Breastfeeding may be the healthiest choice for your baby but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest one. In fact, nursing can be downright difficult at times. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79% of mothers breastfeed soon after birth. Yet breastfeeding does not continue for as long as recommended. At 6 months only 49% of women are still breastfeeding and at 12 months it falls to 27%1.
But don’t let the challenges of breastfeeding stop you from doing it. A little planning, some helpful tips and advice, and a bit of patience may be all that is needed to help smooth things out. Here are a few ideas to help make your breastfeeding experience easier.
1- Start early
Feeding your baby in the first few hours following birth can get you off to a great start. Soon after delivery while cuddling your newborn, give breastfeeding a shot right then. Don’t worry about your baby not knowing what to do. A newborn’s sense of smell, touch, and sound heighten in that first hour after birth. They’re neurologically wired to find the breast so don’t delay if possible.
2- Consider using a lactation consultant
Most hospitals have certified lactation consultants on site who are more than happy to meet with new mothers before and after delivery. For those who opt for a home birth, you can always make an appointment to have a consultant visit you at home. Just make sure you arrange this well in advance.
Lactation consultants are an invaluable resource. They’ll be able to provide personalized one-on-one advice, talk you through any problems you might be having, and, of course, guide you through your first few breastfeeding experiences to make sure that you’ve got the hang of it.
3- Avoid pacifiers at first
Wait until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a pacifier. If you’re breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old, and you’ve settled into an effective nursing routine2.
Introducing a pacifier too soon can suppress a baby’s hunger cues and steal time from the breast during this critical period. After that, offering a pacifier shouldn’t hurt.
4- Go skin-to-skin
In skin-to-skin care, the baby is naked (minus a cap and diaper) and is on the mother’s bare chest, between her breasts. A blanket should be draped over both mom and baby for warmth. Studies show that skin-to-skin contact helps regulate your baby’s temperature, their heart rate, and their breathing. A calmer baby is a happier baby which can make feedings much easier and more relaxing.
5- Lie on your side while breastfeeding
It’s a simple thing but your positioning while breastfeeding can make a big difference. Lying on your side lets you rest your shoulders and lower back and it’s good for moms who’ve had a C-section.
6- Let your partner help out
Significant others have a big role to play. After you’ve established breastfeeding, let your partner help with early morning or middle-of-the-night feedings.
This means that from time to time you’ll have to pump breast milk. There are lots of guides and great resources available if help is needed in this area. The bottom line is: Get as much help as possible wherever you can. A little more sleep (especially in the early days of being a new mom) is always a good thing.
1- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Breastfeeding Report Card United States 2014. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2014breastfeedingreportcard.pdf
2- Mayo Clinic. Infant and toddler. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/pacifiers/art-20048140?pg=2
3- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). AAP Reaffirms Breastfeeding Guidelines. 2/27/2012. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/aap-reaffirms-breastfeeding-guidelines.aspx