By now, you’ve probably learned about the benefits of breastfeeding. It’s good for the baby, yourself, your wallet, and the planet. However, you may have also heard how breastfeeding can be demanding, challenging, and exhausting.
You've decided to give breastfeeding a go? We are here to say kudos! We know how hard it can be. There could be practical, emotional, and medical barriers along the way. That's why we wrote this blog post to share valuable and practical tips to make your breastfeeding journey easier and more enjoyable.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
No matter how technologically advanced society can get, there are things that only nature does best. An excellent example is breastfeeding.
Breastmilk is readily available nourishment specifically designed for human babies. It provides the exact nutrients a baby needs for growth and development and the mother’s antibodies to boost their immunity against diseases. Breastfeeding also supports brain development and lowers the risk of obesity for both mom and baby.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula
Perhaps one of the most apparent advantages of breastfeeding is the time and money you save. By feeding straight from the breast, you don’t have to buy expensive formula milk or feeding accessories or wake up in the middle of the night to prepare the baby’s nighttime feed.
Apart from the health and economic benefits, breastfeeding is also better for the environment. Unlike formula milk, no manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and marketing materials are directly needed to produce breastmilk.
Meanwhile, formula milk comes from cow’s milk—the dairy industry is known for its high water demand, role in deforestation, and pollution. A 2019 study says that on average, GHG emissions per kilogram of infant milk formula is around 11-14 kg CO2 equivalent whole product life cycle.
Breastfeeding Tips for Moms
The benefits of breastfeeding are clear, but we'd still like to add that "fed is best" and this is a judgment-free zone. Some women cannot, or choose not to breastfeed, and that is ok! However, if you are able and willing to breastfeed, here are a few tips to get you going!
1. Take a Breastfeeding Class
We highly recommend taking a breastfeeding class. Most breastfeeding classes will cover the basics - from colostrum, positions, pumping schedule to your rights as a breastfeeding mother. So while you may never get to practice until your baby arrives, you will at least know what to expect.
Pro tip: Attend with your partner so they can support you and your baby on this journey. A 2017 study revealed that having a responsive partner leads to longer breastfeeding duration.
2. Talk to an IBCLC
You’ll learn a ton from breastfeeding classes, but you will also meet bumps along the way, no matter how prepared you are. An IBCLC is a medical professional who can give you the proper tools to overcome breastfeeding problems like an improper latch or diagnose a tongue tie.
3. Build a Pro-breastfeeding Support System
The success of your breastfeeding journey is influenced by your network of support, from your family to medical practitioners. Surround yourself with people who want you and your child to succeed in your breastfeeding journey. Turn to them for tips and advice when it gets tricky.
4. Make a Breastfeeding Station
Once the baby arrives, you will breastfeed many times a day. More so, if you decide to feed on demand and when the baby is cluster feeding. Choose a comfortable spot in your home as your breastfeeding station. Ensure it is adequately ventilated, well-lit, and has access to power outlets for when you’re pumping or want to do some light reading or movie watching while breastfeeding.
5. Stock Up on Breastfeeding Supplies
Technically, breastfeeding requires only the breast. But in our modern society, there have been new tools and devices that support breastfeeding. Some of these are:
- Nursing pads to absorb the letdown while mom is on the go
- Pump to extract milk for later use or to relieve engorgement
- Milk bottles or milk bags to store milk
- Nursing cover for when you want to be discreet
- Nursing pillow for that extra arm support when nursing baby
- Lanolin for cracked nipples
6. Shop for Nursing Clothes You Love
When you’re a breastfeeding mom, clothes with easy access to the breast become the most sensible option. It’s safe to say that it’s going to be your new uniform doing probably one of the most critical, challenging, and exciting jobs of your life - motherhood!
Shop for ones that make you feel comfortable and beautiful. You deserve that much.
7. Get a Milk Saver for Your Letdown
Letdown milk is breastmilk that involuntarily comes out when you are stimulated either by the baby’s suckling on one breast or even by a random baby’s cry. Before, it only ended up at the burp cloth or mom’s shirt until people realized that it’s liquid gold gone to waste.
Now, several devices help save breastmilk. The most popular options are the silicone manual pump and the breast shells. The silicone manual pump acts as a suction that you can put on one breast while nursing the baby on the other. With the breast shells, you can insert them in your nursing bra or tank top.
Choosing the better milk saver option depends on why you need to save milk, your milk production, and milk flow, among other things. So decide based on what is best for your situation.
8. Buy Extra Pump Parts
After maternity leave, most breastfeeding moms go back to work by necessity or choice. To keep the milk supply, we recommend pumping every two hours. However, it can be a hassle to wash pump parts every after use. So we suggest buying extra pump parts if you are able to, so you don’t have to wash every after pumping session.
9. Feed on Demand
To keep your supply up with your baby’s demand, we recommend feeding whenever they ask for it. The more you nurse baby, the more milk you will make. Feeding on demand also ensures your baby never goes hungry and is getting the proper nourishment.
10. Give in to Cluster Feeding
There will be times when your baby will ask for short, frequent feeds over a few hours. This behavior may cause moms to lose confidence in their milk production and the quality of their milk. But honestly, this is simply cluster feeding. It happens when babies are going through a growth spurt. It usually occurs in the first few days and weeks of life.
11. Know the Signs of Mastitis and Thrush
Breastfeeding also comes with a risk for infection like mastitis or thrush. Know the early signs to prevent complications and to know when to seek professional help. For mastitis, there is breast pain, swelling, redness, and warmth. You can also experience fever and chills. For nipple thrush, the nipples or areolas can be itchy, flaky, shiny, red, and cracked.
12. Hydrate Well
Breastmilk is 90% water. When you make milk and nurse your baby, you lose water. So always stay hydrated, but don’t go overboard. A good rule of thumb is to drink water to quench your thirst and a little more whenever the baby feeds. Keep a reusable water bottle close by so you can drink as needed.
13. Eat Up
Breastfeeding is an energy-consuming activity so make sure you eat meals with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and oils, and fiber. You need it for yourself and your baby.
14. Get Your Partner Involved
Although moms are the ones that can technically breastfeed, dads can still be involved in caring for the baby. For example, they can be in charge of burping the baby, putting them to sleep, changing diapers, or playing with the baby.
15. Wear Nursing Tops and Bras
Make breastfeeding easier for you with nursing bras, tanks, and tees. These are designed to make your breasts accessible for the baby and to provide the proper support.