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For some women, nursing is easy as pie. However, that’s not the case for everyone. I was not one of the lucky ones. I had an overactive letdown that caused my daughter to choke nearly every time she nursed. She also had a milk-protein intolerance that caused the first few months (before I figured out that I couldn’t have dairy or soy) to be exhausting and frustrating for both of us. I also wasn’t doing so well with such little sleep, since she wanted to nurse all night every night! I began to feel ill-equipped and discouraged.
Thankfully, I was able to go to my mom for advice. I figured that after successfully breastfeeding six children (including one set of twins) well into toddlerhood, she was qualified to dish out some helpful advice. She told me a few basic principles that proved themselves to be true, and I learned a few of my own along the way. She and my husband constantly encouraged me to stick with it, and I’m so glad that I did. My experience turned me into a bit of a lactivist, so if sharing these tips can help even one reader decide to push through the hard days and long nights, then I’ve done my job!
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding:
1. Struggling physically or emotionally with the breastfeeding process doesn’t mean you aren’t equipped to be a fabulous mother. It’s easy to feel defeated and feel like giving up, but don’t. You’ll never regret breastfeeding your baby!
2. Eat enough. Even if the baby weight isn’t falling off like you’d hoped it would, you don’t need to go on a diet. Your body is burning hundreds of calories by producing enough milk to feed your baby—you need to give it adequate fuel. There is a healthy way to shed baby weight: Stay active, incorporate healthy foods into your diet, and don’t let yourself get to that out-of-energy hungry point. (As a general rule, you shouldn’t lose more than 1-2 pounds per week.)
3. Eat oatmeal, fruit, veggies or lactation cookies. Check out our yummy recipe here!
4. DRINK, DRINK, DRINK. Every single time you sit down to nurse, have a cup of water in your hand. You’ve got to stay hydrated in order to continue producing enough milk.
5. The more your baby nurses, the more you’ll produce. Simply put, sucking produces milk. This is how your body knows how much your baby needs. (Isn’t that AMAZING your body is designed that way?)
6. Ignore the clocks. Turn them around if you have to! I have heard of so many parents successfully getting their infant on a nursing schedule that works for them, but I can tell you right now that the word “schedule” and “breastfeeding” didn’t belong in the same sentence at my house. I think if I had tried to only nurse my babies every X number of hours, I would have driven myself crazy. I nursed them when they were hungry, sad, tired or … well, you name it, and I nursed them. Sometimes this meant nursing every 15 minutes. It was tough, but it kept my supply up and kept them calm, which kept me calm! Don’t get frustrated if your baby wants to nurse more often than you think is normal. It doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough milk. It means your baby loves breastfeeding! They won’t nurse so often forever. They’ll taper off naturally as they get older and introduced to solid foods.
7. Relax. Stressing over whether or not you’re producing enough, whether or not you’re doing it right or whether or not you’re boobs will ever stop hurting can take a toll on you physically and mentally. Try to look for the signals that breastfeeding is going well, like wet diapers and weight gain, and focus on those.
8. This won’t last forever. Try to enjoy the sweet moments of breast feeding and remember, “this too, shall pass” during the tough times.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’ve had one of those nothing-but-nursing days, it’s impossible to find time to cook dinner, do laundry or even shower. If there is someone you can call for help, do it. Chances are, they’ll be flattered you reached out to them in these early days of motherhood! People often want to help, but don’t know exactly what your needs are.
10. If you don’t have a solid support system, build one. Look up breastfeeding support groups in your area. They’re often free, and so helpful. Hearing other moms talk about struggles similar to your own will at the very least let you know that you aren’t alone, and help build new friendships with other nursing moms.
I am so thankful for the people who pushed me to keep on breastfeeding, even when it got hard. A few of my fellow Simply Real Moms were an incredible part of my support system, and they continue to encourage me, even as I’m beginning a new phase of my breastfeeding journey by tandem nursing my three-month-old son and 19-month-old daughter.