Breastfeeding: 6 Survival Tips from a New Mom

breastfeeding survival tips for new moms

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

La Leche League

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  1. I just wanted to say thank you so much. I came across your post when my baby was 2 weeks old and I was so distressed because of issues with breastfeeding. I was so encouraged and kept going. God bless you. Please keep us in prayer- we are 10 weeks in and still have long road ahead of us because only breast works but we are getting there.

  2. I have twins, now 3wks and 3 days and although I had plans to exclusively breastfeed , we are struggling. They had a week long NICU stay, where they were introduced to the pacifier, bottle, and formula. Now we have been home a little over 2 wks and we are giving expressed breast milk followed by fomula. i have spoken for 4 different lactation consultants and have been hoping for some resolve, but the improvements have been minimal. Also, my husband is trying to be supportive but at the same time is wanting to ensure they are gaining weight (in the past while in NICU we tried exclusive BFing and they lost too much weight). The struggles to want to breast feed are very real. I am stressed out, I have lack of sleep, I am overly emotional and I feel my marriage ia suffering. It seems easier to just use formula instead of investing the 2 to 3 hrs a day at the breast and another 8 or 9 sessions of pumping just to be able to give 30 to 50% breast milk at each feed. I am desparate, any advice and prayers are helpful. I have to go back to work in 10 days to support my family, so the chances of exclusively breast feeding and ir pumping are minimal….help!!!

    1. Oh mama, I’m so sorry! Breastfeeding one baby for the first time is hard enough. I can only imagine having two unique little beings to figure out and nourish. I can tell you that with all three of my babies, my experience has been very, very, very different each time. The best thing I can tell you right now is that your babies need YOU mama. Not your milk, not your worries, not your stress. They just need you, and you need them. Just their beautiful faces and growing bodies. I have found that much of my stress during the early days of motherhood came from wanting one thing when the Lord had made another way for me.

      With my second child, I battled for each feeding at the breast. I stressed and stressed and stressed. I missed a lot of his babyhood and the opportunities to just bond with him because I was so worried about making him “eat.” But God made him completely unique and different. I think knowing the adage that “breast is best” can sometimes get in the way of remember that “grace is even better.”

      I wish we could just sit down and talk face-to-face. I’d give you a hug. Tell you to take a big deep breath. We’d do that a few times. Then, I would remind you that these little babies belong to a loving Heavenly Father who knows exactly what they need, placed them lovingly into your (and your husband’s) care, and will give you all the wisdom you need as you seek Him.

      But here’s the thing, you’re sleep deprived and floundering right now. You’re working hard and getting used to being Mommy. That’s hard, mama. It’s so hard! Right now you’re home with your babies. Right now you’re not back at work. So, try just focusing on today, this moment. What do your babies need right now? Can you give them breastmilk right now? Even just a little? Yes? Then, do it. Let tomorrow and 10 days from now take care of itself. Lean hard into the Lord, ask Him for wisdom on what to give your babies, trust Him to cover it all in His grace. He will. I promise He will. Stay in the moment with your babies and with your husband. Just this moment is all you need to get through. There is grace enough for this moment, this decision, this feeding. So much un-needed stress comes when we worry about tomorrow. Just for today, look at your babies and savor these moments (as hard and exhausting as they are) because it is true that it goes so fast. If you need to give formula, do it guilt-free, praising Jesus that He has provided a way to nourish your child for such a time as this. It is okay to let go of our ideals and know that He is God and He is able and He loves you!

      Hugs Mama!

  3. Congrats on your breastfeeding achievements Leigh, that is wonderful. I just wish that I had more support, knowledge and patience with my first baby. I am sure if I did then I may have been able to breastfeed her longer than the 6 months I managed. Thankfully I breastfed my boy until he was 13 months old, I learned some things the hard way with my first baby.

    My advice to any new mothers would be to have faith that you can breastfeed and that you do have enough milk. Have faith in your body and relax, just let your baby nurse as often and for as long as he or she wants to. That is what helped me to breastfeed my son and that is the big mistake I made with my daughter. I was too stressed out and I was too worried I wouldn’t have enough milk. I was so scared she would be hungry that I topped up her feeds with formula.