Macy Nicole Blogs

How to Succeed at Breastfeeding the First Year (and Beyond)

Our bodies truly are amazing. As women, we can give a baby all the nutrients it needs from the time we are pregnant all the way until our babies are eating solid foods. There are many reasons that breastfeeding is beneficial for both baby and mom. So much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months of your baby’s life. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding at least the first two years. However, most moms who do decide to breastfeed their infants quit before their babies are six months old and those numbers continue to drop off with each passing month.

I have breastfed both of my babies. My son (now 6) was given breastmilk until he was 15 months old. At the time I was working and pumping almost exclusively, so he mostly was bottle fed and only nursed at night. My daughter who is nine months old is still nursing on demand frequently. She has not warmed up to solid foods or even bottles yet, so she is still drinking her milk straight from the source. We don’t have any plans of slowing down or stopping anytime soon.

I have had two very different experiences with breastfeeding both of my babies. Every mama (and baby) will have their own unique set of challenges and triumphs. After breastfeeding two babies, there are a few things that I have learned along the way that I think contribute to a successful breastfeeding journey and can help you make it to that suggested one year mark. Keep in mind that I am not a lactation consultant or health care professional, just a mama who’s done this a few times.

 

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Breastfeeding Tips

1. Start prepping for breastfeeding while you are still pregnant.

2. Tell your partner and your healthcare providers what your breastfeeding goals are.

3. Just a heads up, the first few weeks are the hardest.

4. Do not to let other mom’s breastfeeding horror stories discourage you.

5. Test out different breastfeeding positions to find what is most comfortable for you and your baby.

6. Remember that your experience with breastfeeding will not be the same as other moms (or even your own past experiences).

7. Your supply can (and probably will) fluctuate.

8. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

9. Do not stress about your supply unless you notice your baby giving you cues that there is an issue.

10. Make sure you are eating and drinking.

 
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1. Start prepping for breastfeeding while you are still pregnant. 

Think about how you plan to feed your baby before you have your baby.  If you have no idea what you are doing (or even if you are a little rusty) attend a breastfeeding class or talk to moms who have breastfed their babies. If you know you are going to be pumping, then do your research and get a good quality pump. Pick up some nursing pads and a nursing pillow. The more knowledge you have, the more comfortable and prepared you will feel.

 

2. Tell your partner and your healthcare providers what your breastfeeding goals are.

My husband knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed our daughter for at least a year. When I went to the hospital to have my baby, my midwife and nurses knew I wanted to breastfeed.  Basically, tell anyone who is going to help you care for your baby how you want them to receive their milk. Will you be exclusively breastfeeding? Will you be giving your baby pumped breastmilk in a bottle? Will you be doing a combination of both? Will you be supplementing with formula? Letting people know your plans will help in a few ways. They can support and encourage you. Also, hopefully, there will not be accidental bottles or formula given when you didn’t want them to be.

 

3. The first few weeks are the hardest.

Before I had my daughter, I almost forgot that as beautiful as breastfeeding can be the beginning sucks. My nipples were incredibly sore, and I would wince the first few seconds of every nursing session. When my milk came in, I was so engorged it was painful. At first, my daughter slept so often I had a hard time waking her up to eat. Not long after that phase, she wanted to eat every hour. If you aren’t expecting those kinds of things, it can be very discouraging. I’ve known mom’s who have stopped nursing because the beginning is tough. Just stick with it, and soon enough you will be over that little bump in the road. It takes a little time for you and your baby to figure out the whole breastfeeding thing together.

 

4. Try not to let other mom’s breastfeeding horror stories discourage you.

When I was pregnant, I made it a point to avoid stressful birth stories. I did not want to be kept up at night worried about all of the bad things that could happen. It’s so easy to allow yourself to get stressed out before you need to be when you hear scary stories. The more positive people were about birth, the more confident I felt about the whole process. This same idea applies to breastfeeding. The more positive things you hear about breastfeeding, the more confident you will feel. Our minds are powerful, and they can affect most physical things we do.

 

5. Test out different breastfeeding positions to find what is most comfortable for you and your baby.

When my daughter was first born she was so little I was most comfortable with her in the football hold and a boppy pillow. We later transitioned into the traditional cradle hold while also using our boppy. Now she prefers to sit-up in my lap to eat. I’ve always loved laying on my side to nurse at night. Breastsleeping has helped me to get some sleep. What works for one baby may not work for another. Experiment with positions and pillows to see what works best for you and your baby.

 

6. Remember that your experience with breastfeeding will not be the same as other moms (or even your own past experiences). 

Every baby is different. Some mom’s and babies have an easy time with breastfeeding. Some moms struggle with producing too much milk or not enough milk. Some babies can’t or won’t get a good latch. Your breastfeeding experience is your own. Try not to spend your time worrying that your experience isn’t like someone else’s.

 

7. Your supply can (and probably will) fluctuate.

Remember that sometimes things happen that will affect your supply but don’t let that be the reason you give up altogether if you aren’t ready to. Things like exercise, your period and getting sick can cause your supply to drop. There also may be times that you have to take medicine or have an emergency that prevents you from breastfeeding like usual. I promise your milk will not dry up in a day, or even a few days. Most often you can get your supply back to baseline once you get back into your routine. If not then refer to the next tip.

 

8. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

If you are struggling with breastfeeding speak up! Visit a lactation consultant. Attend a breastfeeding support group. Talk to your doctor or your babies pediatrician. They more than likely will be able to answer any questions and assist with any issues you may be experiencing.

 

9. Do not stress about your supply unless you notice your baby giving you cues that there is an issue.

This is something I hear mom’s worry about often. Remember that babies are people too and they are not all going be identical to each other. If your baby is getting enough milk, they will have dirty and wet diapers. They will continue to grow and thrive. Your baby not having an adequate amount of wet diapers will be one of the first signs you may have an under supply. You know your baby best if you notice that something is not right ask for help. More often though we get stressed out our baby isn’t getting enough milk because we can not physically see how much they are consuming when they breastfeed.

 

10. Make sure you are eating and drinking.

This one may sound silly, but most moms can relate to how hard this can be. When you are breastfeeding, you are not only caring for a baby but also creating and supplying them with their food. Don’t forget to take care of yourself so that you have the energy to make milk. Sometimes you may have to set an alarm, so you remember to eat. Sometimes I still do even now.

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So there it is!

My tips on How to Succeed at Breastfeeding the First Year (and Beyond). Breastfeeding can be such a rewarding experience.  Then again sometimes you can do everything right, and it just doesn’t work out like you had hoped it would. If that is the case, try not to beat yourself up over it.  As long as your baby is fed, that is what matters in the end. I hope the information I shared was helpful. Good luck to you mama and I hope you reach your breastfeeding goals!

 
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