Breastfeeding your child helps ensure their optimal development, and offers many positive effects for you as well. Here are 5 simple strategies that will help your breastfeeding relationship get off to a great start:
1. Build your support system.
If you have a partner or family nearby, ensure they are educated as to why this is so important to you and your baby (KellyMom and Dr. Sears are must-haves for your bookmarks,) and have them help you in any way they can.
Whether or not you have the support of those around you, join an online community of moms who have experience and expertise. Some of the Facebook communities that I find helpful are: Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths, and Natural Parent Magazine.
Many pregnancy and baby forums, like Mothering.com also have groups specifically dedicated to breastfeeding. The social nature of these groups also ensures you have a relatively anonymous place to vent and ask questions you may not feel comfortable talking to your friends and family about.
2. Keep your baby close.
Plan to be holding or wearing your baby most of the day in the first months. Having the baby in-arms will make it easier to nurse on demand and become aware of her cues. Wearing your baby is the most practical way to meet her needs and yet still be able to go about your daily life. The Moby Wrap is a great product for newborns and infants, and is both comfortable and beautiful. Youtube has great video tutorials for how to wear and nurse your baby in different holds.
Nightime is a peak time for breastfeeding, so rather than worry about losing sleep to nightfeedings, maximize your comfort and convenience by cosleeping. Easy access to the breast at night means you are less likely to need to physically get out of bed for feeds, and before long, will be able to remain asleep when your baby becomes accustomed to helping herself. I always sleep topless for this reason, though in the early months I was prone to leaking and soaking the bed, so I always had extra layers underneath us. I plan to write more about strategies for successful cosleeping in the future.
3. Don’t have formula.
When you are going through challenges, a bottle of formula can be tempting and seem harmless. However, in the early months, missing feeds will make it more difficult to establish a supply, since your body responds to the demand. Nipple-preference is another problem for babies who develop a preference for the fast-flow of the bottles. To avoid these problems, Put the baby to your breast as soon as possible after birth, and allow her to suckle as often as she likes thereafter. By keeping formula out of the house, you minimize temptation, and can focus on meeting the challenges with your baby and getting to the next stage. (It gets easier, and the early challenges are so worth it!) If you are worried about intake, you can monitor your baby’s weight gain with your doctor. Remember, it takes up to a week for your milk to come in, so early weight loss is normal and expected. Barring rare situations, this is not a reason to supplement.
Don’t listen to anyone who says you must put the baby on a schedule or nurse at set intervals. Remember that barriers to successful nursing for many of us are largely psychological ones, so this is when to call on your support system to encourage you and help you not to feel alone or overwhelmed.
4. Get comfortable nursing in public.
If you don’t want to feel trapped at home, you will before long want to venture out with your baby, and you will likely need to nurse her at least once if you are planning to be out for more than an hour. Again, this is where having a support network will come in handy. When you realize how many other new parents have faced the same apprehension about baring their breasts in public, it will be easier to conquer any fear and do what needs to be done.
There are plenty of outspoken advocates of normalizing public breastfeeding to look to for support and inspiration, and I try to be one myself. I don’t wear a cover since I believe it is important that more young people see people nursing in public. That, and I found the cover to be a hassle.
If you don’t wish to be an iconoclast, there are plenty of stylish and discreet nursing covers that will offer you and your baby some privacy. I find it helpful to nurse while wearing the baby in the sling, wrap, or ergo carrier, which is a discreet and hands-free option.
5. Be patient. Zen.
Many people think that since breastfeeding is ‘natural’ that it is easy and shouldn’t be a learning process. While it certainly becomes easy once you make it past the hurdles, in the beginning it can extremely challenging, both physically and emotionally.
I am a supporter of extended nursing, which is nursing past the age of 2, so I found it helpful not to think too much about time frames or expectations, and instead focus on strengthening my relationship with my baby and body each day, and relax into the process.
I also love Baby-Led Weaning, which means your baby learns to self-feed herself solid food at her own pace, usually sometime after 6 months (mine were over a year before they showed any real interest,) and it takes the pressure off you to introduce solids at any specific time.
The benefits of breastfeeding and reasons why a long nursing relationship is so worthwhile deserves a full post of its own. I hope you find some of these strategies helpful for yourself or in supporting other new parents.
Have you experienced any breastfeeding barriers or have tips to share? Leave a comment or join the discussion on facebook!