If you are having a hard time breastfeeding let me first say this, DON’T GIVE UP! I gave birth to my daughter at 32 weeks. Breastfeeding a preemie is arguably one of the hardest things to face as a mother. They are tinier, more fragile, and less likely to latch on correctly (although that was never the issue with my little one) and because they are likely to spend time in an incubator for a while, sometimes eating from the breast is not always an option. My daughter and I have been breastfeeding since she was born (not exclusively) and we have been to hell and back with various problems. We finally started to get the hang of it after many tears (both hers and mine), lots of research, and my determination to breastfeed her. So I’m going to share with you mommas a few tips to help make things easier or maybe fix an issue you may be having.
Tip #1: Bond With Your Baby
Never, ever lose that amazing connection with your baby. At one point, I had stopped seeing feeding as a time to bond and saw it only as a time to eat. Do not do that. Put your phone down, turn that TV off, focus on your baby, and feel that connection that only a mother and baby can have. Do skin-to-skin time with your baby as much as you possibly can. Before feedings, during feedings, after feedings, between feedings. Will your husband think you’ve gone nuts? Probably. But there is nothing that will boost your milk supply faster or make baby’s feeding easier than some good old-fashioned bonding time with mommy.
Tip #2: Use All Available Tools
No, I’m not talking tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and saws. I”m talking about breastfeeding tools. There are a lot of tools nowadays to help the breastfeeding mother with many problems that might arise such as nipple pain, inverted nipples, depleted milk supply, etc. Things that may fix these problems that I swear my life on are nipple cream, soft shells/nipple shields, breast pumps, and lactation cookies. My personal favorite nipple cream is the Lasinoh 100% lanolin nipple cream. Boy, that stuff is thick, but it sure does work like a charm! Another thing that I used when my daughter was either having a hard time latching or if my nipples didn’t want to behave (yes that actually happens sometimes) is either the Medela soft shells or Medela nipple shields. Both of these made it easier for my daughter to really get ahold of my nipple properly enough to get a full feeding in. The next helpful tool to have around is a breast pump. It doesn’t matter which brand (some people will tell you it does) although I will tell you that electric is a bit more effective than a hand pump. The last helpful tool I have around is lactation cookies. I swear by lactation cookies, without them my supply would have dried up ages ago! There are plenty of companies that make them for you (if you’re lazy like me and don’t have the time to make them) I personally love MilkMakers oatmeal chocolate chip lactation cookies. They taste pretty good and they actually work! If you want to go the natural route and make them yourself, there are plenty of recipes online. This is one of my own experiences playing around with a couple different recipes: https://magicalmessymamahood.com/2022/04/11/lacatation-cookie-recipe/
Tip #3: Pump, Pump, Pump!
Pumps don’t have to be expensive. They can be, but there are programs that will help you get a free or reduced-price breast pump. If you are a stay-at-home mom and don’t ever go anywhere, you probably don’t need this tip because chances are you won’t ever need to pump if you have your baby with you 24/7. But if you are a working mother like me, pumping is your breast friend (a little play on words there, I know I’m a nerd). As I stated earlier, electric pumps are usually more effective than hand pumps. I’ve had experience with both. I’m lucky enough to own a Medela Pump-in-Style electric pump and a Medela Harmony hand pump. Most of the time the electric pump works better but there are times when the hand pump can get milk out that the electric pump can’t. That being said, hand pumps are a lot more convenient for the working mother. They fit right into your purse and you don’t have to be connected to the wall to use one. Either way, if you are ever going to be away from your baby longer than their normal feeding time, I suggest pumping. It’s the only way to keep your supply up when you’re away from your baby.
Tip #4: Timing is Everything
Something that you might hear as a breastfeeding mother is “keep your baby on a feeding schedule” or “make sure they eat every (enter number here) hours”. I say “screw that” because if you’ve ever been a mom before you’d know that schedules with a newborn or for any child under 5 really is not an option. Feed on demand. When your baby is hungry, feed them. It’s as simple as that. Sure it may not be very convenient for you, but it’s another way to keep your milk supply up. Your baby is the key to how much milk you make. If they want to eat every hour, let them eat every hour. Every time your baby (successfully) latches onto your breast, it sends a signal to your body and lets your breasts know how much milk it needs to make. Feeding on demand really is the best way to make the amount of milk your baby needs.
Tip #5: Keep Clean and Stay Fresh
This tip is very self-explanatory. Just as you wouldn’t like to eat your meals on a dirty plate, don’t expect your baby to eat off of dirty breasts. Keep your boobs clean. All you need is a quick wipe down after every feeding to keep your breasts tasting normal for your baby. If you wear a nursing bra and nursing pads change the nursing pads frequently or invest in the washable nursing pads. And the most basic thing of all, take frequent showers! I know it’s tough when you have kids, but keep those breasts clean for your baby.
Tip #6: Ditch the Bottle
A big problem that my daughter had was getting way too used to the bottle while she was in the NICU. At the time, I had a 4-year-old so I couldn’t be there for every feeding. I was lucky if I made it to the hospital twice a day to bring the nurses some of my milk. We had a lot of problems weaning her from the bottle and getting her to the breast. For the first week, I had to use a nipple shield every time I fed her. Sometimes she still preferred the bottle over the breast, and it can become a big issue. If your baby starts refusing the breast completely then you might be able to exclusively pump, but not for more than a few months. One day, when my daughter refused the breast, I refused the bottle. For an hour and a half, there was crying and screaming and kicking. But I stuck my ground and after that hour and a half, she stopped refusing my breast. They will not starve themselves. Always offer the breast first! And only use the bottle when absolutely necessary, like when you are at work. If you must feed with the bottle, always opt for a slow-flow nipple because it flows slower like the breast. In my opinion, the brand Dr. Brown makes the best slow-flow nipple. Every other brand I tried that was “slow flow” was still too fast. With Dr. Brown’s bottles the flow was very similar to the flow of my breasts, I know this because I actually compared the two.
Tip #7: Ask For Help
Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. There are no silly questions when it comes to breastfeeding. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t ask questions. Don’t be embarrassed. Ask questions, take advice, and accept any help offered. Trust me, it helps!
Tip #8: Don’t Give Up
There are so many times I wanted to give up, breastfeeding is hard and there are challenges along the way. Don’t let that discourage you! Don’t give up after one or two struggles, there are usually plenty of solutions. Don’t give up unless you have to. Keep trying!
Tip #9: Supplement Or Substitute If Necessary
So you’ve tried everything, and your baby still won’t breastfeed. That’s okay! Formula was created for a reason, and even though it is not as healthy as breastmilk there are still plenty of ingredients in formula that your little one needs to grow up healthy and strong! If you can only pump then pump and add your breast milk to the formula.
And Remember That Every Little Bit Helps!!
Even if your baby only breastfeeds for a month, a week, or a day, remember that every little bit helps!
I hope this has helped some mommas with any problems they had and maybe even encouraged some not to give up on breastfeeding yet.