Breastfeeding our newborn baby should be so simple and so natural shouldn’t it?
But from my first lonely – scary – night trying to breastfeed my newborn – and for a good 12 weeks more – breastfeeding felt anything but simple and anything but natural.
So in case you too are struggling to breastfeed your newborn, I wanted to share my breastfeeding story and the simple tips I finally found that stopped me from throwing in the towel and saw me happily breastfeeding for over a year.
Breastfeeding My Newborn
I had dutifully been to the baby classes where we all heard how wonderful breastfeeding would be. And I had devoured all the breastfeeding tips in my shelf load of pregnancy “manuals” but I still sucked at breastfeeding.
So what did I do?
I put out heartfelt pleas for help in breastfeeding forums and from friends and I devoured more and more ever more complicated breastfeeding tips, of course.
I faffed and fussed with my breastfeeding position. And obsessively checked baby’s latching position to make sure it was “proper” and not too deep or too shallow. I made long lists of food and snacks to make sure they weren’t causing low milk supply or the colic or reflux.
And I pumped. Oh yes, I pumped.
And to be brutally honest, it was one of the most miserable, soul destroying things I’ve ever done.
And at 12 weeks my daughter still wasn’t thriving and I was ready to chuck it in and accept my utter failure as a new mother.
But you know what?
I gave it one last chance. And I finally found the five simple breastfeeding tips that made all the difference.
The Breastfeeding Tips That Made All The Difference
Curiously, I didn’t really find these breastfeeding tips in the pregnancy manuals or on the breastfeeding forums.
And I didn’t really hear them from my friends.
I actually heard them – when I finally stopped and listened – from my mother. They were as old as the hills. And they were simple. And they worked because they were simple.
And with their help I happily breastfed my baby for almost 18 months and even when I went back to work, I did it without pumping.
So if your head is spinning from worrying about the “proper” breastfeeding technique and the “right” breastfeeding schedule and the “correct” breastfeeding diet and you long to slow down and quietly enjoy breastfeeding your baby then do give them a go.
I really hope they help you as much as they helped me.
5 Very Simple Breastfeeding Tips
1. Sleep & Rest
The simple truth is, it is very hard for most of us to breastfeed successfully without sufficient sleep and rest.
When I was struggling to breastfeed I found the first feed of the day – when we both had had at least a little sleep – was as good as it got. As my sleep deprivation got worse throughout the day, breastfeeding got worse too.
There’s a pretty simple explanation for this. The longer we have to go without sleep the more our bodies rely on adrenalin to keep going. And the more in turn our bodies produce the stress hormone, cortisol.
Excess adrenalin and cortisol and lactation are just not friends.
And so whilst yes, there are some mothers of newborns who have the energy to build a house before breakfast with a breastfeeding baby clamped to each breast, most new mothers need much more sleep than we allow ourselves in our crazy busy, fast moving, modern world.
This might seem blindingly obvious. But the simple impact of more sleep on successful breastfeeding is mind blowing. I saw it myself.
So try every which way you can to get more sleep:
- Get as much rest as possible in the weeks before baby’s birth.
- Sleep every moment you can in the first few weeks at home with your newborn. Call in every favour you can to help this happen.
- Sleep when they sleep.
- Take a long midday nap whenever you have someone else around who can look after baby whilst you sleep.
- Have an evening nap before the last feed of the day.
Tip four was the big game changer for me. My mum would come over two or three days a week so I could have a lunchtime nap. My “low milk supply” improved almost instantly.
2. Skin to Skin Contact
You may have read about the benefits of skin to skin contact immediately after birth to help get milk flowing but it continues to help our newborns breastfeed successfully for weeks and weeks afterwards.
It makes sense when you think about it.
Babies have been successfully finding our breasts and latching on without a manual for hundreds of thousands of years!!! But all the paraphernalia of fancy maternity bras and clothing just gets in the way.
So take every opportunity you can to sit in bed and bare all and give your baby a chance to find your breasts for themselves without constantly ramming their head into the “correct” position.
Being able to breastfeed in public is all very well but in the early days and for the big feeds its much easier to really get our boobs out at home. It can also help to prevent the agony of mastitis.
3. Eat Simply, Eat well
But getting three meals a day is crazily hard enough when we’re battling sleep deprivation so any tips that make preparing them harder are guaranteed to make matters worse.
So write yourself the simplest possible 7 day meal plan and rotate it and rotate it and rotate it again. Yes it will be dull but it will keep us off the biscuits. Which is good because sugar and lactation just don’t get on.
Simple protein, calcium and iron rich foods you can chuck together in 5 minutes without a recipe is key e.g.:
- Bowls of porridge with flax seed chucked in
- Beef or fish stir fry – get friends to cut and freeze ready to go rainbow mixes for you
- A steak sandwich with spinach
- Grilled salmon with a jacket potato
- Eggs on toast with spinach
- Houmous on toast (freeze good wholemeal sliced bread so you never run out)
- Baked beans on toast
- Hard boiled eggs – they will keep for a week in the fridge
- Natural full fat yoghurt with granola
- Oat cakes & cottage cheese
- Trail mix & dried apricots and a glass of milk
Don’t worry about what you eat when. If all you’ve got to hand at lunchtime is oats and milk just chuck the cold milk on the oats and scoff it down. Just whatever you do, don’t put off eating and don’t skip meals.
4. Plenty of Fluids
When we’re exhausted and struggling and complicating everything by checking up on ourselves every other minute in the “Mothering Manual” or on “Dr Google”, it’s very, very easy to miss the blindingly obvious.
Like the fact we’re dehydrated.
And breastfeeding, unsurprisingly, suffers when we’re dehydrated.
All we need to do is fill up a cup of water bottles at the beginning of the day and make sure slowly but surely we’ve emptied them before we go to bed.
It is so simple but it helps.
5. Slow Down
We beat ourselves up about so much as new mothers. We convince ourselves we’re failures and rubbish at all the new stuff we’re trying to learn.
The truth is we’re not.
But there is one thing, most of us are really rubbish at in the modern world and that’s slowing down.
And that’s really rubbish for breastfeeding.
Newborn babies not only need time to feed, they need time with us doing absolutely nothing. Just being. This – not fancy massage classes and what not – is how they really relax.
And a relaxed baby finds it much easier to feed.
And so does a relaxed mother who isn’t pumped full of adrenalin and cortisol.
The thing is though, lots of us adults need company, most of the time. We end up rushing around, signing babies up for this “class” and that, because we don’t want to be on our own.
And if we’re honest are quite scared of it. And that’s OK. It’s quite normal.
So our challenge is to find a way to be social without getting caught up in a whirl of “baby social” activities that stop us slowing down.
And we also need to be brutally honest about the challenge of work and breastfeeding: it is hard to do both.
There are plenty of mothers who do master the whole pumping thing and pile up great supplies of perfectly filed milk. But many of us don’t.
Alternatively, it is possible to just breastfeed when you’re at home. This worked well for me for a good seven months but it doesn’t for everyone.
So we may face a choice: slow down or give up breastfeeding.
Many of us don’t want to confront this choice because we have invested so much in a story that says we as women can have it all without slowing down. But when I did slow down, I finally heard what my mother had been gently trying to share with me for so long.
The great gift our mothers and grandmothers gave us was not the promise of everything we ever wanted – because that’s fairy land – but the freedom to chose for ourselves and make hard decisions in our own way.
So I do hope these simple tips – they really are as old as time – help you enjoy breastfeeding your baby but also to make the choices that are right for you and your family.
Please do follow me on Pinterest and have a read of these posts:
- 12 Simple Baby Sleep Tips
- 12 Natural Remedies for Baby Colic
- 25 Natural Remedies For Baby Reflux
- Natural Remedies For Mastitis