Choosing whether or not to breastfeed can be difficult, or one of the easier decisions you have to make. Maybe you grew up with a mom who breastfed, were surrounded by family who did, and its incredibly normal.
OR you grew up in a formula and bottle feeding house hold, and bottles are your jam.
We've heard so many concerns and comments like:
'I can't imagine a baby on my breast all the time'
'I don't want to be the baby's only food source'
'I don't even like my nipples being touched, this will be torture'
'I want to breastfeed as long as possible!'
'I watched my mother, aunts, and sisters do it, and I want to be able to do it as well'
All are valid. All are important pieces of a puzzle of how you will feed your baby.
This blog post is for you if you are wanting to exclusively breastfeed. If you are choosing to combo feed, or just formula feed, stay tuned for posts with advice for those specific things.
If breastfeeding is a huge value for you and your family, and you want to fully commit. Here is where to start.
1: Family support: Having your mom, your partners mom, your grandmother, your aunt, your sisters, your sister in laws, SOMEONE in your family with breastfeeding experience will be incredibly helpful, especially for the tougher times. Someone who can sit with you and reassure you that you are doing great, that your baby is ok, and that you're allowed to feel whatever feelings about feeding that you need to, will be integral to your success.
2: Community support. Use your resources. Many Childbirth Education classes cover breastfeeding, or offer a free breastfeeding consult after baby as part of the class. Use this! Book it as soon as your baby is here. Don't wait for problems to arise.
There are drop in's in most communities. Some are better than others though. Many people attend 'Well Baby' check ups done by their local health unit. This is VERY basic information. Nurses can be knowledgable about many things, but unfortunately they don't have the time to really SIT with you, watch a feed, and personalize an approach for you.
Spend time googling feeding support in your immediate area.
Some doulas/post partum support people offer to come to your home and give you hands on, one on one time to help. THIS is the best thing you can do for yourself. IT may cost some up front (from $50-$100) but it is WORTH is.
3: Read up! Before you have your baby invest in a breastfeeding book or two. Dr.Jack Newmans guide to Breastfeeding is an incredible resource. His website also has awesome videos and articles to reference.
4: Take care of you. The whole 'put on your air mask first' thing is no joke. You have to be hydrated, nourished, and not resentful. Place water bottles, snacks, and a book where your feeding nook will be. Make it as enjoyable for yourself as possible. I loved binge watching TV while I fed. It filled my entertainment cup and allowed me to relax. Before you feed your baby, drink a glass of water, and eat a snack, or prepare it to eat while you feed. YOU. COME. FIRST.
5: Ask for what you need from your partner. Do you want them to bring the baby to you in the night all the time? Or just if you're extra tired.
Do you want them to hang out and cuddle while you feed the baby when they are home for extra bonding?
Do you want them to take a feed once a day? And you can pump?
Do you need them to take the baby between sides, and change them to wake them a little?
Your partner likely isn't a mind reader, and when exclusively breastfeeding they can feel a little useless. Think of what you can to involve them and help them contribute. They are just learning as well.
6: Prepare for challenges: Find people you trust, and listen to their feeding stories. I am not going to tell you that its an easy road. Especially at the beginning. You will likely question if your baby is getting enough. There will be days it seems like you fed them every 45 minutes and they still weren't soothed or full. There will be nights where they will not settle. There will be poop explosions. Your baby may not poop for up to 14 days. There will be an adjustment period, for everyone involved.
It will be harder to get out of the house than before. Your baby may not want to take a bottle when you are away.
ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE NORMAL.
All of these things can be overcome.
They are short lived.
They do not last forever.
Creating a village of experienced people around you can help to normalize these moments.
7: Use your doula. As a Birth doula, our clients sometimes forget to use us for breastfeeding post baby. We have shadowed at clinics, and have some great experience. If something is beyond our knowledge we will refer you in the right direction. We would rather you reach out and try us, than find out after the fact you were struggling!
8: Be patient. If it hurts when you latch your baby. Carefully take them off, and try again.
Relax your shoulders.
Put on music.
Take your time.
At the beginning you are BOTH learning about each other. Your flow can be different at different times of the day. Listen to your baby, and tune into your body. If you need a minute for some space outside during a particular stressful nursing session, have your partner take over for some cuddles, and maybe your baby can suckle on their pinky, while you have a minute to create some more peace in your mind. Breastfeeding can be almost meditative. Collect your thoughts and be mindful, and again, Patient.
9: Ask. For. Help: We've covered this in multiple places in this blog, but I can't stress enough. Before your baby is born, have a plan. Paste it on the fridge, or in a note in your phone. Who can I go to, or call, for breastfeeding support! And USE IT
10: Be easy on yourself. This is a selfless, hard, challenging process. Give yourself credit, support, and love.
You deserve it.