I am just wrapping up nearly sixteen months of breastfeeding Ephraim, and I have felt like I should write a post on the topic—with bits of advice for new moms and pregnant friends. :)
I had two very different experiences with breastfeeding my two sons. With Nolan, we only made it to seven months, and I remember feeling very crushed that I didn’t make it to my year goal.
Ephraim was exclusively breastfed until he was six-months-old and started solids. He never had a bottle of formula or breastmilk, which means that we were basically inseparable for a year. In the past few months, as he’s grown to love cow’s milk, he has weaned very gradually. I’m getting pretty emotional about being done, but I am so happy that he is a healthy and busy little guy!
Here are some of the things I would advise, should you choose the often-difficult path of breastfeeding:
1. Use both breasts equally.
Start on different sides each time. If in the last nursing session, you fed him first with your right breast and then your left breast; switch this time and start with the left. It becomes nearly impossible to remember sometimes, especially when you are sleep-deprived in the middle of the night, but my trick was to use my wedding ring as a reminder. I switched it to my right hand to cue me to start with the right breast, or my left hand to start with the left breast.
2. Push through.
Issues will arise. Mastitis. Plugged Ducts. Thrush. Cracking or bleeding. Needing nipple shields. There were a few weeks in October when Ephraim was 9-months-old, that I had piercing pain every time I tried to feed him. Eventually, I narrowed the problem down to thrush and treated it in various ways. I also had a couple of plugged ducts, which ended up being a super easy fix. From there on out, it was smooth sailing. With some advice and guidance from a breastfeeding expert or doctor, you CAN get through it, and go on to breastfeed successfully!
3. Limit distractions.
When they’re newborns, they don’t mind if you watch episode after episode of Grey’s Anatomy while they nurse. But when they reach five or six months, they start wiggling around trying to see what’s going on. They may not like having another person talking in the room. It’s best to find a quiet place in the house and let them take a social break.
4. Drink A LOT!
Research says that your liquid intake doesn’t necessarily affect your milk, but it can’t hurt! Keep a water bottle close, and drink at least 8 ounces every time that you nurse. For a while, I drank a fennel, fenugreek, and anise tea by Yogi called “Women’s Nursing Support”. Though it tasted like an intense black licorice to me, I’m sure it helped my milk supply, and let me feel proactive in the later months when E was drinking less and less from me.
5. Surround yourself with people who encourage you.
Find a lactation consultant who you can call when you need help. Phone a friend who is currently breastfeeding, too. When Nolan was 3-months-old, I received one or two comments from friends that he was “skinny”. I began to worry, and followed their advice to supplement with formula. In retrospect, I think that he was getting plenty of milk, he was gaining a pound a month, and he was just a taller and thinner baby. When I began supplementing with formula, my milk supply waned, and Nolan became disinterested quickly. Listen to the advice of your doctor, but don’t doubt that your breastmilk will feed your baby with the exact supply that they need.
6. Be willing to nurse anywhere, anytime.
As a first-time mom, it sounds really uncomfortable to nurse in the middle of Chick-Fil-A at lunchtime or at a holiday party with all of your friends. Find a secluded spot, have your husband sit next to you to block you, or be really brave with your nursing cover. Chances are, no one is going to notice you anyway—they’ll just think the baby is napping, so long as you are covered up. Don’t sacrifice a feeding just because you might be uncomfortable nursing in front of strangers.
7. Enjoy it!
It is SUCH a special time, and even though you feel like a cow on some days, it is the best bonding experience with your baby, and it goes by way too fast :)
I think that breastfeeding has been one of the very hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I feel blessed that I was able to do it for 23 months total with the two boys! I’ll definitely be missing it in these next few months, as it became such a big part of my life :)