Breastfeeding is an incredibly heroic act. The many sacrifices that mothers make to provide their baby with the best possible nutrients is worthy of constant praise. MAMA, YOU ARE A SUPERHERO! Breastfeeding is not easy: cracked nipples, engorgement, time constraints, nursing on the go, low milk supply...the challenges are endless, BUT, it is so worth it.
Did you know that breast milk is perfectly designed to give your baby all the nutrients they need for the first six months of their life? And that the miraculous health benefits of breastfeeding continue well past a year? Breast milk even changes based on your baby's needs, age, and the time of day. (Bjarnadottir, 2020) Now that’s impressive.
In the wise words of John Medina, “If America knew what breast milk can do for the brains of its youngest citizens, lactating mothers across the nation would be enshrined, not embarrassed.” (2014, p. 85)
I nursed my two-year-old daughter, Darcy, until she was 18 months old, and it's one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am also expecting another baby girl in two months and plan to do the same. To me, breastfeeding is an opportunity to snuggle my beautiful baby while strengthening her immune system, preventing infection, and creating a stronger bond. However, nursing and pumping wasn’t always easy, especially in the beginning.
I struggled with a low milk supply, mastitis, and a host of other difficulties that many lactating moms experience. After thorough research and seeking guidance from others, I learned that the benefits of continuing to nurse my daughter were well worth the time and effort to overcome each obstacle. Here are a few tips that helped me reach my breastfeeding goals:
Establish a Solid Support System
When I decided to pump at work three times a day, and continued nursing longer than six months, most of my family members thought that I should be weaning instead. Many of the moms I knew either stopped nursing or slowed down considerably when they returned to work, and/or were unaware of the continued benefits of breast milk. I had to go out of my comfort zone to find moms who continued their breastfeeding journey for as long as I hoped to, and I can’t tell you what a relief it was to talk to other moms who shared my enthusiasm for breastfeeding. It’s okay to have different parenting styles than the people closest to you, but also know that there are other people out there and amazing breastfeeding organizations to cheer you on and offer advice that align more with your own goals.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy
If you have ever nursed or pumped before, you know how thirsty and hungry it makes you. Take care of yourself by drinking plenty of water and by eating nutritional foods. Breastfeeding uses a lot of energy and nutrients, so make sure to choose foods high in protein, calcium, and iron. A balanced diet is not only healthier for your baby, but it will also help you feel better, improve your mood, and speed up postpartum recovery. (Bjarnadottir, 2020)
Don’t Buy It All, Just Get What Works
There are a ton of products marketed to new parents, and it can be overwhelming to figure out what you really need. Here are a few products that were game changers for me.
I could never find quite the right pillow arrangement to make nursing more comfortable, and then I discovered the Nurse-sling. It provided me with an additional, much needed hand. Plus it’s super easy to throw in the back of the stroller on long walks or to take on trips. Just because you’re breastfeeding, doesn’t mean the adventures have to stop!
The first few weeks of nursing I was particularly sore. I used hot and cold washcloths on my breasts to help with engorgement and blocked milk ducts. Then a friend got me these handy Therapy Packs that can be both hot or cold, and they eased my discomfort tremendously.
The Haakaa Pump is one of my very favorite breastfeeding products; thanks to this manual pump, I saved at least eight additional ounces of milk each day. Every drop counts!
Think Positively, Speak Positively
What you say affects how you think, and what you think affects what you say. This might sound obvious, but truly understanding this concept and harnessing your thoughts and words takes focus and self awareness. Pay attention to how you respond when someone asks you how you and your baby are doing. Did you list all your complaints and how many hours of sleep you’ve gotten this week? Or did you sing your baby’s praises and share your latest victories? And during that last 3 AM feeding, did you smile down at your baby and sing her favorite song, or did you scowl and rethink every life decision that led you to that exhausting moment? Challenge yourself to focus on all the positive benefits of breastfeeding for you and for your baby. This will also create more positive memories of this precious time that you can cherish for the rest of your life.
Trust Your Instincts
My plan was to stop breastfeeding when Darcy was a year old. However, as soon as her birthday began to approach I felt so anxious about quitting. A colleague asked me why I was going to stop, and I realized that I had no logical reason other than that I thought I was “supposed” to stop. I then completely changed my mindset and decided that I would go with my gut and stop when Darcy and I were ready. Plus, thanks to some additional research, I learned that all major health organizations recommend breastfeeding for at least a year, and the World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least two years because breast milk is that healthy. Trust your instincts and do the research before giving into societal pressures.
At Humble Bee we want you to feel empowered and supported. We are here to provide you with research based information, encouragement, and parent approved baby products that we truly believe in. Parenting is an awesome journey, and we are here for every adventure along the way.
Bjarnadottir, A. (2020, August 13). 11 Benefits of Breastfeeding for Both Mom and Baby. Healthline.https://www.healthline.com/health/breastfeeding/11-benefits-of-breastfeeding.
Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules for Baby: How to raise a smart and happy child from zero to five. Pear Press.
Bjarnadottir, A. (2020, July 30). Guide to the Breastfeeding Diet 101. Healthline.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/breastfeeding-diet-101.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 9). Recommendations and Benefits of Breastfeeding.https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/breastfeeding/recommendations-benefits. html.
World Health Organization. (2021). Breastfeeding. https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1.