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After breastfeeding two children, I can tell you each child was entirely different. My son would eat for 30-45 minutes and fall asleep throughout. My daughter nursed for 6-10 minutes and was full for much longer than my son. I originally planned to exclusively pump for my daughter after the experience with my son because I found myself near breaking point from exhaustion with him and no one could help with the feedings. My plan was to EBF my daughter for the first two weeks then switch to pumping. The first two weeks flew by and I felt like I was doing ok so I decided to keep with the exclusively breastfeeding. The first night my husband and I had my mother-in-law watch our kids so we could go trade in my car for a SUV was a difficult one for my little girl. She struggled badly with the bottle. I tried the Chicco Naturalfit first and it was a no go. Tried the Comotomo and again a big fail. I tried almost every bottle out there and could not get her to take the bottle without a huge fight. It was stressful for both of us. With my son, he had his first bottle around 2 weeks old, he took it just fine and never had an issue. This sassy little girl of mine still fights the bottle. I primarily breastfeed but on the occasion that I need to go somewhere it is just more stress than it’s worth because she will not take a bottle for anyone. I had people tell me to leave the room, leave the house, run the nipple under hot water before giving it to her, none of these things worked. I still don’t know what to do about it. I have searched pinterest through and through, asked other moms, asked lactation consultants, asked pediatricians….still have an incredibly stubborn daughter. When I am away she will not drink the first bottle offered, it takes 3-4 hours and the second bottle before she will even consider it. I feel badly for both my baby and the person trying to feed her as it is a very stressful experience.
The purpose of this is to provide some additional tips and tricks for surviving breastfeeding and dealing with a very low milk supply (which I had with both children until taking some additional actions to help boost the flow!) I had some troubles when searching for breastfeeding advice as many would contradict each other. You’d have an anti-colic/gas diet and then you’d have a list that said “foods great for breastfeeding” that would have items that the anti-colic diet just told you not to eat. It was all very confusing at times especially the first time around. I felt like no matter what I ate my babies were always very gassy. I learned my daughter was primarily gassy because I had a very strong letdown and she would end up swallowing so much air just trying to keep up with it. A lactation consultant advised me to remove my breast during the let down (and have something to catch the milk that would be shooting out) and then once it stopped spraying to return to breastfeeding. This helped with the gas because she was not having a milk shower! Lol!
Tip#1: Stick with it! Breastfeeding can be incredibly painful in the beginning. Some are lucky to never have any pain or blistered nipples but I was not one of those with either child. I do consider myself lucky that I never had bleeding nipples as I have read many moms suffered from. The latch is the MOST important part of preventing cracked, blistered and bleeding nipples. If you are struggling with latch, contact a local lactation consultant. They are so very helpful. Try to aim for getting a wide open mouth with the chin tilted slightly upwards when inserting your nipple. You can tap your nipple on your baby’s bottom lip a couple times to signal them to open wide. You want to kind of have your nipple pointing upwards and making a sandwich with your baby’s lips. Sounds funny but it is the best way I can describe it. You want their lips to be out, not tucked in when they are sucking. Think of the duck lips, lol. Getting the perfect latch takes so many steps, including the position that you are in. My second baby would only latch right when I was sitting in a chair with the boppy pillow under her. If I nursed on the go without that dang pillow it was not fun…she just would not latch well. Anyways, once you master the latch, it gets much better.
Tip#2: As you will read on many breastfeeding advice sites, drink LOTS of water. I mean at least 70-100 ounces a day. I can tell a difference in my supply on the evenings of a day where I did not get enough water.
Tip#3: Meal prep some healthy snacks or buy some already packaged. Try peanuts, granola bars, dried fruits…easy things to eat one handed. Especially in the beginning I would find myself getting light headed because I did not eat something yet. I just hadn’t had time to stop and make myself breakfast. I found myself constantly searching for lactation boosting foods or recipes that were simple and tasty (See my favorite lactation recipes on my Pinterest board) I am in the process of making a blog post of all my favorite lactation recipes. You can also use my Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Flax muffin recipe found here. In the beginning my milk took longer than usual to come in so I was trying everything I could to get that flowing! Getting enough calories is also incredibly important which brings me to tip #4.
Tip#4: Don’t try to lose weight by reducing your caloric intake. This can be detrimental to your supply. As they say, you burn around 500 calories a day while breastfeeding. This may be common knowledge to some, but there are many first time moms out there who didn’t know and were wondering why their low calorie diet was reducing the amount of milk they produced. I was not one of those lucky moms who lost weight while breastfeeding. Walking didn’t help me to lose but I definitely think it helped me to not gain any additional weight, haha! I took a walk around a lake nearby that is 3 miles, did this 3-4 times a week. I had a crazy intense appetite while breastfeeding. I always felt hungry and I didn’t always make the best food choices. I am working on better food choices and trying to minimize processed foods.
Tip#5: When searching for advice or support, don’t let those confrontational moms bring you down. Breastfeeding can be such a controversial topic and I really feel like people need to relax and remember we are just trying to feed our children here!! It isn’t easy and there are so many questions a new mom or even a repeat mom like myself have. I still had questions even after having my first, because my experience with my second was so different. I don’t like when people try to make you feel stupid for asking a question. A relative of mine was on a lactation facebook group that was head by two lactation consultants. The problem wasn’t the lactation consultants, it was the other group members responding and answering a question. She would ask a question like “Is it ok to combine the mother’s milk tea and lactation cookies?” Some of the moms would respond with “why do you think you are having a supply problem and your body will produce enough for your baby.” This was actually not true for her situation, she did not produce enough for her baby in the beginning as he had a very large appetite and she was just concerned about any “overload” of the lactation boosting drinks/foods. (For the answer to her question, from a lactation consultant, it was ok to do both although some say they noticed an increase in gassiness with their babies from the ingredients in the mother’s milk teas). Sometimes moms can feel like their experience with breastfeeding is how everyone will experience it and that is simply incorrect. Even each child of mine was very different. So please, if you have questions on breastfeeding and are not receiving the help from a support group, seek out a local lactation consultant. These people go through extensive schooling and training. Sure, asking your other mom friends can help as well but if you are still unsure, talk to a lactation consultant. You will most likely find yourself questioning your supply at multiple stages during breastfeeding. We moms tend to get concerned with even a slight decrease in milk production. Getting in touch with a lactation consultant can help ease your mind or help you to boost your supply if you are in fact experiencing a lower production. I noticed the first major dip in my supply around 3 months. I was pumping about 2-3 ounces less than usual in the morning and noticed I was not waking with the engorged full breasts that I was used to waking up to every morning. Turned out that I was just producing an oversupply prior to that and now my body had learned what my baby needed and would produce just that amount. Your body will produce less/more as your baby grows and make the adjustments to what your baby is actually drinking. I am not a professional and I have sought advice from lactation specialists many times. I also learned that right before and during your period you may experience a dip in your supply.
Tip#6: Have a nursing station. I found this to be the most helpful in the beginning. I had a bottle of water, a couple granola bars, nipple cream, hand sanitizer, nursing pads and my pump parts. I liked the Honest Company nipple cream and the Medela nipple cream. I had to use nursing pads because I would leak all over the place daily if I did not! I started out using the disposable ones like these. Then I decided to buy some washable ones like these since I felt like I was wasting so much money on the disposable ones.
Tip#7: Choose a cover up for the public feedings, unless you are ok with pulling out your breast in public without one. Some moms are, I just don’t have that confidence. In fact breastfeeding in public is one of the most stressful things for me. I do not like people staring at me. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I know breastfeeding is natural and I should not feel that way, but I just really don’t like nursing in public. When I do, I use a cover like this one. I like it because I have very large breasts and I cannot nurse hands free because my breasts practically smother my baby if I do not hold them back. I like this one because it has a bendable metal ring that keeps the cover off of her face completely so I can see what is going on. Some people swear by nursing infinity scarfs like this one. Try one of each and see what you like best.
Tip#8: Make sure to wear nursing friendly clothes when going out. This doesn’t mean you have to get nursing tops but I do recommend at least having on a nursing bra underneath. It will make your life so much easier. I like to wear a nursing bra and a nursing tank top underneath whatever I am wearing so that when I pull my shirt up, my belly is not exposed to the public. I like the wire-free “sports bra like” nursing bras like this one. They are just incredibly comfortable and you don’t want a bra that fits too tightly as this can lower your milk supply. These nursing tank tops are also awesome as they help hold your belly in which is always nice after childbirth. You can spend a small fortune on nursing wear, it is crazy. You just have to decide how much the convenience is worth to you. I know crafty moms who will make their own nursing tops and bras. See my post on places to find breastfeeding friendly clothing here.
Breastfeeding can be one of the hardest things you do but once you get on a decent schedule and your milk arrives, it gets better. I honestly felt like it took me at least a month before it was not painful anymore. Again, this was due to latch problems, but we figured it out. I also want to add that if you find yourself getting discouraged, talk to a lactation consultant…I did not utilize them with my first and I am pretty sure that is why I failed at breastfeeding my son. I tried everything other moms were telling me but I think what I really needed was the help of a professional. They are able to leave their personal experiences out of it. They are also incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. They will even come to your house to help you. If you do stop at tip #1 and give up, don’t feel bad…I did with my first baby and he is a very smart, healthy formula fed baby. Don’t let anyone make you feel badly about your decision. YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you cannot care for your baby as well. The second time around was easier in many ways because I knew where I failed and I knew ways to make it easier. I followed many breastfeeding Pinterest boards during my second pregnancy and I truly feel like I was much more prepared with my past experience and reading everyone’s tips and tricks (as some do not work for all). Leave me a comment if you found this helpful or if you have something you had success with that could be helpful to other moms. We all need as much help as we can get!
Here are a few of my favorite resources that I found on Pinterest… You will soon see that many moms have the same struggles, so you are not alone!