The benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented. While some moms choose to use formula right off the start, others end up using it because the breastfeeding relationship doesn't work out for a variety of reasons.
Fed is best, but if mom wants to breastfeed, she needs to be given every possible opportunity for that experience to be successful. Help from experts, breastfeeding gear, and other tricks can be the difference between a mom continuing the breastfeeding relationship or giving up.
Luckily, many moms have gone before us and have plenty of hacks to make the breastfeeding journey an easier one for all involved. Since the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding a child until the age of one, two if possible, it's important to know up-front everything you can about how to establish a good nursing relationship and what to do when problems arise.
These twenty tips will help mom do her research beforehand, have the right supplies available, and know who to call when help is necessary. Breastfeeding shouldn't be a solo journey, and mom should take all the support she can get from those who have been there before or who know how to lend a hand.
20 See A Lactation Specialist
If the hospital mom delivers at does not offer her time with a lactation consultant, then she needs to ask to see one. Lactation specialists are helpers who can help mom know when her baby has the right latch, what to do when she runs into problems, and what to expect from the breastfeeding journey. Seeing a lactation specialist early can help mom make a good start when breastfeeding.
Mom can even call local lactation specialist when she leaves the hospital. They can walk her through how to keep going when things get tough, and she will have a voice of reason and knowledge available at all times. Breastfeeding shouldn't be a solo journey, so ask for help from the start.
19 Breastfeeding Friends
We're not recommending snubbing friends who decide not to breastfeed because that would be awful and ridiculous. It's just a good idea to make sure you know at least a couple of people who are going on the breastfeeding journey so you have someone to talk to who is actually experiencing the same pains and stresses in real time.
Breastfeeding friends know the ins and outs of the nursing process and can offer advice and support on the hard days. They can recommend products that work, clothes that are easy to nurse in, and they won't get weirded out when mom pops out a boob to feed the little one.
18 Baby-Friendly Hospital
Hospitals that have baby-friendly policies prioritize breastfeeding from the moment the baby is born. They don't require mom to be separated from her child if it's possible to avoid it, and they do what they can to help her make it through the painful early days of the milk coming in.
Mom won't have to fight to have her child near her so she can nurse on demand. The hospital will help her from the beginning by making sure the child has a good latch, sending a lactation specialist, and offering support in any way possible. They also shy away from introducing bottles or pacifiers in those early days unless mom specifically asks them to.
17 Supportive Doctor
It seems obvious that all doctors should support women breastfeeding. There are health benefits for mom and the baby, and doctors should know all of these and make it easy for mom to start nursing from the very beginning. However, not every doctor helps mom on this journey, so she needs to find one who will.
Having a supportive doctor will help mom have immediate access to breastfeeding right after birth, and it will give her another person to call for support. Her doctor can help ensure that the baby does not receive a bottle or pacifier right after birth so mom can be the first person to feed him.
16 Knowing Her Rights
Women have rights when it comes to breastfeeding, and they need to know what those are because there are those who will try to tell mom she can't breastfeed in certain places. Employers are supposed to provide a place for women to breastfeed, and restaurants and other establishments can't throw a woman out for breastfeeding.
Knowing what her rights are from the very start will help mom stay committed when other people try to make her feel like what she's doing is wrong or inconvenient for them. Fed is best, and if mom chooses to make sure her child is fed via breastmilk, she is protected by laws in many countries.
15 A Great Pump
If mom is going to nurse, she's going to need a pump. Moms who want to breastfeed for the long haul know that a good pump is a worthwhile investment, and they should find the right one for them. Women who are going back to work after the baby is born will really need a pump that can work effectively.
Pumping is usually a job that women dread, but it's often necessary to ensure the baby has plenty of milk when mom's not around. Investing in a good pump can also help mom if she has a low supply of milk. She can pump to help bring more milk in, and that can make the difference in her continuing to breastfeed or walking away.
14 A Helpful Spouse
It's true that dad does not have breasts and can't aid mom in this particular process. However, that doesn't mean he can't offer support. Taking care of other things around the house and reminding mom to stay hydrated and well fed are great ways for a partner to encourage mom.
It's also nice if dad gives mom a break when he can. When she's not nursing, let her take a walk, take a nap, or just veg since she is the one who will have to answer most of the food calls. Better yet, help her out by offering breastmilk in bottle form to the little one after bottles have been introduced.
13 Realistic Expectations
Breastfeeding is not always easy, no matter how committed mom is to the process. It's important for mom to go in with realistic expectations so she won't be ready to bail the minute things get rough. A natural process can still be a difficult one, and there can be complications along the way.
Not every woman enjoys breastfeeding either. There are women who commit to breastfeed their kids to give them a health advantage, but they countdown the days until they are finished. That's okay. No one has to love everything about parenting all the time, and there is no reason to have mom guilt over it.
12 A Baby Carrier
Babies who breastfeed like to be close to mom because they can smell the milk and let her know when hunger strikes. That's why some breastfed babies are not crazy about strollers. If mom doesn't want a battle when she gets out with her little one, she should find a baby carrier or sling that will allow her to nurse while on the go.
This approach keeps the baby close to mom but allows mom to go somewhat hands free if she needs to. It also offers discretion since the baby's head blocks mom's boob in most carriers. It's comfortable, simple, and can help mom get out of the house while she is still in the nursing phase.
11 Know About Supplementation
It's true that most organizations recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months without introducing any formula or solid foods. However, this doesn't always work out. Mom's milk supply may struggle or other issues may occur that keep mom from exclusively breastfeeding.
The good news is mom doesn't have to quit breastfeeding completely just because she's not doing it 100 percent of the time. Supplementing with formula and breastfeeding when possible works. In fact, it may help mom nurse longer, and it takes some of the pressure off of her when she needs a break. Don't be afraid to explore supplementation.
10 Milk Boosting Tricks
Sometimes mom makes enough milk for her little one and sometimes she doesn't. Though breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship, there will be times mom's body doesn't feel like it can keep up with the demand. When that happens, knowing some milk boosting tricks is the key.
There are natural remedies, teas, even cookies with certain ingredients, that boast about their ability to increase mom's milk supply. Mom can also talk to her doctor about medication if she needs to. What she needs to know is that giving up when she wants to keep breastfeeding shouldn't be the first step. There are options to help mom out when the milk runs low.
9 More Than One Hold
There is more than one way to hold a baby while nursing, and knowing the different holds can help mom and the baby when things get tough. Some babies love the football hold, where mom cradles the head and the baby's legs are by mom's side. Others like the conventional hold where mom cradles the baby in her arms. Some kids nurse best in the carrier. Try different holds to see what the baby responds to and what feels best for mom.
As children age, they may prefer one hold over another because of their size, and mom may prefer to switch things up as well. Don't think because the baby doesn't want to nurse one way that he doesn't want to nurse at all.
8 Treat Problems Early
Into almost every breastfeeding mom's life a little pain will come. That pain may come in the form of cracked nipples, or it may show up in the form of mastitis, a raging infection that causes fever and flu-like symptoms.
It's extremely tempting to give up when the pain lands, but that is the wrong thing to do if mom wants to continue to breastfeed. There are ways to solve these problems, and nursing through the pain may actually help heal mastitis. Seek medical attention, take the appropriate medications or use the right creams, and persevere through these issues when possible.
7 Get Help With Household Chores
If people want to help mom, they can do it in the form of bringing food or helping with chores. This frees mom up to sit and nurse instead of run around the house trying to catch up on chores. The people who want to just sit and hold the baby for endless hours can actually mess up mom's breastfeeding groove.
Mom can be verbal about the kind of help she needs, and she should focus on what will help her and the little one establish a good nursing bond in those early days. Not having to worry about anything but becoming a milk machine will help mom focus when sleep deprivation and unchecked to-do lists threaten to splinter her brain.
6 Pass On The Pacifier
It seems crazy, but the sucking a child has to do to bring milk down from the breast is more difficult than the suck they use to soothe themselves on a pacifier. That's why many moms wait to introduce the pacifier until their children have a solid grasp on how to latch to the breast properly.
Pacifiers are not the enemy. They've been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. It's just important to introduce a pacifier at the right time so a child doesn't suffer from the dreaded nip confusion. Once a child knows how to nurse easily, a pacifier shouldn't derail that, but introducing a pacifier while the baby is still in the early days of life could be a mistake.
5 Delay Bottles
Pumping extra milk so mom can take a break and let her partner give the baby food via bottle is a great idea. Just don't do it too early. While not all babies have this problem, some don't want to breastfeed once they figure out how easy it is to get milk from the bottle. Like pacifiers, bottle nipples make it easier for a child to get the milk without the effort.
Most babies can switch back and forth between the bottle and the breast, but in the early days before a proper latch is easy for a little one, confusion can occur. Don't create a battle that doesn't have to exist. Wait a while before the bottle makes an entrance.
4 Know The Benefits
One of the best things mom can do before the breastfeeding journey even begins is learn all she can about the benefits of breastfeeding. It helps build a child's immune system, reduces the risk of SIDS, and can aid in early bonding. For mom, it reduces the risk of breast cancer and releases the delicious oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, into her system, making the postpartum transition a bit easier.
Knowing these benefits will help mom keep going when she starts having doubts about whether it is worth it. It's fine to choose not to breastfeed or to stop if it doesn't work, but for the mom who wants to go the distance, knowing the benefits can keep her eyes on the goal during the hard days.
3 Know The Signs
There are times when the relaxing sensation mom expects her baby to feel while nursing doesn't happen. Instead, her child still seems hungry, spits up all the milk, or can't ever seem to latch properly. During times like these, mom needs to know what problems may be lurking and seek help.
A child can be allergic to foods mom is eating, resulting in stomach aches after consuming milk. A child with tongue or palate issues may not be able to get a good latch, and not latching properly can lead a child to stay hungry because he can't get any milk. These issues need to be addressed so the baby can get full without complications.
2 Appropriate Self-Care
While it may seem impossible, it is especially important for mom to practice self-care while breastfeeding. Eating healthy food, staying hydrated, and stealing time for herself will help her deal with the demands of breastfeeding a growing child. There's no one who can breastfeed mom's child but her, and while this may be an honor, it's also a huge responsibility.
Not taking care of yourself means feeling more overwhelmed than usual, and this is not ideal with an infant. Set aside time for yourself, ask for help, and don't be afraid to supplement if the demand becomes too much. There is no prize for being exhausted and burnt out so make yourself a priority.
1 Talk To Employers
Employers are supposed to provide mom with a place to pump and time to do so, but mom needs to know her rights and discuss them with her employer before she goes back to work. Making sure everyone knows up front that mom wants to pump at work will make it easier to figure out the details before mom returns to her career.
It's not always easy to pump on breaks and find places to freeze breastmilk, but it's possible. Having a supportive employer makes it much easier, and one who knows they are supposed to provide certain opportunities for breastfeeding moms are usually the most cooperative.