Breastfeeding has so many benefits for mom and baby. Unfortunately, breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally or easily.
Even though a baby has all the instincts and ability to nurse at the breast, it still takes a lot of work to teach proper latching and efficient nursing.
Additionally, even though your body has all the instincts and mechanics to supply your baby with perfectly good nutrition, it takes a couple of weeks for your body to learn the supply and demand schedule of your baby.
Breastfeeding, though natural, can take a lot of work for both you and baby. And that’s okay!
It’s important to remember what Doctors Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu stated in their book, Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality
The first couple of weeks of breastfeeding are by no means representative of what your entire breastfeeding experience will be like.
Oh, how very true this is! Getting breastfeeding off the runway was truly a challenge and a battle for me. There were many times that I just wanted to give up.
Thankfully, with the help of my husband, our birth center, and dear friends, we are now breastfeeding happily, without pain or frustration. It’s a beautiful experience, and I cherish moments with my baby when he’s nursing and cuddling with me.
Update: I worked with our second son for over an hour to teach him to latch! I don’t know that I cherished any part of our breastfeeding experience. ha! We survived! 😛
Therefore, now that we have been “successfully” breastfeeding through (now three babies!), I thought I would post some of my survival tips (for those first few weeks especially).
Update: I breastfed my first son for 13 months. With my second son, we only made it 10 months. Getting there was a feat in and of itself! He was soooo busy! My daughter I nursed for 13 months. These tips still remain true and helpful for me!
6 Breastfeeding Survival Tips:
- Pray daily. This is the most important survival tip I can give you. There were so many days in the first week that I wanted to throw my hands in the air and just give up. It was only through prayer – laying it all down at the foot of the Cross (and remembering that the grave is EMPTY!) – that I was able to persevere when there was simply no light at the end of the tunnel. God designed you to nourish your baby. Ask Him for wisdom to help you know what to do. He will meet you. I promise.
- Research daily. Reading other women’s experiences, as well as factual information, helped me remember that what I was going through was normal. I was also able to count down to when things would be “better” based on scientific research. Obviously, each woman is different, but it was so helpful for me to know and understand the changes my body was going through, especially when engorgement (normal) and cracked nipples (should not happen) seemed like an endless trial.
- Surround yourself with a good support group. Talk to women who support breastfeeding. Go to your local lactation consultant. Don’t listen to those who tell you to give up and just give your baby a bottle of formula “because the kids gotta eat.” There are so many wonderful people available to help you through those first few weeks. Take advantage of their experience! Don’t give up before you’ve talked to someone. Day 4 of breastfeeding, for us, was arguably the absolute worst day of my life. Sammy had stopped latching and hadn’t eaten in over 16 hours. I was (hand) pumping like crazy to just fill what I could of a bottle up just so he could have SOMETHING. Thankfully, my husband stayed up all night with me, and together we did what we could. At 8 am, I had a friend pick me up and take me to our birth center to talk with a breastfeeding consultant. I didn’t want to go, but my hubby said, “We’re not giving up until we have at least gone to the clinic.” We adjusted a few things that day, and we’ve not looked back since. Thank you wise husband!! Having a good support group during this time was crucial for us.
- Prepare a basket of goodies (be sure to include tissue). – Keep this basket next to the area that you choose to nurse your baby. My basket included – Bible, prayer cards, burp cloths, Earth Mama’s Nipple Butter (equivalent of lanolin), nursing pads (disposable and cloth), box of tissue, nasal aspirator, water bottle, snacks, and various books. This ensured that I had everything I needed at my finger tips. Before getting this basket together, it never failed … I would spend 45 minutes getting Samuel to just latch on only to discover that my mouth felt like cotton. I needed water, but there was none within reach. Walking around while nursing wasn’t happening in the first days … so I was either stranded, had to call for help, or risk losing the latch that I worked so hard to obtain. My basket made life much easier.
- Choose a good book. – It takes some time for baby to become efficient at nursing, and even then you’ll spend a lot of time just sitting with your baby. My baby could nurse anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. I used this time for reading good books! I found the Kindle app on my phone to be super helpful, or my Paperwhite. You can load up on Kindle deals for those hours of sitting and nursing. Another thing I did was keep a Bible nearby and would just read a bit while I rocked and nurse.
- Settle in for the long haul. – At times, it felt like all I was doing was nursing. I would get frustrated and even stir crazy. But once I just accepted the fact that my days were going to be full of feedings I felt so free. I was free to enjoy the moments. And Mama, this season is not forever.
Bonus Tip: Listening to podcasts is another great way to spend your time nursing. With my third child, I was often too tired to read, so I’d listen to audiobooks or podcasts while I nursed. This way I was still looking at her, but my mind was occupied and the mundane turned into a fruitful, soul-filling time. Shameless plug: I host the Made to Give Life Podcast. I think you’ll find Episode 10 to be most satisfying right now.
Overall, those first few weeks are downright hard. However, they are downright worth it. I am so glad that we persevered.
Though it feels like …
- Your baby will never learn to latch. He or she will.
- Your breast/nipples will never stop hurting. They will.
- You will spend all day every day nursing for the rest of your life. You won’t.
- You will never sleep again. You will.
- Your milk will never stop spraying at random moments. It will.
- Your baby will never stay awake to finish a feeding. He or she will.
The list goes on and varies from one to the other. But the principle remains – breastfeeding is worth it. Everyday you grow more and more in the likeness of Christ as you lay down your life for the good of another.
I hope these tips help you on your path to joyful breastfeeding. And remember, a mom should never feel condemned for not breastfeeding (due to choice or inability). God is Sovereign, and ultimately, He is the one who provides the nutrition and growth for our babies.
What survival tips would you add? Are the tips the same for subsequent babies? What other thoughts do you have on breastfeeding? I would love to hear about your experiences!
Resources that I find helpful in answering my breastfeeding questions: