Breastfeeding is hard. I remember when I started breastfeeding almost 2 years ago for the very first time. I had so many questions, I wondered if I was doing it right. I worried if my baby was getting enough milk or if I was even producing enough for her. Speed ahead 20 months later and I’m still breastfeeding. Yep, it’s true. My oldest daughter weaned at 14 months while I was in the hospital having her baby sister. The baby is now 6 months and we’re still going. I was lucky in that both girls were able to latch on and get the hang of it really quickly. I remember the lactation nurse at the hospital coming in to talk to me about breastfeeding and was surprised to learn that I was already producing milk. Because I had gone straight from nursing my toddler to nursing the baby, there was no gap, so milk continued to produce and never stopped.
I hear about so many women who have stopped nursing because they were worried about whether or not they were producing enough milk, or have had a doctor tell them to switch to formula because their baby wasn’t gaining enough weight. I experienced this too. You can read more about that here.
Here are some tips that helped me successfully breastfeed for 20+ months.
1. Drink lots of water – My doctor put it to me this way, your needs are fulfilled first, the excess goes to your baby. So if my body needs water to be hydrated and I am not getting enough, there won’t be any left for me to produce the milk needed for baby. I am thirsty all the time but sometimes I forget to drink water. Your best bet is to get a water bottle, whether that’s a sports bottle or even just a plastic water bottle that you can refill and just take it with you wherever you go, even if it’s just around the house. It reminds you to drink. I have a favorite purple and pink acrylic tumbler with my daughters name on it that I take with me everywhere. I am just constantly filling it up when I’m out. Just having it with me is a reminder to drink.
2. Eat more calories – The body needs about 500 more calories per day, than what was taken in during pregnancy. I will be the first to admit that I’m not eating as healthy these days. The girls keep me so busy, sometimes I’m lucky if I get to eat breakfast, but if you can’t get in a full 3 meals a day, snack many times throughout the day. And I don’t mean chips and soda, pack-up some apple slices, some yogurt, bananas, nuts, anything to keep you full and eating throughout the day. Your body is continually working trying to produce milk and it needs some calories to burn while doing it. When baby goes through a growth spurt, your body will work harder to make even more milk, you will be hungrier and thirstier than you ever have been. Pay attention to your body. Eat and drink more during these times.
3. Let baby graze – This might be hard if/when you return to work, but let baby nurse as much and as long as she wants. You don’t have to stick to a schedule of every 3-4 hours. If your baby wants to nurse every 30 minutes, let her. This keeps your body in sync with the amount of milk your baby needs and wants.
4. Pump often - Pump as often as you can – even when you can’t physically nurse your baby. Pump more, or as often as your baby is used to nursing. Don’t skip a feeding even if baby is not with you. Yes, this means pumping at work. I know how difficult it can be to have to lug a pump around with you, storing the milk and everything that entails. But it’s necessary for you to keep up with your milk supply.
5. Skin-to-Skin contact – It is a proven, scientific fact that skin to skin contact with your baby can help boost your milk supply. Also, since baby is so close to mom, baby can smell the milk and will want to nurse more, resulting in more milk production.
6. Herbs – Although I have not used herbs while breastfeeding, many women, including close friends, claim that natural herbs can help boost milk supply. The following is according to the Dr. Sears website. Some of these can be found and drank in tea form.
- Fenugreek seeds
- Milk thistle
- Asparagus racemosus
- Red raspberry
7. Breast over Bottle – Always – Now I know it might be unrealistic to say always, especially when you return to work. But if you have the option to choose breast vs. bottle do it. Even if you have milk stored in the fridge. I know there will be MANY nights where you will be exhausted and the last thing you want to do is wake up in the middle of the night to breastfeed, and we all know the husband is fully capable of giving a bottle, but I will put it this way…the more time baby spends feeding from the breast means more milk flow and more milk production.
8. Seek support – Don’t hesitate to call your doctor, the pediatrician or a lactation consultant if you have questions about breast feeding. Don’t give up! Breast milk is the best thing you can feed your baby, and although it can be hard, painful and frustrating at times, it is the best thing you can feed your child. Don’t give up without seeking support.
Have you been successful with breastfeeding? Are there any other tips you can offer other moms who might be having problems or thinking about stopping?
UPDATE: I figured it was time to post a little update on my breatfeeding progress. My baby girl is now a year old, two days ago in fact and we are still going strong. I will say though that my supply is coming in unevenly now, but that’s my fault. My left breast started getting really sore out of the blue, and breastfeeding became extremely painful on that side several months ago and I was forced to switch to nursing her with my right breast 100% of the time. After some time the left breast stopped producing and my right was the sole supplier, although, I still have occasional leaks here and there with my left. She has started eating and enjoying more solids but nursing still seems to be her main source of nutrition. I hope to continue to breastfeed her until at least 14 months which is when I stopped with my first.