Since I had Ellie (who is less than one week away from being 2!), I’ve found myself dishing out breastfeeding advice to the majority of new moms I know because I experienced nearly every problem one can and I genuinely want to help other mamas.
For 2.5 months, I exclusively pumped and bottled fed, I experienced an over supply in the beginning and what I thought to be a drop in supply somewhere along the way. I had clogged ducts (including a terrible one at Universal Studios), flew with breast milk, pumped at an amusement park, experienced a biter, a distracted nurser, a sleepy nurser, and growth spurts. I’m not a licensed expert, but I successfully fed my child for 13 months with milk my body produced and I learned a thing or to along the way. So here’s what I wish I knew:
- Familiarize yourself with the signs of a tongue/lip tie
The biggest problem we faced in the beginning was Ellie’s posterior tongue tie. I didn’t realize being tongue tied was a real thing until I read about them in one of my late night Google deep dives in a desperate attempt to figure out why my nipples were bleeding and why, despite marathon nursing sessions, my kid seemed to still be hungry. They aren’t always visible right off the bat and there is a proper way to check for them, but most pediatricians are not well versed on diagnosing them despite the frequency at which they occur. Do yourself a favor and only seek out help from one of the providers on this list. I had to go to 3 separate medical providers before I got any help when I could’ve just picked one off of that list and saved myself 2.5 months of stress.
- Invest in a giant cup
I knew that breastfeeding would help me lose weight after having Ellie because it takes extra calories to keep up a decent milk supply. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I would constantly feel like I was on the verge of dehydration! I mean, it makes sense. Literal ounces of fluid leave your body at any given time during a nursing session, so obviously you’re going to be thirsty. I wish I would’ve gotten one of those giant trucker mugs from the local gas station to keep my ice water in because it became a hassle to forever fill my Bubba Keg.
- Set up a nursing station in your living room
Those first few weeks are the hardest because a newborn’s stomach is itty bitty, so they require more feedings. I basically stayed in the living room all day long and I set up a little basket on our end table where I kept everything I needed to have within reach: remotes, phone, snacks, burp cloth, Lansinoh lanolin, my breast pump (and I always had a set of bottles and parts ready to go), water, hair ties, and our boppy pillow. Once you finally get a good latch, you don’t wanna move! Make it easier on yourself and put it all right next to where you’ll be sitting.
- Breastfed babies eat less, more frequently
The rule of thumb is 1-1.5 oz per hour between feedings (if you’re pumping & bottle feeding) but a breastfed baby is never going to eat more than 4oz or so at any point during the nursing relationship. Why? Our bodies tailor the milk to suit the baby, which is the opposite of never-changing formula, so they need less. I know it seems crazy and any family members or friends who have never breastfed will fight you tooth and nail over that, but I ain’t telling you no lies, ladies. Look it up!
- Breastfed babies poop less
Similar to the reason that they eat less, breast milk is digested far more easily than formula and there is little to no waste. It was not unusual for Ellie to go days at a time without pooping and no, she wasn’t constipated.
- Familiarize yourself with breastfeeding resources
I was/still am a member of a group on Facebook led by an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant, which means she knows her stuff when it comes to breastfeeding!) and it was an absolute answered prayer. You can ask whatever questions you want and they’ll be answered by someone who knows what they’re talking about, but you also get support from other moms who are dealing with the same things. You can find it here.
I also found Kelly Mom to be a great resource with tons of articles on breastfeeding.
- You will absolutely doubt yourself
See above. It’s important to educate yourself because breastfed babies are a totally different ball game. If you don’t have family members or friends with experience in this area, you’re going to need facts to back you up or you will without a doubt crumble under pressure that can and inevitably will come from those same people who have never fed a baby with a boob a day in their life. “You’re starving that baby.” “Are you sure she only needs to eat 3 oz? So-and-so’s baby is already up to 5.” “Isn’t she a little old to be nursing?”
The criticism will come, not just with this aspect of parenting, but knowing a thing or two about a thing or two can give you a little confidence boost.
- Learn to pace feed
When pumping and bottle feeding, you’ve gotta pace feed that baby! Basically, you want to make a bottle last the same amount of time as a feeding so that the baby doesn’t become enamored with a bottle since it takes less work. Feed them, remove the bottle, feed them, remove the bottle, etc. until the bottle is empty. Oh, and make sure you’re using slow-flow/premie nipples because it makes the bottle slightly more comparable to the boob.
- You CAN do it!
There were at least 100 times I wanted to quit along the way. Aside from parenting in general, breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It can be incredibly isolating when it’s just you and a baby on your boob for what feels like an eternity, but it can also be an incredible bonding experience. It’s tough and exhausting, but incredibly rewarding and comes with a ton of benefits. Support is the single most important thing you can have, so if you don’t have that in a partner or family, look to the internet. It’s all about small goals! Make it to the next feeding, and then the next day, and then the end of the week. You can do it, mama!