Once you get through the sometimes-grueling nine months of pregnancy, navigating the newborn phase can be a whole new ballgame.
Between figuring out how to function on little sleep and trying to decipher why your baby is crying, you may have thought your decision to breastfeed was going to make it all simpler, but sometimes that’s not the case.
If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, here are five tips to help you achieve your breastfeeding goal.
1. Before baby arrives, see the real thing
You may believe you don’t have to think about breastfeeding until your baby is born, but preparing yourself beforehand can be huge help. Read books about breastfeeding and talk to others who have breastfed about what they wished they had known before their baby was born.
Also, start looking into what resources are available in your area and if you can, watch a woman breastfeed her baby. That way you’ll be able to witness the bond that can happen and see that it’s not really as odd as it may initially feel.
2. Phone a friend
Once your baby is born, having support around when you need it is crucial--especially during those first six weeks when your body is healing and stress and struggles are at their peak.
“Plug these numbers in your cell phone: a friend that has breastfed successfully and a peer-to-peer breastfeeding counselor,” shares Jennifer Pitkin, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Seeking professional help if you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding--and doing that as soon as possible--can help prevent complications (like nipple damage) that could put pressure and strain on your breastfeeding hopes.
Pitkin recommends checking out the local La Leche League Leader or contacting an IBCLC, who can help talk you through those hard moments and address any concerns. “If you need help, always ask for it--there's usually a simple remedy,” she says.
3. Surround yourself with supportive people
“Surround yourself with supportive people, including your partner,” says Pitkin. She believes that letting your family, friends, and pediatrician know that breastfeeding is important to you is vital to breastfeeding success.
“They can support you by encouraging you to continue, by helping with the baby in other ways than feeding, and by attending local breastfeeding resources if you need it,” she adds.
4. Don’t buy anything before you need it
You may be tempted to stock up on breastfeeding accessories “just in case,” but Pitkin advises against it.
“Buying magic creams, bras, or pain relievers before it's necessary sets you up for distress,” advises Pitkin. “Spend your first few days bra free, enjoying your new little one. Those things are always easily accessible if you need it,” she adds.
5. Define your own “success”
Feeling the pressure of parenting pull you down is the last thing you need when you’re taking care of a baby. When it comes to breastfeeding, define your own meaning of “success.” That might mean breastfeeding for a few days, weeks, or years--most of all, don't let anyone guilt you.