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My Five Favorite Breastfeeding Tips

My Five Favorite Breastfeeding Tips

“Breastfeeding is best.” And then there’s the inevitable, “BUT…” Frankly, I’m not surprised by the recent backlash against breastfeeding. No wonder mothers have even begun to contest the huge body of research heralding the benefits of breastfeeding.

Why? Instead of making it easy for women to breastfeed, society does virtually nothing but tell mothers what’s best and immediately imply they will fail. Who wants to feel inadequate? What mother feels good doing only second best? I cannot think of a quicker way to spark protective denial than to attack the choices a mother has made for her offspring.

If we really want to improve breastfeeding rates, we need to hear: “Breast is best, here’s how to succeed.” I know that there are special cases where breast may not be possible at every feeding – preemies with health issues, multiples, working moms without supportive companies – but in most cases, we as a culture have a responsibility to help moms succeed. We should start our conversations with “Breast IS NORMAL.”

“Normal” not from the statistic norm in the United States (only 14% of mothers exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months), but rather “Normal” from the perspective of the behavior Mother Nature designed for the Mammalia (Mammal) class of which we are a part (the class Mammalia originates from mammary glands exclusively used by all other mammals to nourish offspring).Of course, unlike other mammals, many human mothers face the challenge of working separated from their offspring, and therefore need the aid of bottles, pumps, and other gear. Today, I simply want to help mothers successfully feed a baby at the breast.

I will preface my post with a disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant, a doctor, or a nurse. I am simply a breastfeeding mother who’s nursed two children nearly 4 years of her life, and helped many friends struggling with breastfeeding issues. The fact is, breastfeeding is as much a social, learned art as it is a biological process. By openly discussing breastfeeding, the information I’ve gathered with other mothers, I hope to fill the void left by this “Breast is Best, BUT” mentality and help others refine this womanly art.

My Favorite Five Tips:1. Before giving birth, get informed.

My favorite website is Kellymom, run by a lactation consultant providing reams of studies supporting all elements of breastfeeding. This is her informative list of breastfeeding preparation tips. She also has a list of books to avoid because they could sabotage your breastfeeding relationship, and books to read because they provide excellent evidence-based information.

2. Nothing But Mother’s Breast – Write it In Your Birth Plan!

In addition to your plan for the actual birth of your baby, clearly state that your newborn receive NOTHING BUT MAMA! No pacifiers, no water, no sugar, no formula, nothing nothing, nothing but your breast to avoid potentially devastating nipple confusion.

Your partner or doula can act as a guard to make sure the baby is not exposed to anything but your breast in the hospital. Kellymom suggests making a sign for your baby’s bassinet that states, “I AM A BREASTFED BABY. No artificial nipples, formula or pacifiers please!!” I also refused to have any formula or bottles in my home until my babies were over a month old, just to make sure any temptation to give up in the face of difficulty wouldn’t be easily met.

I’ve known way too many mothers who’ve lost their ability to breastfeed because their babies were exposed to artificial nipples and subsequently refused the breast forever. It’s been heartwrenching to watch them choose between months of exclusive pumping or breast milk substitutes.

3. Get familiar with breastfeeding beforehand, make sure you know what a good latch looks like.

I attended one breastfeeding workshop prior to giving birth. Although not anything like the real thing, it planted seeds in my head. Things to look for, ideas to try, a person to contact if I needed help at the last minute. You could attend a La Leche League meeting before you give birth to begin to develop familiarity with the breastfeeding process. You could also check out Dr. Sears website for some images of successful latching.

4. Immediately after birth, nurse and nurse and nurse!

Place your baby on your chest (skin to skin contact best) shortly after birth and begin trying to breastfeed within 30 minutes. Babies who are breastfed quickly after birth have higher chances of success than babies fed later. Delay any medical procedures as long as possible and just keep offering the baby your breast. Let the baby nurse as long as they want – more time at the breast stimulates milk production even if the baby is not swallowing milk the entire time.

5. Trust yourself to succeed, but get help right away if you’re struggling.

Breastfeeding is a natural process, and for many women it goes fine. Many women, however, lack the cultural support and optimal birthing conditions that make success straightforward, so it helps to make sure you have the number for a lactation consultant with good references (or a midwife) before you give birth. They should watch you breastfeeding and make sure things look good in those first few days. If you have any concerns at all, seek a second opinion, or ask for more advice and help immediately. Waiting for help can create a situation where you feel pressured to use supplements or artificial nipples that can forever alter your chances of successful breastfeeding.

These are just my favorite tips. Feel free to add advice below that helped you, your friends, or family breastfeed successfully.

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37 comments

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2:48PM PDT on May 28, 2010

Thanks for all the info

10:08AM PDT on Apr 9, 2010

Lowering the c-section rate would help a lot. Around here, it's something like 50%. Yikes!
Also, for me, it was more important that our child be breastfed, and raised by us, than anything else, including being able to buy a home, putting away money for retirement, etc. This was our decision and we don't regret it.

2:19PM PST on Feb 25, 2010

Second, DON'T GIVE UP! Unless you literally, medically cannot produce enough milk for your baby, or your milk makes the baby sick, keep trying, because you CAN do it. If your doctor suggests formula instead, tell him/her you'd like to avoid that if at all possible and to please not suggest it anymore. If your friends or spouse are pushing you toward formula, even if they think it's for your own good, ask them to stop and find someone else to talk to who will encourage you to keep breastfeeding. You know that this is what's best for you and your baby, don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

2:17PM PST on Feb 25, 2010

I just had my baby last Thursday, February 18th and because I had a c-section it took 3 days for my colostrum to even come in. The nurses were supportive and had me use a small tube with a syringe full of formula laid beside my nipple for Lily to nurse, or a slightly larger tube on my fingertip when she got too hungry and impatient with the breast. I pumped my breasts for 10-15 minutes after each feeding to help stimulate production, and was extremely relieved when I finally got my first milk. It took a few horrible days of exclusive breast to get her to stop fighting me and screaming when I fed her, but now she's used to it and likes nursing.

My first piece of advice is this: Get some help! Talk to your mother, sisters, spouse, friends, doctor, nurse, lactation consultant, anyone that you can BEFORE you have the baby and let them know that you want to breastfeed and need their encouragement and help. I didn't get help or talk about needing support until after I came home and started getting so frustrated I considered giving up, but talking with my lactation consultant and fiance have made such a big difference. Plus, talking to someone who'd done this before reassured me that I was doing it right and everything I was feeling is normal (I have VERY sensitive nipples so I'm in a LOT of pain when I start nursing, thank goodness it should get better in a week or so), and reminds me that everything I'm going through is worth it.

2:35PM PDT on May 19, 2009

I breastfeed my son until he was 1 year and 7 months. He pushed by breast aside and said, "Read book." He is now 23 years old and has been so healthy all his life. Rarely a cold or flu, no allergies. It's the best thing I could have done for him.

7:32PM PDT on May 16, 2009

This comment is for Jessie, who wondered at what age she can expect her twins to wean themselves or whether she should instead consider "cutting them off." I nursed two sons on demand. The first one declared one sunny afternoon at the age of 3 years 3 months that he had decided to "stop nursing forever." I doubted that a three year old had integrated the concept of "forever," but true to his word, he stopped nursing that day and did not pick it up again. He did have a pacifier, which he used a bit extra just after weaning but eventually stopped that, too. My younger son stopped nursing at the age of three years and six months. It wasn't his idea to stop but one night, he noted when he tried to nurse that "there was no more milk". I told him that if the milk had finally run out, that I guessed he was done nursing. He accepted this without dismay and we went on to read the book he had selected for that night.

I got a lot of negative feedback from people who thought I was nursing "too long" or that I should rely on my doctor to "tell me when it was time to stop nursing." I thought this was ridiculous; my children and I were the best ones to determine when they were ready to wean. As my boys got older, they nursed less often and by the time they ended, it was the last feeding before sleep that they most relied upon. As food, books and other forms of "sophisticated" stimulation began to interest them, nursing became a special but more contained activity.

7:02PM PDT on May 16, 2009

This comment is for Jessie, who wondered at what age she can expect her twins to wean themselves or whether she should instead consider "cutting them off." I nursed two sons on demand. The first one declared one sunny afternoon at the age of 3 years 3 months that he had decided to "stop nursing forever." I doubted that a three year old had integrated the concept of "forever," but true to his word, he stopped nursing that day and did not pick it up again. He did have a pacifier, which he used a bit extra just after weaning but eventually stopped that, too. My younger son stopped nursing at the age of three years and six months. It wasn't his idea to stop but one night, he noted when he tried to nurse that "there was no more milk". I told him that if the milk had finally run out, that I guessed he was done nursing. He accepted this without dismay and we went on to read the book he had selected for that night.

I got a lot of negative feedback from people who thought I was nursing "too long" or that I should rely on my doctor to "tell me when it was time to stop nursing." I thought this was ridiculous; my children and I were the best ones to determine when they were ready to wean. As my boys got older, they nursed less often and by the time they ended, it was the last feeding before sleep that they most relied upon. As food, books and other forms of "sophisticated" stimulation began to interest them, nursing became a special but more contained activity.

10:37PM PDT on May 15, 2009

I nursed both my children until 2 1/2 yrs and 4 yrs. respectively. I was told by my midwife that breastfed children have softer skin and better jaw development often avoiding braces as a result. Suckling develops strong jaw muscles and also allows the uterus to contract back to normal. I always lost my pregnancy weight through nursing and felt stronger as a result. Also never believed in the old 'well-baby visit' as a mother can tell if her child is healthy and growing properly. They're just a ruse to get you in the system and intimidate you into having your child vaccinated. However, if a child were not thriving, then by all means get some advice either from a lactation consultant or a doctor that you trust. My babies were 8 # 7 oz and 9# 12 oz. Even though my daughter was petite at age two, she was developing normally and is now 19 and 5'7" and 135#. My son is 16 and is 6'0" and 150# and all lean muscle. You are your child's best doctor and mother knows best.

10:23PM PDT on May 15, 2009

As part of the birth plan, be sure to do your homework on vaccine dangers and avoid the hepB shot routinely given to babies by 12 hours of birth. 12.5 mcgs. of ethyl mercury is 'acceptable' per the EPA if your baby weighs appx 200#. By the time a child is 6 yrs of age, they've received upwards of 48 doses of 14 vaccines. Google search Dr. Hugh Fudenberg and Harris Coulter for their medical studies on vaccine reactions/damage. www.nvic.org www.thinktwice.com www.mercola.com

7:20PM PDT on May 15, 2009

Jessie, Don't let anyone pressure you! You and your babies will know when it's time.We gradually weaned ourselves, getting down to the bedtime nurse ...then out of nowhere they just stopped. Both my daughters were around two. I also got a bit of "pressure", I would just smile and then ignore!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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