Growing up, I wasn’t around many breastfeeding moms, so I didn’t know much about it. When I got pregnant, I knew I needed to figure out as much as I could before the baby came. My daughter and I are seven months into our breastfeeding relationship and I now find myself offering my own advice to moms just starting out. So that you don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did, I’ve compiled a list of my own personal tips on how I was successful at exclusively nursing.
1. Do your research.
Start early. Read articles on breastfeeding success, attend a class at your hospital, and check out websites such as Kelly Mom. Soak up as much knowledge as you can before the baby comes.
2. Seek out moms who are, or have been, successfully breastfeeding.
They will be invaluable to you when you come across issues or concerns. They are also the best cheerleaders when you feel like giving up.
3. Nurse as soon as you can after delivery.
Assuming there are no complications. Obviously, those need to be addressed first. But that first hour is so important for bonding with your baby, though many are still successful even if that doesn’t get to happen.
4. Find positions that work for YOU.
I had a C-section and it was assumed by the nurses that the football hold was the best for me. Nope. Not at all. The cradle hold is what I found worked. After I returned home, I found laid back or side-lying positions to be most comfortable.
Remember that it's perfectly normal for your baby to nurse for hours at a time, especially during a growth spurt.
5. Do as much skin-to-skin as possible in the first six weeks.
I attribute all the time I spent skin-to-skin with my daughter as a huge reason why I was so successful at establishing my supply. There are so many benefits of skin-to-skin contact, including temperature regulation. Besides that, it’s the closest your baby can come to being back in the womb.
6. Find a good nursing pillow and bring it with you to the hospital.
I found the Boppy to be the most natural for me. I brought it with me to the hospital so I could get used to it and not have to surround myself with a million pillows.
7. Learn Baby's hunger cues instead of watching the clock.
Otherwise known as feeding "on demand," this simply means I put my baby to the breast whenever she seemed hungry, instead of thinking to myself, "Again? She wants to nurse again?!" Watch for things like rooting, hands in the mouth and restlessness. Crying is a late sign of hunger so I always tried my best to nurse her before that happened. When in doubt, nurse.
8. To know if baby is getting enough, look for wet diapers, then weight gain.
Being worried about weight gain is a huge source of anxiety for many moms. Some fear their babies aren’t getting enough and give formula to supplement. I decided to put my focus on counting her wet diapers. If she made her quota, I was satisfied.
9. Understand cluster feeding.
Remember that it’s perfectly normal for your baby to nurse for hours at a time, especially during a growth spurt. Yes, it got exhausting, including one night when she was literally on my breast for six hours. But it only lasted a few evenings and then went back to normal. It’s your baby’s way of ramping up your supply as they grow and keeping this in mind helped me get through it. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.
10. Expect to have 45 minute nursing sessions until your baby becomes more efficient.
This, I did not expect starting out. A breastfed newborn eats every two hours. But you start that time when they initially start nursing. That can last 45 minutes, leaving you an hour and fifteen minutes until the next session. If this seems daunting, know that they get more efficient as they grow.
11. Recruit Dad for nursing support.
A supportive partner is huge. In the early days when I was stuck on the couch during those marathon nursing sessions, my husband would bring me water and snacks, change the baby’s diaper and make sure I always had the remote.
12. Consider becoming involved with La Leche League (LLL) or another breastfeeding support group.
I joined several Facebook groups for breastfeeding support and started attending LLL meetings when my daughter was a bit older, but it’s a great place for asking questions and getting support from other moms who are just as passionate about nursing.
13. Try to not get caught up in how your milk supply is doing.
One of the best pieces of advice I received about nursing is this: Instead of making oatmeal cookies or drinking teas or beer, none of which has really proven to increase supply, find the root cause of the problem and work to fix it. I watched friends go through this, becoming increasingly stressed out, spending hundreds of dollars buying remedies instead of working with a lactation nurse to figure out what may be going on. If it’s not a latch issue or other health concern going on with your baby, many times simply nursing more frequently and laying skin-to-skin as much as possible will help. Your body makes what your baby needs.