Before I had Cedar I hadn’t given much thought to how difficult breastfeeding could be, I thought it would come naturally, and that I wouldn’t have too work too hard for that experience. If you’ve read my other blog post on why I Almost Stopped Breastfeeding, you know that it didn’t come easy, I really had to work for it, and it was excruciatingly painful. But I was determined to do it. Along the way, there were a couple things that really helped me get though, to persevere when I didn’t think I could. I hope these tips are as helpful to you as they were to me.
1. LACTATION CONSULTANTS
Before you have your baby, I’d suggest seeking out an LC in your area. Set up an appointment with them to meet them and get any breastfeeding resources you can. They might know of different breastfeeding mom groups or classes that you can join to learn some of the technique involved so that you’re more prepared when your baby arrives.
Read about our how I Almost Stopped Breastfeeding
After your baby arrives, set up a time or several different times to meet with your LC. Even if you think you’ve got breastfeeding down, it can still be helpful to have someone watch your technique and give you pointers or different positions to try. Because Cedar and I were having such a hard time, I saw our LCs twice a week for 6 weeks to try and correct his latch, and improve my ability to get him on deep. This might be too much for you, but I not only found it helpful for breastfeeding, I found it really refreshing to get out of the house and talk to someone who understands what I was going through and who genuinely wanted to help and see me succeed.
2. SUPPORT SYSTEM
Reach out to family and friends who are or have breastfed their babies. Talk to them about their experiences to get an idea of what you could expect, what challenges did they have, how did they cope. These women will be invaluable to you when you are breastfeeding, they will be sounding boards, supports and cheerleaders while you face your own challenges. I was lucky to have several friends that I could talk to while I was learning how to breastfeed. Some cheered me on, others gave advise, some commiserated with me, but they all listed. If or when it gets hard, so hard you don’t know if you can’t keep going, it helps to have someone to talk to who knows the struggle and pain you’re going through and can show you that it does get better.
It is also super important that you and your partner talk about how important it is for you to do this, talk about how they can support you while you are nursing. Don’t be afraid to ask them to help. Sometimes it feels like you don’t have enough hands or eyes to get the job done, so having your partner there to double check your latch, make you food, and even feed you if needed will make a huge difference.
At first I found myself questioning many different aspects of breastfeeding: how was Cedar’s latch? Was he on deep enough? Were his lips curled open? Were his two cheeks and his chin touching my breast? What about the position of his body? Was I producing enough milk? Were there other breastfeeding positions that I could try that might be easier? Then I was having a lot of pain, so I had questions about that. What were the signs of thrush? What about mastitis? What does a blocked milk duct feel like and how do I get rid of it?
A lot of these things you can talk to your LC about, but in the middle of the night when you are worried about one or all of these, having somewhere to look other then the bowels of google will probably help. The resources on the International Breastfeeding Centre website were super helpful. Going through this site gave me a lot of ideas as well as reassurance when I felt like what I was doing was not enough. If you haven’t had your baby yet, reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Breastfeeding might also be super helpful for you. I also found reading and watching videos on Biological Breastfeeding SUPER helpful. This style of breastfeeding really changed things for me. It made sense to me and put Cedar’s natural instincts to use so we were working together as a team a opposed to us struggling against one another.
I think every new breastfeeding mom questions their milk supply and their ability to feed their baby to satisfaction. I know I did! There is no way to tell just how much they are drinking so you wonder, and when they’re cluster feeding and you are nursing all the time, you really wonder, am I producing enough? At the beginning while I was struggling with Cedar’s shallow latch we were worried that he wasn’t getting enough milk because he wasn’t gaining weight, he was maintaining, but not gaining. His latch meant that he wasn’t emptying my breast and so not stimulating my body to produce more. I did everything I could to increase my milk supply so that by the time we figured out his latch, my body was producing the right amount for his growing needs. Some of these things you can use right away, others are more intense and you might want to talk to your health care provider and lactation consultant first before using them.
Traditional wisdom recommends eating oatmeal to stimulate milk supply. There doesn’t seem to be any substantial scientific evidence to back this up, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence. Either way, it’s a very easy thing to include daily with minimal effort, and there are no negative side effects. Oatmeal is high in iron, zinc and folate, full of fiber, healthy carbs and protein. It’s recommended that breastfeeding mom’s increase their caloric intake by 500cals so this is a great healthy way to do that, while potentially increasing your milk supply.
My friend made a batch of vegan lactation cookies and mailed them to me when she knew I was worried about my milk supply. I can say from experience that these work! From then on Adam made sure I had a continuous supply of cookies. The main ingredients in them that help with milk supply are oatmeal and brewers yeast.
Gluten Free Vegan Lactation Cookies
- 2.5 cups oats (ground to flour in a blender)
- 4 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup brewer’s yeast (find this at a health food store)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup oats
- 2/3 cups raisins or dark dark chocolate chips (optional)
- 2/3 cups walnut chunks (optional
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Blend 2.5 cups of oats in blender until you have a fine flour.
- In a large bowl combine the ground flax seeds with water, stir well to mix.
- Add in the coconut oil, maple syrup, brewer’s yeast, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.
- gradually stir in the oat flour, 1/2 cup at a time until you have the dough formed. You may need a little more or less flour.
- Fold in 1/2 cup whole oats, and raisins, chocolate chips and/or walnuts.
- drop the dough in heaping tbsp on to a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or silpat sheet), flatten the cookies out.
- Bake at 350F for 10-12 mins, until they are lightly golden brown around the edges, and soft in the center.
- Allow the cookies to cool before enjoying.
FENUGREEK & BLESSED THISTLE
Fenugreek and blessed thistle are medicinal herbs used since the middle ages to help with milk supply. They can be used individually but seem to produce better results when used together. You can often find a combination of fenugreek and blessed thistle in nursing teas, but the strength of them is very minimal and you’d have to consume A LOT of tea to see any benefits. If you aren’t really concerned about your milk supply having a cup or two of tea with your oatmeal breakfast might just do the trick. However if you’re very concerned about you milk supply then you could try adding in a fenugreek and blessed thistle combined supplement. With something like this, it might be best to talk to your health care provider and lactation consultant first, since an over supply of milk can also be a real problem for some women.
This may be the most important of the five tips, because if you aren’t resolved to breastfeed your baby then when things get hard, as they may surely do, it will be very easy to give in. When you’re so exhausted that you can barely keep your eyes open, or your waking your sleeping baby so that you can nurse them, or it hurts more than anything you could have previously imagined, it will seem SOOOO much easier to mix up a bottle of formula that you have laying around in your cabinet. But that can be a slippery slope, and may cause more issues for you if you are hoping to exclusively breastfeed your baby.
Several friends shared some wisdom with me before I had Cedar. They said when breastfeeding gets so hard you don’t think you can do it anymore, when you get to that breaking point, PUSH THROUGH. It will get better after that. Not all at once, but little by little, day by day you will see improvements. Take it one nursing session at at time and it won’t seem so overwhelming. You can do this. You are strong and powerful, you brought your baby into the world and you’ve got all the tools to feed your baby.