Even though I have two children, I was only able to successfully breastfeed one (read my breastfeeding journey here). Failing to breastfeed my firstborn was one of the hardest experiences, so I was thankful for another shot!
Before my second daughter was born, I read as much as I could but only seemed to find the same information everywhere I looked. I was determined not to fail this time so I just hoped that I could figure it out when the time came.
When my daughter was born, I followed my instincts. I listened to advice but, this time, I didn’t follow it all. Even though I had studied up before my first baby was born, I was too insecure to make my own decisions. I knew, deep down, what I was supposed to do but questioned every choice I made. This time around, I acted confidently. Even though I was still afraid to fail, I trusted that I knew how to care for my baby. And ya know what? I am still breastfeeding her today! She actually refuses bottles! I never imagined that!
Now, because of my two very different experiences, I am able to see what went wrong the first time. I never look back with regret. I just look forward with more knowledge. I do believe that my body would have been able to breastfeed my first daughter. I just didn’t know what I know now, which is what I want to share with you!
Here are 5 tips for a strong start to breastfeeding based on my experiences. You can take it or leave it. I just know that I would have liked it if someone had come alongside me and encouraged me through my journey. I want to encourage you as a person who has failed and succeeded at breastfeeding.
- Work your hardest to keep your baby awake during feedings – Before and during my first breastfeeding experience, I was constantly told to feed the baby until she fell asleep. Well, Myra would fall asleep within minutes of nursing! I would try to wake her up with every possible option…stripping her down, cold cloths on her feet, tickling her belly. Nothing seemed to work so I just figured she was a really fast eater! The second time around, I worked very hard at keeping Vivian awake. The things that worked this time were burping her even if it had only been a few minutes, blowing on her face, and moving her around a lot. I made her too uncomfortable to even think about sleeping!
- Don’t let your baby go more than 4 hours between feedings for the first 4 weeks – I’m sure lots of moms differ on this one and that is fine! Many people would say to never wake a sleeping baby and I would agree in certain situations. In the beginning, however, I needed to wake my sleepy baby. She seemed willing to sleep through the night, which would have been amazing, but I knew that I needed her to eat so that I could establish my milk supply. I set alarms to wake myself in the middle of the night for the first 4 weeks. I won’t lie to you, I was very tempted to turn the alarm off but I stuck with it. Doing this really helped breastfeeding to be successful from the beginning.
- Nurse 15-20 minutes each side per feeding – I want to be clear that this is my own opinion of what helped me in the beginning. I think feeding one side per feeding is totally fine! I chose to stimulate each breast at each feeding so that I knew that both sides would produce milk efficiently. Vivian actually preferred one breast in the beginning so I would start and finish each feeding with the opposite breast. Over time, she evened out and everything worked out fine! I liked feeding from both sides because I felt more even and was glad that I was getting stimulation evenly all day.
- Take care of yourself—nourish and hydrate your body! – Before my first baby, I was given advice to feed and care for baby first. I was told that I would have time in the future to care for myself. Honestly, I believe that this is horrible advice! Don’t get me wrong, my baby’s needs definitely come before my own most of the time. But if I am not taking care of my body, then, how can I possibly have enough energy to take care of my baby? It is so important to be drinking fluids constantly and eating healthy, hearty meals throughout the day. I have heard a few times that breastfeeding moms should be eating 500 more calories than normal. However, I have read so much controversy on the topic that I, personally, haven’t followed that advice. But I do think we need to be eating regular amounts of food (3 meals a day plus healthy snacks) and drinking lots of water!
- Be confident – This was probably the biggest difference for me. I had been so nervous to breastfeed around people that I often didn’t feed my daughter as long or as often as I should have. What I have come to realize is that most people really don’t care! I have this huge nursing cover that does a great job of covering up everything. Honestly, people can hardly tell that I am nursing! I have breastfed in front of lots of different people and no one has acted as if they were uncomfortable. I would even encourage you with the fact that there are laws protecting breastfeeding women. Be confident in what you are doing! You are giving your child the nourishment that she needs! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that!
I hope that these tips encourage you as you start this new and exciting journey. Or, maybe, you are trying again, like me! Either way, hang in there momma. You will do great!
I would love to hear from you! What are some other tips to help new breastfeeding moms?