Just minutes after giving birth, my little blue boy was placed on my chest. I read all of the breastfeeding tips I could consume before going into labor, yet there I was, unsure of what to do.
My son was already smacking his lips, instinctively knowing what was coming next. He latched immediately, as I was still cringing at the new, strange sensation.
I felt purse strings draw tightly closed in my armpit – I would soon learn it was the feeling of my body receiving the signal to let the milk flow freely. What I didn’t realize was that while one breast was feeding my baby, the other breast had become a milk factory and was flowing freely down my hospital gown.
I have come a long way since those first moments of breastfeeding, figuring it out, making changes and adapting. Here are my breastfeeding tips that made the experience a little easier.
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There is a learning curve
Breastfeeding is a journey. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Each experience will be different, and each day you will learn more about your body and your baby. The first time my son latched, I thought it would be an easy experience. Two hours later, when my pain medication had worn off, I got a rude awakening. A little person was attempting to use my nipple as a straw, and I was not prepared for it.
That’s when it clicked. There is no magic trick to breastfeeding. You learn as you go.
No experience is the same
I breastfed my son for 13 months. He was a voracious eater, and my supply always seemed to match his demand. I stayed home with him until he turned 6 months old, then I returned to the workplace. If I didn’t pump regularly, I would become engorged. I only stopped pumping when I became a full-time stay-at-home-mom, because there was no need for it.
Fast forward to my breastfeeding experience with my daughter.
I am currently 12 months and going strong. Around four months, she decided that she favored one breast over the other. So what did I do? I gave her what she wanted, and we now feed exclusively from one breast. It’s not ideal, but it works for us.
It gets better with time
In the first few days of my daughter’s life, I was engorged ALL THE TIME. No amount of breastfeeding and pumping seemed to provide relief. Heat and ice packs were a part of my pumping regime, until one day I decided the only way out of engorgement was to push through it. I reduced my pumping to once per day, and held it off as long as possible, until finally my oversupply matched my daughter’s demand. I haven’t been engorged since those early days, and I don’t miss it at all.
You need support
Studies have shown that mothers are more likely to breastfeed for longer periods if they have the support of their partner. I cannot emphasize this enough. I have only lasted this long because of my support system. It all begins at home.
Before my son was born, I spoke to my parents about breastfeeding – about my mother’s experiences and my father’s recommendations as a pediatrician. I spoke to friends and family members about their breastfeeding journeys and made the decision that I would breastfeed for as long as I could.
From day one, my husband supported my decision to breastfeed. When my first breast pump wasn’t doing the job, we invested in a sturdier and more efficient one that paid for itself in just two months of exclusive breastfeeding.
We began mixed feeding around 6 months when we realized that my stash of frozen breastmilk would not be enough to sustain my son while my husband and I were on honeymoon. My mother and mother-in-law supported that decision and learned how to mix breastmilk and formula so that not a drop went to waste.
When I returned to work, I told my supervisor that I was still breastfeeding and she ensured that I had a safe, clean and comfortable space to pump while at work. I understand that this is a privilege that many do not have access to, but it was important to me that I continue to be my child’s source of nutrition even though I was returning to the workplace. My colleagues were respectful of the same, and that support allowed me to continue breastfeeding without dips in supply for 13 months.
Nowadays when I wake up for the third time in the middle of the night to nurse my daughter, my family supports the decision that I made to continue breastfeeding, even if it means sacrificing sleep.
Your breasts will never be the same again
Never. Ever ever. But I didn’t need to tell you that. Pregnancy alone can cause breasts to undergo a number of changes, and breastfeeding is just the icing on the cake. Changes in color, size, shape, texture – stretch marks, anyone? Even when your twins begin to look like long lost cousins, twice removed, it is always worth it, seeing your baby grow and flourish from your sustenance.
The best breastfeeding tips
Breast has been best for me. But I have seen and enjoyed the benefits of formula also. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. It requires a commitment to put your baby’s nutrition and growth over your own priorities.
But even if your mind is willing, your body may say no. No amount of advice or breastfeeding tips can change this. Mamas who are not able to, or choose not to breastfeed are still doing the best they can for their babies. Mamas who breastfeed for a few days and then switch to formula are doing the best they can for their babies. Fed is best and in the end, every mother will do what she feels is best for her baby.