Most new mothers start off with a picturesque view of breastfeeding. They think of the peacefulness, the bonding opportunity, and giving their baby the best start in life. But then reality sets in. Breastfeeding is tough work. If you’re struggling, there is help.
"One of the best things a new mom can do to help herself when it comes to breastfeeding is to approach it with realistic expectations,” explains Dayna Kurtz, a licensed social worker. "Just because nursing is a natural process doesn't mean it's an easy one. Many new moms are surprised by the challenges that come with breastfeeding: the time commitment, discomfort, pressure, etc. All of these are compounded by the fact that, as a society, we have few, if any, support systems in place to help women along. I advise my clients to be gentle with themselves if they opt to breastfeed; to be aware that there is a learning curve, to be open to asking for help, and to reevaluate how things are progressing as they move forward."
The Beginning Is the Hardest
“Expect the first 2-3 weeks to be intensive — you are recovering from giving birth, your body is transitioning from being pregnant to postpartum and lactating, and these massive changes are happening while you are waking every three hours to take care of your newborn,” says Beth Salerno, Postpartum Doula and Breastfeeding Counselor.
During the first two weeks, your nipples are going to be extremely sore and may even bleed. This will get easier, and the bleeding will stop, as your body adjusts. Try to push through those first 2-3 weeks, and take a breastfeeding class if you can. Find support among your family and your peers. You’ll need the advice of those who have been there in order to get through this time.
A Good Diet Is a Must
Your baby eats what you eat when you’re breastfeeding. If you eat a lot of fiber or other foods that make you gassy, your baby will be gassy, too. And that leads to a lot of crying. If you’re eating a food that your baby is allergic or sensitive to, it could cause colic, discomfort, or blood in her stools. And then there’s coffee. Nine months without your caffeine has been tough, right? But while you’re nursing, you should also be sure of how much caffeine you are passing on to your baby through your milk. Mommee Coffee offers a solution that allows you to control the level of caffeine in your body.
If your baby seems like she is in discomfort after nursing, it may be what you’re eating. Talk to your pediatrician, and a lactation consultant to find out how to make the right changes in your diet.
Adjust Your Comfort Level
It can be difficult to breastfeed around others, whether it’s at a family party or at a restaurant. Our babies want to eat when they want to eat, and ignoring their cries is not an option.
“So many mothers feel tied to the couch and isolated from the rest of the world while they breastfeed,” says Gabby Merediz, life coach and creator of Make Your Perfect. “I encourage every breastfeeding mom to get comfortable nursing in public, which can be a challenge. New moms can seek out the support of a friend who has been comfortable nursing in public and find out tips on how she did it, like putting a blanket over your shoulder instead of using a nursing cover, or wearing a camisole under a t-shirt so that you don't expose your stomach when nursing in public. Learning to nurse in public will help moms get out of the house and find that village of support that new mothers so desperately need.”
LatchPal is another new breastfeeding tool that can help you and your baby be more comfortable while nursing. It’s a breastfeeding clip that holds your shirt so it doesn’t fall into your baby’s face. It’s also great for holding pacifiers, and to secure your child’s clothing during potty training.
How to Deal With Insufficient Milk
If you’re concerned about how much breastmilk your baby is getting, talk to your child’s pediatrician.
Breastfeeding is a dehydrating task. Be sure to drink plenty of water — having a glass each time you sit down to nurse is a good way to ensure you take in enough. Without it, your milk supply can decrease. In addition, products that include fenugreek such as Mama’s Milk Tea, can help increase your supply.
“A national study on feeding practices found that about 50% of mothers cited insufficient milk supply as their reason for stopping breastfeeding,” explains Julie Willis. “To address this issue, Momsense developed a patented technology that measures baby’s breast milk volume intake when nursing.”
When all else fails, make sure you seek help from your doctor or a lactation professional before you switch to formula. But if you do have to make the change, remember that you are not a failure.