World Breastfeeding week is August 1 – 7, 2021.
I’m four months into nursing my third baby, and I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned in the past five years of bringing my babies into the world and learning to feed them. When we think of nature, food and eating is one of the most basic concepts, right? Shouldn’t it be easy and intuitive? You put the baby to breast to nurse, and voila! Magic. A perfectly content baby and mama in their world of nursing bliss with an abundance of milk.
WRONG! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I’ve nursed three children, and It. Is. Hard. It demands your all— physically, mentally, and emotionally. I fought tooth and nail to nurse my babies every time, and it never came easily. But ultimately, I have found it to be an incredible experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat.
With each baby, I noticed things got much easier around week 12, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to give up on getting to that point. I firmly believe every mother should be encouraged, empowered, and supported to feed and nourish her child just as she wishes. If you desire to breastfeed, I want you to have just the support you need to get started and keep going. And if you desire NOT to breastfeed, I want you to be supported in this choice as well.
Knowledge is Power
Any way that you can obtain knowledge on the mechanics and logistics of breastfeeding will serve you well. I was quite uneducated about how milk production and nursing worked before my first baby was born. I had no idea what a letdown was. I had no idea what cluster feeding was, or how my hormones would be suppressed while lactating, and more. Connect with your doula, hospital, or birthing center and inquire about which breastfeeding courses they offer even before your baby arrives. This will pay dividends.
Have a plan in place before your baby arrives for lactation support. Find a doula, talk with your doctor, ask your birthing hospital or center who they recommend for lactation support, check in with one of the resources I’ve listed below, and HAVE A PLAN in case nursing is hard at the beginning. When you are exhausted, emotional, and feeling overwhelmed, this is the worst time to be scrambling for resources. Involve your support partner in this process (if you are parenting with someone else) and make sure they are aware of the plan for support. You will need them to be involved in this!
Here are some resources I’ve used here in St. Louis to help on my journey to nursing my children:
Kangaroo Kids: I love this local resale boutique that doubles as a breastfeeding support resource! They host breastfeeding classes and support groups. Currently, classes are on hold, and support groups are being hosted via Zoom. The owner, Sierra, is an incredible wealth of knowledge and wonderful support to moms.
La Leche League of Greater St. Louis: The cool thing about La Leche League is that you can find it all over the world! I first connected with them after the birth of my first baby in France. This volunteer-led organization is an incredible wealth of knowledge and support to moms who want to breastfeed for any amount of time. I love their local Facebook group! They also host meet-up groups (currently being held via Zoom).
MoBap Mom Group: Whether or not you give birth at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, they offer wonderful support groups for moms! These groups currently meet on Zoom.
The Feeding Clinic at Missouri Baptist Medical Center: With a staff of knowledgeable and compassionate Occupational Therapists (OTs), this is the first place I would turn if you’re struggling with what you believe to be latch or mechanical issues with nursing. If you’re experiencing pain or baby just doesn’t seem to get the hang of latching (lots of choking, sputtering, cough, clicking, etc.), I would head here for an evaluation.
Here are some virtual breastfeeding resources I’ve found to be invaluable:
Here are some products I love for nursing:
Haakaa Breast Pump: This little silicone pump has been a game-changer for me. I love how it catches the letdown on the side baby isn’t nursing on to help, especially during the early days of nursing, which can lead to engorgement.
Lansinoh Soothies: Lactation experts will tell you that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt or cause nipple damage, and I agree with that to a certain extent. But I’ve always experienced discomfort at the beginning of nursing all my babies, and it ultimately went away. These soothies are great for providing some relief to your nipples that are being used in a way they might never have been before. Think of training for a marathon – don’t your muscles hurt as you get going and build some endurance? I view nursing the same way.
My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow: I love this pillow more than a Boppy because it offers some more structure, and I love that you can attach the pillow to your body with the belt.
My Personal Tips for Nursing
- Nurse, nurse, nurse: I know there are so many different schools of thought regarding breastfeeding and a schedule. I’m not here to tell you what to do, BUT I found it helped not to look at a clock for the first 4-6 weeks of nursing my babies. I would nurse them as often as possible from birth on, even if it seemed like they had just fed. Sometimes they would nurse for comfort and mom’s closeness, and other times I’m sure they were putting in their order to build my supply.
- A fussy baby at the breast doesn’t always signal trouble: I made a mistake with my first baby and panicked when she suddenly became fussy at the breast in the evenings around the 4th week. I started pumping like crazy, giving bottles of breastmilk and formula, and created a painful oversupply problem. In hindsight, my baby was going through a growth spurt, and fussiness at the breast and cluster feeding is ABSOLUTELY normal. I’ve experienced this with all three of my children, and they all have gone on to gain weight and thrive. If your baby continues to gain weight and create soiled diapers, you are on the right track.
- Be supported in your journey: Make sure your OBGYN and pediatrician know about your plan to breastfeed. Ask them specifically how they support their patients in this way. If you feel a lack of support even from the start, I would highly recommend finding a different provider because it’ll probably be a bump and a grind the whole way. It’s also important to feel supported by your spouse, partner, or family, too.
- Watch what you eat and drink: Staying hydrated, but not to excess, has always been my motto. I drink until I’m not thirsty anymore, but don’t drown myself in water. I personally drink alcohol while breastfeeding, but only two glasses max.
The #1 thing I’ve learned in the past five years while nursing three babies is that as many resources as there are available, no one knows your baby and your feeding journey like you. Advocate as much for yourself as for your baby.
Remember, feeding your baby is so much more than the nutrients you put in their body. It’s your touch, your voice, your presence, your love, your calm. Nourishment can come to a baby through a well-rested mother, a mentally stable mother, a mother who has fought hard to breastfeed exclusively or pump exclusively, and equally a mother who decided to nourish her baby with bottles of formula only.
However you’ve chosen to nourish your baby, whatever journey you’ve gone on to arrive where you are, I see you, and I applaud you. You’ve given your baby their very best start, and that already makes you one amazing mother.