How To Survive Exclusive Breastfeeding, As It Takes A Lot Out Of You

Ad failed to load

Deciding to exclusively breastfeed an infant is not usually a decision that's made lightly. There are many factors to consider including a mom's lifestyle and whether they have any emotional triggers associated with breastfeeding. Many women know that even though breastfeeding has been a trend since the dawn of time, that doesn't mean it'll easy. Once in the trenches of nursing, you may wonder how to survive exclusive breastfeeding, especially when you feel like you really want to stop. Rest assured, many moms have felt the same way you have, and there are ways to get through breastfeeding, even the hard parts.

Women should aim to exclusively breastfeed for at least one year, according to The World Health Organization. There are plenty of proven benefits to a nursing mother and her baby like emotional bonding, immunity, and the cost. This is all good and well, but that doesn't mean it's easy and free from hiccups along the way. Exclusively breastfeeding a baby takes commitment, practice, and a whole lot of patience.

Whatever your challenge is or whatever breastfeeding challenges crop up, there are ways to get through them. Just because you're struggling, doesn't mean you have to stop all together (unless you want to, and that's totally your choice). Here are seven easily implementable things you can do to help you survive exclusive breastfeeding.

Ad failed to load

1Surround Yourself With Support


"Support is vital to successful breastfeeding- and parenting, in general," Monique Cowan, postpartum doula and family coach, tells Romper. "Having folks to help around the house, bring you water and food, and to just be your cheerleader can make all the difference in the world."

Back in the day, postpartum women had the support of other women: mothers, grandmothers, sisters, etc. They were physically available and geographically close by to help with all things mama and baby. If you have this set up, take advantage of it, and direct those around you to your needs.

For those breastfeeding moms that don't have family and friends nearby, build modern support systems. Nursing moms can join breastfeeding support groups on Facebook, online breastfeeding chat rooms, purchase online lactation sessions with a certified consultant, or simply video chat with a fellow mom who can lend an ear. There's always a way to build a support system, and it's important that you find ways to do it if you want to survive and thrive during all phases of breastfeeding.

2Have Your Partner Help


Maybe they can't breastfeed for you, but there are plenty of other things they can do.

"Your partner likely wants to help, but just doesn’t know how," Lindsey Janeiro, certified lactation counselor and nutritionist, says. "Communicate what you and the baby need."

If you have a partner or spouse, have them hold a boob for you, or ice pack your nipples, grab a burp cloth, or fetch you a one-handed food item to shove in your mouth while nursing. Additionally, if you get touched out from breastfeeding the baby non-stop, Janeiro suggest you enjoy some "sweet post-nursing snuggles."

3Accept That Breastfeeding Has A Learning Curve


"Breastfeeding is a natural process, but sometimes, it has a learning curve for both mom and baby," Cowan says. "So, it is very important that mom is gentle with herself."

This might make perfectionist breastfeeding moms kind of twitchy, and I get it. Ditching the idea that perfection is the goal is imperative with breastfeeding. Learning is the goal and figuring it out with your baby together is generally how the process goes. Perfecting your practice will come later, and if you're unkind to yourself during the journey, you could really suffer.

"Stress will send your milk supply on a downhill slope," Cowan says. She advises new moms to learn relaxation techniques and say affirmations. If you feel ridiculous saying them, think of your own, then say them. You're breastfeeding survival depends on it, even if you feel silly.

Ad failed to load

4Allow Yourself To Struggle Without Judgement


"Just remember that breastfeeding for the first time is never easy for any new mom," Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John's Health Center, says. "Allow yourself to struggle, it’s completely normal."

Literally, no one knows what they hell they are doing when the nurse or doula puts a baby to their mother's breast the first time. Again, while breastfeeding is touted as natural, that doesn't mean it's easy. You will struggle with a plethora of breastfeeding issues including cracked and sore nipples, dips in supply, and maybe even mastitis. It's all part of breastfeeding, it's all normal, and it's all OK.

There is no need to judge yourself and feel shame, there are lot of other women who have the same struggles, or who have been there before.

5Eat As Healthy As Possible


According to What To Expect, a breastfeeding mother is burning roughly 500 calories a day nursing. Nursing takes a lot out of you. Eating well will help keep your energy levels up, your mood in check, and provide your body with all of the necessary nutrients it needs to function (which is super important when taking care of a baby that needs you non-stop), including aiding in your milk production, as explained on the same website.

6Practice Self-Care When Possible


"While being on-call to your little one, do not forget to nurture yourself," Cowan says. "Take time to do things that feel good to you and make you come back to yourself, remembering that you must care for yourself in order to care for your baby."

It's like when you're on a plane and they tell you about the oxygen masks. Secure yours, before helping others.

Ad failed to load

7Know Where To Seek Professional Help


Just because breastfeeding is supposedly a natural human experience, that doesn't mean help isn't needed. Sometimes professional help can help you get over your hardest nursing hurdles, you just need to know where to find it.

"Whether you’re just starting your breastfeeding journey or you’re coming to a close and weaning, there are several points along the way where it’s good to know where to turn for help," Janeiro says. "Find local lactation consultants, breastfeeding groups, or contact your local La Leche League International."

Exclusively breastfeeding is a commitment and along the way there may be struggles. That doesn't mean you can't get through them. The most important thing to remember is to cut yourself some slack, and take comfort in knowing other moms have been where you are. However you choose to handle your breastfeeding challenges, is OK, and will ultimately be the best thing for you and your baby.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack