Last week, I posted my breastfeeding one year story, to celebrate one year of success, after a difficult start. I decide to provide you with some more concrete tips to help you get through the rough times.
While you should always check in with a lactation consultant if you’re having issues, sometimes you need another mom’s experiences. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links
These tips go in order of my struggles, with some of them targeted toward any problems you might have. I started off with newborn issues, such as latching and a weak suck, and went on to tummy problems, and restlessness.
One thing I must note: the main thing is that your baby is fed! If you feel like your baby is not gaining weight, always discuss your concerns with the pediatrician. The end goal is a fed baby, not a breastfed baby – remember that!
Another important point: you are not, in any way, an inferior mother if you don’t breastfeed.
You are not “taking the easy way out”. It’s a pain in the butt to prepare bottles.
Parenting is never easy.
Choose what’s best for your baby and family, and discuss all your feeding decisions with your pediatrician.
These breastfeeding tips are for moms who have decided to breastfeed, have a good supply of milk, and are struggling to make that connection.
Breastfeeding Tips For the Early Days
1. Seek advice but adapt it to your needs
I’ve gotten advice in all forms. Some was from loved ones, some from experts. Even some of the expert advice was simply not tailored to me.
You know yourself best, and sometimes what an expert might tell you simply might not apply to you, especially when you hear contradictory advice. You’ll need to choose which to follow according to your needs.
When I first tried to nurse, I held my baby in the most natural position for me. The nurses and lactation consultants who were helping me at the time told me that I should hold my baby a different way – it’ll help us get started.
I was endlessly frustrated, as the different position felt awkward and still wasn’t working. I kept trying this failing technique until another nurse came by and told me that that second position is great for larger women, but for a small women like myself, I should try the original position.
2. Try a Nipple Shield
This advice is a perfect example of the point above. Many will say it’s a great tool for breastfeeding. Many people have told me that it takes away from the natural feel and dynamic of breastfeeding.
I was handed a Medela nipple shield while trying to get baby to latch. While it did not solve the issue of a weak suck, it took us over the hurdle of latching. I can say with confidence that if not for that, I would not have been able to nurse him. (Update: this took us through breastfeeding issues with his younger brother as well!)
I highly recommend it for babies with latching problems. However, it did make breastfeeding less convenient and easy, and it was also difficult to wean him from it. We did successfully wean him from the shield at the age of three months old.
3. Don’t Let them Discourage You!
Sometimes, people will sincerely tell you things like “it should be easy”or, “breastfeeding should come naturally.” I’ve also gotten, “infants will make their way to the breast on their own.”
Any number other things that may have been true for them might only be true for you in your dreams. Try to filter out these comments. You know your own struggle. Anyone who’s been through it knows it.
It’s not as easy as they make it out to be… but it’s well worth the battle!
4. Let them Encourage You!
While you’re filtering out the unhelpful comments, make sure you absorb the helpful ones. Don’t just absorb them – let them lift you up!
I had the never ending support of my mother and my husband, plus some other friends and family members, who stood by me, helping me out. My mother celebrated every milestone – whether it was a breastfeed a day, or completely weaning him from the nipple shield.
I even had some women on the bus hold up a blanket for me so that I can breastfeed my baby more easily, when we were stuck in traffic and M was screaming! These little things kept me going.
Breastfeeding Tips for the Transitioning Stage
5. Implement it Gradually
The first few days postpartum tend to pass in a blur. Personally, I felt out of control then. I had a difficult birth, and was so focused on my pain, I had little say in anything else that happened. So, despite my best intentions, for the first few days, baby hardly got a drop of breast milk.
But I knew I wanted to nurse. And so, I gradually started switching out a feeding at a time. Breastfeeding can be exhausting, and when you’ve started on bottles, making the switch can be challenging.
At first I did one breastfeeding a day. Then we went to every third feeding, then every other, and then a few weeks in, he was getting a formula bottle a night. Eventually I started pumping for his nighttime feedings, as I still wanted the extra sleep that having a “Daddy feed” gave me. (I highly recommend a good breast pump if you are transitioning! I have this one and love it.)
6. Give Yourself Privacy
In the days when I was first struggling to get the right position, and later when the crying stage kicked in, I found that having absolute privacy was a must. We see all those breastfeeding advocates who seem to just whip out the nips with no concerns, but, especially in those first days, some of us are simply more private. There’s no shame in that!
Trying to struggle under a blanket, or even just trying to be somewhat discreet can only complicate manners. Giving myself space really helped; whether it was simply telling those in the room (Mom, friend, hubby – whoever) to leave, or not to look, or going into the privacy of my own bedroom. It also took off the pressure in a MAJOR way.
Eventually, baby and I gained the skills to be able to breastfeed under a nursing cover.
Breastfeeding Tips for the Screaming Baby
7. Try to Make Tummy Feel Good
In the days when he would go hysterical at every feeding, we eventually decided that it was tummy issues. That was affirmed when it stopped happening regularly soon after the three month mark (which is when many will say the typical newborn stomach aches go away).
I helped sooth it while feeding which did calm him a little (it’s all the small things combined that made a difference.)
I held him slightly upright – so his legs were lower than his head. I also pushed his legs up to his tummy, which helped release gas and soothe the tummy.
8. Rock Baby if Things Get Desperate
I know, its hard enough to nurse without having to rock your baby. But when nothing else worked, sometimes actually standing and rocking him while feeding helped. Yes, it was exhausting. Sometimes we even gave a bottle when he needed this – that way Daddy can help. (You can pump, of course, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding).
I did not have a rocking chair. I wish I had one at the time. I HIGHLY recommend this, as it can solve this one issue. Sitting and rocking the baby can provide the movement that is key to soothing.
9. Keep Pumped Milk Handy
While many associate pumping milk with having others feed the baby, it’s a great tool in general to maintain breastfeeding in general. When baby seemed impossible to feed, yet was hysterically hungry, we sometimes managed to “force” in an ounce or two from a bottle that helped calm him down.
Another advantage to pumping: it’ll help keep up your milk supply, even if you’re missing a feeding here and there. I did not have an easy time with pumping, so I did it at the time of the missed feeding. This helped with letdown (I was missing nursing the baby), plus, my supply was at its best then.
Tip: Use an electric pump. A manual breast pump can become very tiring. Also, it gave me a repetitive stress injury (tendinitis), which affected my general ability to care for my baby (I couldn’t lift him!)
You do NOT need a double pump, especially if you’re only pumping once or twice a day. Relax with a movie or book, don’t rush the process, and try to enjoy it.
10. DON’T STRESS!!!
Do you find that whenever someone yells at you not to be so stressed out, the stress starts mounting? Yup, I’ve got the same issue. And it doesn’t take much to stress me out. But I definitely saw a connection between my stress levels and baby’s willingness to nurse. Babies can sense a mother’s stress levels and it can cause problems.
Right before our big move from Jerusalem to New York, my baby had one of his hysteria phases. As you can imagine, that was just what I didn’t need. Of course my stress levels were skyrocketing then. Very soon after the move – possibly the first feeding – that phase ended.
While I can probably write a whole new post on ways to minimize stress, I’ll simply try to offer a few small tips:
First, don’t sit and worry about whether baby will or won’t agree to eat. Try to put yourself in a frame of mind that’s focused only on providing for him, and leave baby’s end up to him.
Also, distraction can help when things are rough. Read a little. Listen to calming music. Don’t put all your focus and worries on feeding. You can start the relaxation process before you start feeding as well.
Breastfeeding Tips for a baby that’s very distracted
11. Use a Soft Blanket or Favorite Doll
My baby was active from the start. By the start, I mean about sixteen weeks into my pregnancy when I started feeling movement. Since then he’s been constantly in motion. To this day, he sometimes finds it hard to relax for a meal.
My almost foolproof solution is to bring his favorite lovie or toy to the feeding. I touch the soft blanket to his cheek and he right away relaxes. Throughout the feeding, I snuggle him with blanket or doll and he almost always stays put.
12. Remove Distractions
That seems to be the obvious answer when that’s the issue, but sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what it is. I’ve found that a dark room helps. Having Daddy in the room doesn’t.
So we close the door, make the room dark, and sometimes even give him something he likes to hold – such as a book, or my glasses. This helps him focus on that one thing, and makes him more ready to nurse.
Update 3/6/2017: (the original version of this post was published on 9/15/2014)
M nursed until he weaned himself at the age of 15 months. It’s simply mind-boggling. Here he is now at 3 years old… with his little brother.
Now, I need to write a follow-up dealing with all the issues I faced with Baby Y: thrush, reduced supply because of a tummy bug… it’s endless! But at nine months (besides for the occasional distraction) he’s a pro, and looks it too!
Did these tips help you? Share your own breastfeeding tips in the comments below!
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