The following guest post is from Emily Cline, a previous "Great Expectations" writer for Giving Birth with Confidence. Emily offers these words of advice and personal story on her breastfeeding relationship in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Week.
I was all geared up and ready to breastfeed when I had my baby a year ago. While I was not necessarily excited about it, I knew that it was what I wanted for my baby. My personal goal was to exclusively breastfeed for one year and then switch the baby to whole milk. I read books, looked up articles, and asked my friends about how it all worked. From some people, it sounded like the most natural thing in the world, but from others I heard about hardships like low milk supply, difficulties with the baby latching on, and infections.
For me, I ended up having some difficulties, including a baby who struggled to latch on and repeated yeast infections in my breast. However, I pushed through, found solutions to the problems, and I am happy to say that over a year later I am still breastfeeding my son -- and happily! Here are my top five tips for how to find success with breastfeeding and actually enjoy it…
1. Help from others
Do not be afraid to ask for help! I utilized the lactation specialist at my birthing hospital and pediatrician’s office and the experts at my local La Leche league. Not only will they provide you with tips for specific problems, but they will give you the encouragement to keep your morale high. Once a week my birthing hospital held a breastfeeding support class and it was so nice to chat with other new moms about our feeding troubles and successes. These resources were also beneficial in getting me the help I needed when I had yeast infections in my breast.
I also relied on my mom, sisters, and close girlfriends for help and advice. I remember waking up all night for feedings and feeling so depressed that it would never get better. I’m pretty sure I even texted a friend or two in the middle of the night for support….and they didn’t care! Find people around you who want you to be successful with your breastfeeding goals. They will be invaluable.
When someone finally told me about the football hold (Thank you to my sister, Carrie!) I thanked the Lord above. For a few weeks at least, that was the only way I could get the baby to properly latch on! Lactation consultants are full of different positions to try that may just work for you and your baby.
If I had a dollar for every time the hospital nurses told me to make a “sandwich” with my breast…. However, this really did help. My breasts were just so engorged and my baby’s mouth was so small that this technique helped him to latch better. My husband even had to help me with this when the baby was newborn as it was hard for me to position the baby at the same time.
You and your baby are both learning something very new. While it’s frustrating to hear others’ stories about how easy it was for them, every baby and woman is different! I had to dig deep and realize that I would need to be patient as I figured this out with my baby. Breastfeeding is something that gets easier and easier with every feeding, even though it may not seem like it in the moment. Over time, you start realizing that your hard work and effort really pays off. Which leads to….
5. Celebrate your victories – even minor ones
This really helped me to feel good about my progress as I went on my year long journey. I got to the point where I would think, “Today it took ten less minutes to latch!” Or, “I’ve pumped for one month so my baby could have breastmilk!” Tell someone else too and they will help to cheer you on!
Over time, breastfeeding became easier. As the baby got older he didn’t like being held as much so I still cherish the time that we have, just the two of us, when we breastfeed. I thought I would stop after one year, but we both enjoy it so much that we have hung on to the morning and nighttime feedings.
I definitely thought about giving up breastfeeding during the hardest times...like when I spent a solid hour at 3 am trying to get a hungry baby to latch… like when I was having my second yeast infection that felt like knives were in my breast … But asking others for help and seeking out different breastfeeding strategies gave me motivation and reminded me of my breastfeeding goals. You can do it too!