy. I attended prenatal classes, talked to a lactation consultant, read all the books I could get my hands on, and still couldn't make nursing work. Not only did I become frustrated I wasn't able to do this so-called "natural" thing, but I felt like I had failed as a new mom. At the time, none of my friends had children yet, and the advice from women in my family wasn't exactly relevant. In other words, I was on my own.
NPR reports that only around 13 percent of new moms breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby's life. The rest give up after having troubles similar to mine, and understandably so. Breastfeeding is not an easy feat. Even seasoned mothers can experience substantial issues with milk supply or a baby's latch and, in the end, have to call on experts to help guide them through these specific trials and tribulations. And while every mother has her own varied, valid reasons for either continuing to breastfeed or switching to formula, Parenting reports that nearly 2 percent of women can't produce enough milk (for a variety of reasons) to breastfeed. No amount of "advice" is going to assist those women, and no amount of judgment or shame is going to make their breastfeeding journeys any easier.
So in the end and always, no woman should ever feel shame for whatever choice she makes regarding how she chooses to feed her baby. But if you've chosen to breastfeed and are struggling to hang in there, take it from some of these women who know what they're talking about:
"Establish a good supply from the beginning, and be sure baby has a solid latch. The hospital will send in a lactation consultant to help with any issues! Never sleep through feedings unless you pump in place of nursing. It's tiring but skipping feeding sessions will quickly diminish your milk supply. Be sure to offer the breast often even if baby 'just ate.' Cluster feeding is normal! Avoid using a pacifier in the first couple weeks. Stay hydrated! Keep a water bottle handy and try to drink water during each feeding. Know that breastfeeding does get easier! It's natural but that doesn't mean it comes naturally to mom and baby at first."
"First off: relax. It took me three days before I could figure out how to nurse my oldest son. And I felt like such a failure and was so exhausted and worried. Later, when I worked (postpartum) and helped other moms and babies learn to nurse, I could tell it was a common problem.
We put so much stress and importance on 'the ability to feed our child' that we forget some parents are physically unable to nurse — or choose not to — and it doesn't make them any less of a parent.
Also, have your nurse check to ensure babies tongue is positioned correctly when they put a gloved finger tip in baby's mouth. Do not do this yourself. Some naturally stick the tongue to the roof of their mouth instead of laying it on the bottom if their mouth.
Check for inverted nipples. Be sure to c-hold the breast, behind the areola. Lots of moms cover the bottom of their areola with their index finger.
And don't be afraid to supplement with sugar saline or formula via a dropper. Babies will get confused with a bottle or pacifier but a dropper should be OK, and will prevent dehydration."
"Mother of a 2-year-old breastfed son here. Best advice I could give is to trust your body. Don’t freak out over every little thing (although it’s hard not to). Just remember your body knows what your child needs and will provide exactly that. Hang in there during the hard times. It can be painful, stressful, and utterly exhausting, but you can do it."
"My pediatrician advised me to use this stuff called Earth Mamas nipple butter. The secret is to put cellophane on your nipple right after you put it on to quickly heal any soreness or cracks. It worked like a charm for me!"
"Support is crucial."
"For engorgement, use frozen cabbage leaves and put them in your bra. It helps a ton!"
"I don't really have a leg to stand on here, being child-less, but I recently tried to be there for a friend who was having a really, really hard time with breastfeeding. Baby girl just would not have it. The medical professionals made my friend feel absolutely awful about it, and it was really upsetting. It's important not to beat yourself up while navigating the whole process and cool it with the mommy shaming. Everyone is just trying to do their best!"
"I'd just say do it as long as you can, but don't feel pressured to keep doing it when you're exhausted. I did it with [my child] for the first six weeks and I was literally turning green from being so depleted and tired. Do what feels right for you and your child."
"I can only speak from the perspective of having one child so far, but my advice would be to do it if you want to, do it however, wherever you feel comfortable and for however long you want, trust your instincts, and follow your baby's cues. It's a journey you and your baby go on together. Don't let any pressure (to stop, to keep going, to cover up, or not to cover up) guide your choices. There are no rules. You and your baby call the shots!"
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