I have traveled through 3 incredible journeys of breastfeeding, each one has been vastly different from the next and each with varying levels of ‘success’, I am currently on 20 months of breastfeeding my youngest son and whilst I only breastfed my elder two sons for 4 and 3 months respectively there have been a few tips and tricks I have found that have helped me on my journey, so I have decided to share them in the hopes that they may encourage or help anyone who is struggling on their journey.
The top 7 things I have learnt whilst on my breastfeeding journey’s:
- Breastfeeding is hard or it can be it doesn’t come naturally to everyone and that is ok.
- Every baby is different just because your first try was difficult doesn’t mean your second time or subsequent times can or will be.
- Breastfeeding does not make you as mom, love does if you choose not to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding that is ok, you need to make the best decision for you and your baby.
- Ask for help!!!! I cannot stress this enough, asking for help can make or not asking for it can break a journey, it can leave you feeling lost and discouraged, take the time to ask for help and advice from nurses or even a lactation consultant get your latch right etc don’t leave it because believe me cracked, sore or engorged boobs lead to a stressed out mum which equals a stressed out baby and it is so easy to give up when you are tired or in pain.
- Breastfeeding can and should be a beautiful bonding experience and journey for you and your baby and it goes by so fast, appreciate every moment and if you decide it is not what is best for you and your baby that is ok, not everyone wants to breastfeed not everyone can breastfeed, not every baby wants to breastfeed for 2 years either.
- Advice is only advice at the end of the day if someone tells you to do something against your mommy instincts or that you don’t want to do, don’t do it- for example I was told by the clinic that my youngest was not gaining enough and needed formula top ups- I knew he was eating and knew he was gaining I also know that he comes from small genes so I stuck my ground and he is a healthy happy almost 2 year old today who loves food and still loves his boob.
- When you feel like giving up take the time to think about if it is what you really want and if it is the best thing for you and baby and then take it from there, breastfeeding isn’t easy, motherhood isn’t easy don’t stop believing that you can do it if you want to.
My top 8 pieces of advice I received that helped me in my journey.
- Ask for help!
- Laser therapy – check if they offer laser therapy in your maternity ward if not find out where you can have it done- most medical aids do cover it, trust me have it done it was the best piece of advice I received after my second son was born.
- Be comfortable and relax- a stressed out mom leads to a stressed out baby- stress is the reason I gave up feeding my second son, I separated from my ex and did not have the energy or emotional strength to focus on both breastfeeding and what we were going through at the time, I let stress win, I know this is especially difficult when you have more than one child but it makes an incredible difference, the biggest thing I had to let go of in order to succeed was my ocd need to control everything from constant schedules to a clean house, it doesn’t mean you have to live in filth or disorder but it does mean that that load of washing can wait the world won’t stop turning I promise you.
- Have a good support system- my husband has been my biggest supporter through this journey he has encouraged me every step of the way, he has run me warm baths and taken Jesse when I needed a break, it was worlds apart from my previous journeys and it made such a big difference to my self-confidence and perseverance.
- Make sure you eat enough and drink enough water- even today if I don’t eat or drink enough my milk supply will drop, a happy well-nourished mum makes for a better milk supply. Keep a water bottle and a few healthy snacks in a draw or on a table where you feed as a reminder.
- Feed your baby when they are hungry not by schedule- it puts so much pressure on you and baby to fixate on a schedule, you will find that your baby will develop their own schedule with you as you go.
- Set small attainable goals- with my eldest I set a goal of a year and he developed a lactose intolerance at 3 months leading me to stop feeding at 4 months, with my youngest I set a goal of a month then 3 months then 6 and so forth and here I am at 20 months I never dreamed I would get this far, but not putting that pressure on myself really did help.
- Every baby is different don’t expect your child to feed or act a certain way just because your previous baby did- don’t anticipate a bad breastfeeding journey based on a previous journey and if you are anxious about breastfeeding revert back to advice no 1!
Lastly you are an amazing mom no matter what birth method, feeding method etc you choose, breastfeeding does not make you a good mom however it can be a wonderful an amazing journey for you and your baby to go through together, it isn’t easy there will be tears there will be days when you want to give up or days when you just wish you didn’t have to because its cold or your baby is teething but every beautiful moment that comes with it is incredibly worth it.
Jesse is almost at a weaning age and I will be very sad to end this journey it has been incredible and wonderful but not without its snags and bad days, my previous journeys were not as expected but I do not regret the choices I made or what I learnt from each of them.