The other day, someone asked me what I’m most looking forward to as a new mom and what I’m the the most nervous about. When it comes to what I’m looking forward to, the list goes on and on and on. And it grows by the day to be honest. When it comes to what I’m most nervous about, my answer is almost always the same. Breastfeeding.
I’m not quite sure what I’m nervous about, except that it seems so daunting. I’m not someone who strictly believes breast is best, but I do want to breastfeed if I can…for as long as I can. What gives me some sense of relief is knowing that both my sister and I were formula fed and turned out beyond ok (if I do say so myself!).
Some of the moms I reached out to a few weeks ago shared some great breastfeeding advice, so I thought I would post about this topic today. While it is a very personal decision and can be controversial, I think it’s important for people to have open [minded] discussions about it. There’s no point in keeping your experiences to yourself when it comes to mom “stuff.” The more we share, the more normalized it becomes! It’s also fitting that this is something I think about at least once a day!
Without further ado, please keep reading for personal breastfeeding advice from some pretty awesome mamas! And please remember that each mama is sharing her own experience. As I like to frequently remind myself, what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. But hopefully, if your’re a mom-to-be or a new mom, pieces of this advice will resonate with you and put your mind at ease!
From a newish mom – “I’m sure each of us could write a book about our experiences with motherhood, but I’ll share my hardest experience – breastfeeding. Man, breastfeeding hit me like a TRUCK. I had no idea what a battle it would be and how consumed I would become with winning the war! I’m still no expert and have ultimately embraced formula (now at ~5.5 months). However, I wish someone had helped me prepare to be a better breastfeeder. Again, I could write a book on everything I have learned, but I think I would have been more successful if I prepared for the PAIN and knew that it would PASS. I would tell new mothers (who are committed to breastfeeding) to:
5. Get your husband and family on board. It takes the whole family to be committed to breastfeeding for it to be a success. My family tried to spare me and would let me sleep and give the baby a bottle. But every bottle he got would make my supply diminish so I had to force them to force me to stay on top of breastfeeding (I tell you that “every 2 hours” is no joke).”
From another newish mom – “Nursing is a whole other challenge. Decide in advance whether you will nurse or use formula, and know that either is great! If you nurse, be extremely patient. It’s common to use formula for a few days or a week to supplement your milk supply as it comes in. Be patient, and don’t be frustrated if your supply seems lower or slower to come in. Be patient, persistent and don’t think too much about the whole process. Also, decide in advance whether you will nurse and/or pump. Giving the baby a bottle earlier on frees mom to take a break (other people can feed the baby) or do other things! You will need a break!”
From a semi-new mom – “If you’re breastfeeding or trying to, I recommend seeing a lactation consultant while pregnant. Go to the classes. Read up on it. But get the consultant’s number if you can. Try to see a lactation consultant while in the hospital. Get someone’s number to call when you’re back home. You’ll likely have questions, and depending on your area, you’ll have a weekly meet up with the lactation consultant to help with LOTS of things and/or one come to your home once after you’re back home.”
From a slightly more experienced mom – “It is absolutely, 100% a-ok to formula feed. I had a c-section which caused my milk to come in pretty late, and my daughter had a tongue tie which made it difficult for her to latch. While we eventually got to a point where I was able to breastfeed, the days leading up to that were incredibly frustrating. I kept beating myself up every time I had to open up a bottle of formula, as I was reminded of the unsolicited advice from some hospital doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and some super annoying mommy bloggers ( the internet is evil!), who had no problem making me feel guilty for not breastfeeding. Fortunately, I found a WONDERFUL lactation consultant whose valuable advice to me was “FED=BEST!” She reminded me that my job was to simply provide nourishment for the baby- whether it was breast milk or formula. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for the route you choose. YOU know what’s best for you and your baby!”
From an experienced mom who is who is expecting baby #2 soon! – “This will be a controversial topic, and everyone will have an opinion on it. You might already have your own thoughts and opinions formed about what you want to do: nurse, pump/nurse combination, exclusively pump, formula feed, etc. Keep an open mind and don’t be disappointed if you end up going a different route than you envisioned. Many people (including some nurses and doctors – shame on them), will tell you that you won’t bond with your baby if you don’t nurse, or they will assume you are going to nurse so choosing anything different would be crazy/wrong. I had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding in the beginning, and I was getting increasingly sad, frustrated and felt like the worst mom because it wasn’t working. My baby was losing weight and all of the nurses were scaring me and freaking me out (partly I was probably overly hormonal/emotional and overreacting) and told me if she didn’t gain weight before we left the hospital, we would need to put her on formula right away, as if it was such a terrible thing. Finally one lactation consultant came into my room, held my hand, and told me it was ok. I bawled like you would not even believe it – just hearing her say that was everything. I can easily look back at this now and know how silly it was to get so worked up, but at the time, you have no idea and you are so overwhelmed in wanting to do everything right and perfect and you also have all these expectations of nursing your baby. Ultimately, I decided to stick with trying to nurse but I also learned how to pump while I was in the hospital and fed my baby pumped breast milk from a bottle. This worked. She was a much happier baby all of a sudden (because she was being fed!), and she started gaining weight. I felt so much relief, and at that point, I decided to continue with pumping. After all, she was still getting breast milk and that’s what I wanted. For some women, it’s not as easy to pump, and that’s ok too. There were times when I went back to work and it was getting difficult for me to pump frequently, so I would have to supplement one feed with formula. I felt so guilty about it in the beginning, but then I quickly got over it.
I went the exclusive pumping route, which worked for me and my family. But know that what works for you might not work for someone else, etc. Exclusive pumping has its own set of challenges and it takes a lot of dedication and time. I personally, though, felt it was much easier on me and my family to pump than to nurse around the clock: 1) I could set my own schedule on when I pumped, and I could pump more milk and save it to use throughout the day/week. It also allowed me to give my baby breast milk for a longer period of time because I could store breast milk and freeze it and use it months later. 2) Anyone could feed the baby with my pumped milk – my husband, my mom, etc. – and this gave me a break too. If I was exclusively nursing, only I could feed her, which adds to sleep deprivation. 3) It made the transition back to work easier because my baby was already accustomed to a bottle. 4) I didn’t have a baby attached to my boob 24/7. 5) I wanted to make it to one year or more of pumping, but I found out I was pregnant with #2 when baby #1 was 9.5 months old and my milk dried up. I had no choice but to transition 100% formula. I felt guilty, but it was fine. I let it go.
The challenges of exclusive pumping: 1) It takes up a lot of time. In the beginning, you are pumping every 2-3 hours. But I thought of it the same way as nursing. 2) There is a lot of extra work with pumping because of all the parts/bottles, etc. that you have to clean and wash all day/every day. 3) Your milk supply might vary from week to week and you do have to watch your diet and work hard to produce milk. But again, this is not much different than nursing. 4) It can be painful after pumping so much. But this also can happen with nursing.
Basically the motto to this is: whatever happens, I promise it will be fine. All babies end up growing great and getting the same amount of nutrients. Looking back, I was way too stressed about this. With baby #2, I am so much calmer, and even if I have do formula from day one, I am totally ok with it.
THE BEST breastfeeding resource is kellymom.com. I used this website for all questions related to breastfeeding. I highly recommend it.”