I’ve got so many friends and family who have recently had babies or are expecting soon, and they are either currently breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. I wanted to compile a brief list of lessons I’ve learned along the way. I just celebrated my 3-year anniversary of CONSECUTIVE nursing: my sweet Claire weaned herself with some gentle coaching from me on New Year’s Eve. Together we chanted “new year, new you!” She had nursed for 33 months by that point. When she was 33 hours old, I wondered if I was going to make it to 6 weeks, let alone 6 months (my initial goal)…
I had painful cracked and bleeding nipples for 6+ weeks with Claire. I had thrush twice. She took 45+ mins to eat ON ONE SIDE for 3 months. I battled oversupply. I learned the HARD way what not addressing a tongue tie can do to your nipples, the baby’s energy, and reflux. I dealt with dairy intolerance and more reflux barf than you’ve ever seen. I got mastitis at 16 months.
I nursed throughout a pregnancy with HG. I nursed Claire the night I delivered Nora. I got Nora’s tongue tie revised at 10 days old. I tandem nursed them both for 6 months. I cut out dairy and eggs for 9+ months. I’m still nursing the baby, with no end in sight. I’ve had mastitis twice in the last 6 months (three times overall, despite following all the best advice). I’ve met with LCs, both for myself and for/with friends. I’ve done weighed feedings. I’ve donated thousands of ounces of milk. I’ve nursed other babies. I went to an in-person support group, every Monday, for 14 months. I’ve called Infant Risk multiple times for back up from their research when I had a discrepancy, even with a well-qualified and well-meaning doctor.
I’ve switched pediatricians for more breastfeeding-friendly environments. I’ve driven countless hours to and from appointments, stores, meetings, etc. in the name of breastfeeding support: both giving and receiving.
I could go on and on about the struggles I faced from day 1, but the point of that would only be to bring you to this point: it gets easier, and looking back on it, a few days or weeks in the beginning is but a drop in the proverbial bucket.
It has not always been easy (you can read my nursing stories here and here). BUT, it does get better, I promise. So, on my 36-month-and-1-week-nurseversary, here’s my advice:
1. SUPPLY. AND. DEMAND. Truly low milk supply is rare; if you do not have the supply you want, you must increase the demand. I cannot stress this enough. If you supplement, and you want to stop, you have to move milk while baby is drinking something else. Supply. AND. Demand.
2. Weight gain + diaper output = baby is getting enough milk. Not sure about supply? See #1 (or read here: Low Milk Supply 101)
3. Babies are all different, their sleep is all different, and not any one thing works for every baby. Trust me, I’ve tried it ALL. This is the longest shortest time.
4. Not all pediatricians, nurses, or even LCs are right 100% of the time with every baby. You ready for a truth bomb? Here it is: SOME OF THEM HAVE NEVER BREASTFED BEFORE. Take it from me, or others who have had success nursing: sometimes your doctor doesn’t know everything. That doesn’t mean ignore their advice about fevers, vaccines, or what-have-you, but consider that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and not everything your pediatrician tells you is Biblical truth.
5. Supply & demand: see # 1.
5a. Pump does not equal baby.
6. As with # 1, 2, 5: I may seem “pro tongue tie revision,” but the reality is this is a breastfeeding post, and while not everyone needs a tongue tie revision, many people here have been down this road before and recommend it because it is FAR more common than anyone told us AND we have tried everything else. When the baby is tied, they can’t always transfer milk efficiently, completely, or painlessly, and therefore a revision is necessary and recommended to achieve appropriate milk removal, weight gain, and breastfeeding success.
7. Try a manual/hand pump. The Medela Harmony is a personal fave. See #1 and #5a.
8. If someone who’s been breastfeeding or nursing for a long time tells you something, it’s worth considering their point of view. Would you take swimming lessons from someone who can’t swim? Why do you take nursing advice from someone who never breastfed? That’s kinda like a snarky follow-up to #4, but worth considering.
9. It’s worth it. Sometimes in the beginning when Mom AND baby are trying to figure it out, it seems endless and tiring and hard. SO SO SO SO HARD sometimes. Here’s the reality though: those early days are hard no matter your feeding method. I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, with ALL the struggles I had, breastfeeding was WORTH it and BEYOND convenient. I promise you: it gets easier, and if you will just ask for help, you don’t have to suffer in pain and silence like I did in the beginning.
10. Yeah, “fed is best,” but like let’s be real: are any of us going to starve our babies? No. I am not anti-formula, but I am VERY pro-breastfeeding, so if you’re struggling or have questions or need advice or support and you find me/LLL/another Breastfeeding support group, you’re going to (and should!) get breastfeeding advice from pro-breastfeeding moms who have BEEN THERE. Please, listen to us. Breast is best doesn’t mean formula is the poisonous devil, it just means breast is BEST, and if you’re here, we assume you want us to help you make it successful.
That is all…anything I missed!? Thanks for sticking around, and nurse on!