3 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms

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Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me. Despite taking a breastfeeding class during pregnancy and having the help of lactation-specialist nurses post-delivery in the hospital, the early days were filled with crippling uncertainty and terrible pain, for which I was wholly unprepared.

My son’s mouth felt like it was made of millions of tiny razor blades when he latched on. The words "bloody" and "raw" stand strong in my memory bank of that time. My son was also what they called a "happy spitter," which meant he spit up a lot. I mean a lot. I often worried he wasn't getting enough nutrients. One time, in a horrifying confluence of these two issues, my son spit up a little blood with his milk. It took a panicked call to our pediatrician to figure out that he had, in fact, spit up my blood. I often thought about quitting.

While I don’t spring this on my friends right away when I find out they are expecting, I try to bring up my experience with breastfeeding at some point before their baby arrives, both to manage their expectations and to give them the tools that ultimately helped me to breastfeed my children. These are the three breastfeeding tips I offer.

1Work with a Lactation Consultant

Yes, many hospital nurses are certified lactation consultants now, and that’s great. But the fact is, you likely won’t be producing milk until several days after you deliver, and your feeding experience will change over that first week quite dramatically. A lactation consultant or a doula breastfeeding specialist will come into your home and work with you in your chaotic new reality. Not only will they advise on latch, feeding cadence, and positions, but they also weigh your baby before and after feedings so you can understand how much milk you are passing to your baby. The knowledge and confidence I gained from my lactation consultant was invaluable.

2Join a Lactation Group

Being a new mom can be a lonely and isolating experience. Early on, I joined a weekly lactation group as much for the community of other new moms as for the breastfeeding support. Picture a bunch of moms sitting around in a circle — in my case, on the floor of a yoga studio — feeding their babies and talking about their wild new motherhood journeys. It was an amazing little group that I stayed with long after I needed help with breastfeeding. In the current COVID world, I would look for virtual new-mom and lactation groups. Breastfeeding on Zoom with a bunch of women you don’t know yet can’t be much stranger than the first time you do it in person. That sense of community and support helped tremendously.

3Don't be Afraid To Supplement With Formula

There’s a term on the Mom Internet that I loathe: exclusively breastfed, or EBF. It’s a loaded acronym for anyone who has struggled with breastfeeding. I first supplemented with formula when my son was still in the hospital. My milk had not come in yet, and he was clearly hungry. I felt like such a failure when the nurses suggested just one bottle of formula. In retrospect, I realize how silly that self-shame was and how grateful I should have been that there was a nutritious alternative to the milk that wasn’t there. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

There are many reasons you might supplement with formula. Perhaps your supply is low and your baby is still hungry after feedings. Or your partner wants to pick up a nighttime feeding so you can sleep for a few extra hours. Beyond that, it’s the right thing for some women to set aside breastfeeding and opt for formula. I’ve watched a few friends struggle so hard trying to breastfeed that they lost all the joy in early parenthood. When they finally chose to stop and switch exclusively to formula, they gained back precious time and energy that they could direct to their babies and their own self-care, benefiting everyone. Fed is best.

Thanks to the lactation consultant, my lactation group, and a little formula along the way, I figured out what I was doing and ultimately breastfed my son until he was about 10 months old. With my second child, it was a much easier experience.

Tags: Motherhood

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Written By

Kerstin Shamberg

Kerstin is a writer, editor and digital content/social media strategist working primarily with women-run small businesses. See Full Bio

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