As an expecting mother, I made the decision to breastfeed but then did little else to prepare for breastfeeding once the baby came. I didn't take a class or read a book (although I did shop for some, but never purchased).
The most I did was contact the lactation consultant at the hospital I would deliver at to see if my insurance would cover a breast pump (which it did), buy nipple cream, and register for bottles that would work with my pump.
Nursing a baby seemed easy. You put your baby to your breast, he latches on, and then you have this wonderful breastfeeding experience, right?
Wrong. It is not as easy as it seems. At least it wasn't for me.
Learning to breastfeed was a challenging and painful experience in the beginning. My son was born tongue-tied which made it hard for him to latch on and the experts are right, its all about the latch. A bad latch can lead to painful feedings. I switched to pumping to give my body time to heal and so my son could learn how to use his newly freed tongue. We didn't have our first successful breastfeeding experience until he was 3 weeks old. And even then it was still bumpy as we both had to figure out what positions worked best for us and I had to be vigilant about making sure he latched well so I could continue nursing without having to exclusively pump.
Here are my tips for a successful breastfeeding experience:
It's crucial to have a supportive partner. I do not think I would have stuck with breastfeeding if my husband was not as supportive as he was. He encouraged me to stick with it when I felt like giving up and was compassionate during the painful times. He pushed me to go to the Breastfeeding Support Group when I was reluctant to go but attending the group sessions is what helped me get past the tough first few weeks.
Seek help. There are so many resources available to help support you during breastfeeding, you just have to ask. I reached out to a lactation consultant and had a private consultation with her which gave me the confidence I needed that we would figure it out. Attending the Breastfeeding Support Group showed me that other moms struggle with breastfeeding too. Every week I asked the lactation consultants questions and I listened to the questions the other moms were asking. Attending the group meetings also was a good practice for getting out of the house with the baby and it was nice to have the social time with other moms.
It's all about the latch. A good latch can be the difference between a good breastfeeding experience and a painful one. If you are having trouble with getting your baby to latch on, seek help as soon as possible.
Its okay to supplement if you need to. While waiting for my milk to come in and then meet the supply demand of my baby, we had to supplement with formula for some feedings. I never had any expectations of exclusively breastfeeding, my goal was to breastfeed as much as I could and I was okay with supplementing if necessary. As long as my baby received the nutrition he needed, I was okay with giving him formula when we needed to.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish and bond with your child but its not always easy. With the right resources, support, and patience, I was able to successfully breastfeed for almost 11 months!
Editor's Note: The Breastfeeding Support Group at Hendricks Regional Health is for breastfeeding mothers just starting to those well advanced. This is a private setting to discuss breastfeeding topics such as storing and freezing, weaning, health and nutrition and other very helpful topics for mothers. Bring your nursing baby to the group for weight checks and to socialize with other babies. This is a wonderful group to join to make new friends and bond even closer to your child. This support group is FREE to all and registration is not needed. Call (317) 718-4585 with questions.
Photo Credit: Abby Butts