Breastfeeding is such a wonderful experience with so many benefits for both mom and baby. However, breastfeeding is not always easy. The challenges that can come up along the way may sometimes make it harder to embrace the amazingness that is breastfeeding. Hope these tips for successfully breastfeeding get you to fully embrace that amazing feeling.
As a Registered Nurse and Certified Lactation Counselor that has helped countless moms for over a decade with breastfeeding, I thought that breastfeeding my own little ones would come pretty easily for me.
Between excruciatingly painful and cracked nipples, a thrush infection, and both my little ones needing lip tie releases to achieve a better latch – I realized that I was not immune to some of the same struggles that I’ve helped other families overcome. Even those of us in the profession of Lactation can have trouble, too.
I went through quite a tough time in those early weeks of nursing both my little ones. It took perseverance and commitment, a lot of prayer, and working with my own Lactation Consultant to help me make it through those challenging early days.
I’m thankful that I was able to get beyond those difficult times to breastfeed my daughter for over 2 years and I’m currently going strong with breastfeeding my 7-month-old son. My own breastfeeding journey has enabled me to incorporate so much empathy and compassion into the work that I do with breastfeeding families since I’ve been there with many of the same struggles.
One of the most common challenges that I see for women with breastfeeding is concerns surrounding maintaining a healthy milk supply. So here are some general tips that can help:
Breastfeeding is largely a supply-and-demand process. This means that the more often your baby breastfeeds, the more milk your body will produce. Aim to nurse your baby on demand (whenever they show hunger cues) and ensure that you are getting in at least 8-12 feedings in a 24-hour period. In those early weeks when you are first establishing supply, it’s so important to follow your baby’s cues and not be so focused on schedules. If you will be away from your baby during any time that they would normally eat, it’s also important to ensure that you pump milk in order to protect your supply.
A proper latch is essential for successful breastfeeding and will help your baby remove milk from the breast more efficiently. This will not only help your baby get more milk but will also stimulate your milk production. Make sure that your baby is latching deep enough onto your breast with a wide-open mouth (about a 140-degree angle). A good latch is when your baby’s mouth covers a large portion of the areola and not just the nipple. Their lips should be flanged outwards, creating a seal around the breast. The baby’s chin should be near/touching the breast. The latch should be comfortable and not cause any pain.
Drinking plenty of water is important for maintaining a healthy milk supply. You don’t need to force fluids but definitely drink water as you are thirsty and try to stay as hydrated as possible. When you’re busy with your baby/children, it can be easy to forget to drink throughout the day. Keeping water accessible to you at all times and even use an app or alarm to remind you to drink water can be helpful if needed.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is helpful for both you and your baby. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats in your meals.
If you have concerns about your milk supply check in frequently. In some cases, lower milk supply can be caused by other medical factors going on with either you or your baby. Hormonal related imbalances (such as PCOS or hypothyroid), abnormalities with lab values (like low iron, low ferritin, or low vitamin D), insufficient glandular breast tissue, or past breast surgery can all impact milk supply. Lip or tongue ties in your baby can be a factor in milk supply troubles as well.
If any breastfeeding challenges come up along the way, it’s super important to follow up with a Lactation Consultant. Lactation Consultants are experts in all things breastfeeding and can discuss your concerns, evaluate both you and your baby, and help guide you through a plan to address the difficulties you may be experiencing. A breastfeeding support group or just connecting with other breastfeeding mothers that you know can be very helpful as well. They can provide you with tips, advice, and emotional support during your breastfeeding journey.
Maintaining a healthy milk supply when breastfeeding requires a combination of many factors. Remember that every breastfeeding journey is unique, and it’s essential to listen to your body and seek help when needed.