The moment I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I realized there's no shortage of parenting advice. From pregnancy to childbirth to postpartum life, everyone had an idea of how I should handle new motherhood, especially when it came to how I fed my baby. But it was my lactation consultant who gave me what I consider to be the best breastfeeding advice for new moms: you can supplement with formula and still meet your nursing goals.
While breastfeeding my three babies to varying degrees, I've received countless pieces of breastfeeding advice — some helpful, some hurtful, and some conflicting. I know I'm not alone, either. As a new parent, it can often feel like one of your primary "jobs" is to wade through a rising sea of unsolicited advice in order to find what works for you and your unique family. It can be exhausting, to be sure, but eventually you'll come across the "right" kind of breastfeeding support — the tidbits of advice that can make you feel confident and capable of doing what's right for you and your baby.
As a mom, one of the best things I've learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to breastfeeding (or parenting, for that matter). How you feed your baby is personal, as is your version of breastfeeding success and the advice you need to make it there.
"It gets better around eight weeks. There is no harm in using a shield if you need it. The shield saved my nipples and allowed me to keep breastfeeding through pain. Breastfed both kids to 14 months. Also, breastfeeding with very large breasts is an additional challenge, [so] try several positions. I had to physically hold my breast the entire time I breastfed, except in side-lying position."
"The baby won't suffocate! It wasn't something that had occurred to me until I got home. I was latching and unlatching every few minutes so she could breath. It's so scary to leave the hospital, and I was engorged so I thought I was smothering her. I called my mom (a nurse), and she talked me down and kept talking to me until that session finished."
"Watch the baby, not the clock."
"After being given a plan to increase supply, while also safely combo feeding, the consultant said to me, 'And in the end, this may just be how you feed her.' She was the first person who actually talked to me like using formula wasn't a big deal. She gave me tools to try to achieve my breastfeeding goals, but was totally matter of fact that sometimes it just doesn't work."
"That breastfeeding is a mutually beneficial thing. If needs to work for both mom and baby. If it doesn’t work, don’t kill yourself trying to breastfeed. Formula is OK. Formula is great. Also, everyone has seen a tit before, so don’t be afraid to breastfeed in public."
"From a genuinely amazing lactation consultant — adding and using formula could be *in addition* to breastfeeding, and using formula didn't have to mean the end of my breastfeeding relationship with my son. I was working 10-hour days and couldn't manage to pump enough, and it was seriously hurting my mental health. I ended up breastfeeding him for another six months."
When my breast milk supply was low, a friend [told me], 'Feeding your baby formula doesn't make you less of a mom. In fact, it's a way of showing her you love her more because you're willing to let go of what you want, and give her the best that she needs.'"
"Two words: football hold. Also, see a [certified lactation consultant] because latching isn’t supposed to hurt. Turns out, I wasn’t getting into the position quite right. Basically, I’m awkward and had to physically be taught how to not make breastfeeding so awkward."
"It is really freaking hard to determine 'normal' pain from 'something is wrong' pain. So, if you think something is wrong, get help and don’t stop until someone really listens. Also, breastfeeding should not hurt the whole time. White-knuckling the boppy for an entire 15-minute feed is an example of abnormal pain. Once I got my vasospasms caused by Reynaud’s figured out, we had relatively smooth sailing, but it took a while because my OB didn’t believe me."
"That breastfeeding wasn’t something that would necessarily 'come naturally,' and that I should plan to seek out a [certified lactation consultant] for guidance."
"'Hold your boob like a hamburger,' and 'fed is best'"
"It’s OK to supplement with formula. In fact, it might help you breastfeed longer."
"Exclusively pumping is hard work. My daughter wouldn’t latch, so I pumped for six to eight weeks, and I still somehow got backhanded shame comments. I was so relieved when her pediatrician told me that it was OK to stop and switch to formula."
"Aim for nine weeks. If you still hate it after that (and are getting help), quit and don’t look back."
"That you can’t spoil a baby. I was raised to think holding babies too much spoiled them, and though this isn’t exclusively about breastfeeding, it relates because breastfeeding successfully (in a way that kept me and baby happy) sometimes meant a lot of holding and babywearing."
"'It's OK to stop,' from my primary care provider and my husband."