Honest post ahead alert! Let’s chat about breastfeeding. What are the must-know breastfeeding tips to help you feed your newborn successfully? How do you get a baby to latch? Do you need to pump? These are just a few of the questions that may come to mind as you’re prepping to give birth.
I’ll be honest — for me, breastfeeding my first child was probably the hardest aspect of being a new parent. I felt an enormous, sometimes overwhelming, amount of pressure and stress to (try to) nurse my son.
It didn’t start out that way though. I went into it thinking, “this is a natural thing – it should be easy! How hard can it really be to get this baby to pop on and start eating? I’ve got this!”
Fast forward to two days post-discharge from the hospital, and it became very apparent that I absolutely did not have it. That first week, my son woke up every 1-2 hours at night, screaming as he tried – unsuccessfully – to latch. He was hungry and tired. I was exhausted, worried he wasn’t eating enough, and felt like I was failing at the one thing my body was actually meant to do, which really started to affect me mentally.
I couldn’t help but wonder, why did none of the women in my life warn me that breastfeeding would – or could – be so difficult? Was it just not hard for them? Is it me? Is there something wrong with my baby?
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It turns out, I wasn’t alone in experiencing these struggles, but it’s still an issue many don’t really talk about unprompted. So if any of this sounds familiar, please don’t despair! There are so many breastfeeding tips to help you through the experience. And if breastfeeding doesn’t work out – guess what? It’s ok. You have options! But first, let’s talk about ways to help make your breastfeeding journey a positive experience.
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Top 8 Breastfeeding Tips to Help You and Your Baby
1. Ask for Help and Advice Early On (But Don’t Let Anyone Pressure You!)
I had my son while we were living abroad in Thailand. The hospital was top-notch — amazing facilities, great doctors, private rooms — but it was not easy to communicate with the nurses, who did not speak much, if any, English (and my Thai vocab did not consist of much helpful medical terminology).
So here’s what happened: the nurses basically shoved my son onto my boob when it was time for feedings, checked to see he was eating, and left. At one point early on, they took one look at my engorged breast and my son’s tiny mouth struggling to latch, and decided a nipple shield would help (I had no idea what it was at the time). I used the nipple shield for the majority of our two-day stay in the hospital. When I got home, I thought, “I don’t really need this artificial thing…” and tried to go without it. It didn’t go well.
The point of this story is, I had very little support early on when it came to learning how to breastfeed and learning how to help my tiny little newborn figure it out as well. Having that support is so important! My husband, sensing a rapid downward spiral, called in reinforcements and contacted the doula who had taught our birthing class. She immediately came to our home, calmed me down, told me to pump some milk and feed my baby with a syringe (I bawled), and put me in touch with a lactation consultant (LC).
Tip: Many hospitals have a lactation consultant on-site who will automatically do a visit with you. Take advantage of their expertise and tips, but also know that it is you and your baby's decision as to how you feed. Bottles are ok! Pumping is ok! Formula is ok! Maintaining your sanity is more than ok.
The LC our doula recommended immediately came to our apartment and encouraged me to use whatever I needed in order to successfully breastfeed. In this case, that meant the aforementioned nipple shields (click here for the brand I used). They were a lifesaver. Which brings me to…
2. If You’re Having Latching Issues, Consider a Nipple Shield
Ok, so what the heck is a nipple shield? Basically, it gives the baby a larger area to latch onto, which can help if you are struggling with getting baby to latch (sometimes due to flatter or inverted nipples). They can also be a huge relief for sore, cracked nipples, creating a barrier that allows them to heal while you’re still nursing your baby.
Some LCs will frown upon nipple shields and discourage their use because they can affect your supply. My (non-medical!) opinion – if you are struggling with getting a good latch, give them a try and see how/if your supply is affected. (Shields did not affect mine at all.)
We used the shields for about two months, and slowly stopped as my son got stronger and more capable of latching on his own. What started as a pretty traumatizing experience, ended on a very positive note when he was 10 months old.