When I gave birth to Baby Bear, the midwives were surprised by how fast he got the hang of breastfeeding. What they didn’t consider is that I was the one who had gotten the hang of breastfeeding not necessarily him. I’d like to think I’m a bit of a breastfeeding pro these days but that wasn’t always the case. I have been breastfeeding for the better part of 4 years. I’ve figured out how breastfeeding works for me and it has become much easier than it was with Sister Bear.
One thing that surprised me most about breastfeeding is just how complicated the whole process is. With Sister Bear, I went through 3 nurses, a visit from the lactation consultant, and a whole lotta cracked nipples before we finally got a good latch. It’s no secret that I don’t love the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but the more you work at it, the easier it becomes.
People assume it’s easy because it’s what breasts were intended to do. We’ve somehow convinced ourselves that because something is natural, it must be easy and that is certainly not the case.
As I’ve said before, I think a lot more women would choose to breastfeed their babies if they knew that the hardships they faced were more common than they realize.
The pressure to breastfeed can just easily sabotage your efforts. Here are 5 tips to help make your breastfeeding transition a little smoother:
Set the bar low!
No really, do not expect the baby to immediately latch and start nursing like a pro. Their tiny mouths can only open so wide and while it’s innate for them to open their mouths to nurse, it doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. Expect that there will be a learning curve and commit to taking it on the way you would anything else you’re unfamiliar with.
Take some time to read up on the way breastfeeding works and adopt some best practices. Having a tool belt of techniques to try can vastly improve your chances of nursing success.
Check for medical issues
Sometimes it’s neither your fault nor your baby’s. A host of medical issues can prevent your baby from latching properly. Go see your medical professional of choice to make sure there are no lingering issues that might pose a problem.
See a lactation consultant
A lactation consultant can give you tips and techniques you might not find at Google University. They can also give you hands-on demonstrations of best practices for latching baby. I firmly believe in doing your own research but nothing beats a hands-on approach to learning.
Take the pressure off
Did you know that your baby takes its cues from you? Your baby is primarily in your arms; they can feel when you’re tense and feel the changes in your heartbeat. If nursing stresses you out, chances are it’s stressing them out too.
Give this a go: try an audiobook while you’re nursing. I know people will talk about how beautiful the connection between you and your little one will be when you gaze deeply into their eyes while they nurse but let’s just call a time out on that one. There are several other ways to connect with your baby so just focus on trying to make the experience enjoyable for you both which may involve you zoning out with a good read.
Try not to place so much emphasis on the fact that it looks easy for some moms… it may very well be, but there might have been an initial struggle that you weren’t privy to. Don’t expect yourself to master breastfeeding on the first day when your milk hasn’t even come in yet. For those of who are breastfeeding for the first time, give yourself some time to adjust. Your hormones are all over the place, your milk is trying to figure out if you’re going to give this breastfeeding thing a go, and your baby is a tiny human that has no clue what to do.
Give yourself a break and pat yourself on the back for surviving motherhood!
What do you wish you had known about breastfeeding before attempting to do so?