One of my biggest surprises of becoming a mom was how incredibly hard breastfeeding was. No one warned me of all that could (and did!) go wrong or prepared me for how to conquer these battles should I face them. Yes, I took a breastfeeding class and even attended a Le Leche League meeting, but I still felt woefully unprepared. Some mamas are very fortunate that they have a very easy breastfeeding relationship that appears almost effortless. However, I have found that even for those expert mamas, they often had challenges to overcome even in the ‘best’ of breastfeeding relationships.
Education and preparation are key to succeeding with breastfeeding long term.
- Build your support network. Attend a class (or two)! I highly recommend getting acquainted with your local La Leche League leader, hospital lactation consultant, or find a licensed IBCLC in the area that you can contact if things get hairy. Talk with friends who are passionate about breastfeeding and ask for their advice and support on your journey. Talk with your partner about how he can contribute.
- Read, read, read. My favorite book is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and I recommend it to all expectant mothers. Others I have read or that friends recommended: The Nursing Mother’s Companion, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, and The Breastfeeding Book. All the reading I did (and have done since) was key in helping me know what was within the normal range and what warranted a call to my LC or midwife.
- Get a pump and learn how to use it. Some moms may never need to pump if they won’t be away from their baby while he needs to be fed, and others will become very familiar with the pump! Personally, I exclusively pump for my babies so I had to learn quickly which pump would work best, where to purchase replacement parts, the best place to rent/purchase a pump, etc. Unless you never plan to be away from your baby at meal time, this is definitely something that you can do while waiting for baby to arrive.
- Stock up on milk boosting supplies. Fenugreek, Mother’s Milk Tea, oatmeal, lactation cookies (make in advance and place in the freezer!), coconut water, and even beer are known for their milk boosting properties.
- Know your options. In a perfect world, we would all be able to put our baby on the breast and they would latch on perfectly and we would never look back. Unfortunately that is not always the case and mom’s need to know that their options are not just breast or formula. Exclusively pumping and bottle feeding is an option, and while not ideal (and frankly a lot of extra work), it can be done. If supply is the issue, you can supplement with donor milk through Eats on Feets or Human Milk for Human Babies (or find a good friend that is willing to pump a bag or two a day for you!), you can make your own formula from goat’s milk or cow’s milk, or there are decent organic formula options on the market now. Obviously, be aware of the effect supplementing can have on your supply but sometimes you have no choice and above else, you must continue to feed the baby.
- Be aware of tongue ties and lip ties. More and more, the underlying cause of a variety of issues points back to lip and/or tongue ties. For the mom, ties can cause poor latch, sore nipples, and low supply, and for the baby it can lead to extreme gas pains, hunger (unable to get to the milk properly), and low weight gain. Find a lactation consultant who is competent in diagnosing ties and they will likely have resources for correcting the tie as well.
- Placenta Encapsulation. You can read more about that here.