Clogged milk ducts, sore nipples, saggy boobs, leaking, engorgement…doesn’t breastfeeding sound wonderful!? Don’t let all that scare you! It really is a beautiful journey. Being able to keep a baby alive with your body is pretty amazing. It’s also really amazing that there is formula for moms who can’t/choose not to breastfeed.
Our breastfeeding journey hasn’t always been easy. The beginning was absolute torture. I had cracked and sore nipples even though Rori had a perfect latch. A lot of moms and even doctors will tell you that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, BUT IT DOES. Your nipples are not used to being constantly latched on to, of course they’re going to hurt! But trust me, it gets better. I pretty much owe our breastfeeding journey all to my husband. Having a partner/family member/friend to support you is so key. I honestly would have given up if it wasn’t for him staying up with me at 3am while I’m crying and nursing Rori in the first few weeks. Rubbing my back until I stopped crying and told me it would all be okay. That it would get better and what I was doing for Rori was amazing. He’s a keeper for sure.
I’m a firm believer in taking supplements while you breastfeed to help your body nourish your little one effectively. Of course, every one is different and some people may not need any supplements, some supplements might not effect you, some supplements might make baby gassy or fussy. It’s all an experiment and always do what you feel is working for you personally.
About a month into breastfeeding I got my first clogged duct. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish that pain even on my worst enemy. That. Shit. Hurt. Constant pain when nursing Rori, I cried through a lot of feedings. I tried pumping it out, hand expressing, taking hot showers, soaking it in epsom salt, squeezing it out. Nothing worked. I researched and reached out to other moms and finally someone suggested I try sunflower lecithin. Oh my Lord, I wish I knew about this sooner. I took double the suggested dose every day until the clog went away and I’m still taking it now to prevent a new one from coming back. I haven’t had another one…knock on wood! I highly suggest buying these now even if you haven’t had a clogged duct before. What the lecithin does is basically make your ducts “slippery” so milk can flow easier.
I had gotten my period back three months post partum, that’s when my supply started dropping. Calcium and magnesium was highly suggested to take while you’re ovulating if you find yourself having trouble when you get your period back. I do take these every day because my period is very irregular but you could just supplement with this a few days before and throughout your period.
I continued taking my prenatal vitamins for three months then just switched to Women’s One a Day. Most moms in the first few months find it hard to get a second to eat a nutrient dense home cooked meal because let’s be real, take out is a go to when you’re tired and don’t want to cook! This helps to give you the extra nutrients you might not be getting because you’re just eating quick small snacks just to get you through the day.
I think it’s really important to take a probiotic when you’re breastfeeding to reduce the risk of thrush in you or baby. Thrush is a common and harmless yeast infection in a baby’s mouth that can affect your nipples during breastfeeding. We fortunately haven’t experienced this and I have to thank the probiotic!
If you find yourself struggling try these tips:
- Drink more water. It’s suggested to drink between 80-120oz per day. Just get a huge water bottle and chug chug chug every hour. Set alarms. Do what you need to do to remember to stay hydrated!
- Stay relaxed. Babies feed off your energy. They will know when you’re stressed which makes them stressed. Whenever you’re nursing or pumping, get comfortable. Set up a relaxing space for you and baby. Put on some soft music, dim the lights.
- Eat more. 1800-2000 calories per day is suggested for breastfeeding moms. I know that a lot of mamas want their bodies back and want to start losing weight but it’s so crucial to eat high calorie when breastfeeding. Your body needs fuel to make milk. Plain and simple!
- Empty your breasts more often. Hand expressing is a great way to fully empty your breasts after a feeding or pumping session. Hand express into a bottle or a haakaa to save that milk. It’s also great to hand express in the shower. Try to pump after a feeding to keep stimulating your breasts to promote more supply. Even if nothing is coming out, it’s telling your body that baby needs more milk.
- Skin to skin. This is SO important. When you’re in the hospital I highly suggest telling your nurses that you want to immediately have skin to skin contact with baby right after you give birth. And try to breastfeed within one hour of birth. It’s never too late to try this, we still do skin to skin!
- Try different positions. Every baby is different. Some babies prefer laying in your lap. Other babies will prefer side nursing. I know some moms who can only do the football position with their babies. Try it all and find what’s most comfortable!
- Offer both breasts. Before breastfeeding, I had two of the same nipples. Now, one is smaller than the other. How amazing is it that your baby makes this happen?! Rori usually prefers one side to feed and one side to comfort nurse. She sometimes gets fussy on one breast, I’ll switch her to the other and she’s totally calm and nursing perfectly.
- Be patient. Breastfeeding is new to both you and baby. You’re both learning this together. It’s very easy to become frustrated and want to stop because maybe you don’t feel like you’re doing it right or baby seems fussy. Unlatch, try to calm baby and try again. If they’re having trouble latching, get help from a lactation consultant.
- Apply heat. This is a tip I wish I knew months ago. I just started doing this. Take a washcloth and run under hot water for a few seconds, wring it out and apply to your breast and massage. This starts milk flow so baby doesn’t have to work to hard to get your milk to let down.
- Take it day by day. Breastfeeding is hard, mentally and physically. Your body changes, your boobs change, you might not feel like you’re making enough milk. Either way, it is what it is. I know it’s very hard to realize this but your baby will be okay if you need to supplement with formula. Some days you might breastfeed all day, some days you’ll have to formula feed all day and that’s okay. Stress is a big supply killer, so try to stay positive!
- Forget the expensive nursing clothes. You’re better off just lifting up your shirt to nurse, you’ll have the coverage and even if you don’t you can always use a blanket or nursing cover if you’re uncomfortable. I’ve spent so much money on nursing shirts and sweatshirts and I never wound up using them. I do love nursing bras though, these are my favorite and they’re pretty inexpensive!
We started supplementing with formula when Rori was about three and a half months old. My supply was dropping, she was frustrated, I was upset that I couldn’t fill her up, she was always looking for more. I was going back to work and my freezer stash took a big hit because we wanted to use that up before supplementing. Stress is a huge factor, and although I tried not to stress it’s extremely hard not to – especially with returning back to work and having to leave your baby. I sobbed and sobbed while I fed her her first formula bottle because I felt like I failed her. I felt like the one thing that my body could naturally do, wasn’t working anymore. I’ve now excepted this as part of our journey. We nurse most of the day and supplement when I feel she needs it. You have to go with your gut, do what makes you feel comfortable and do what’s best for baby. Breastfeeding is bonding, bottle feeding is bonding and fed is always best.