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7 Tips for Breastfeeding Survival: How to Breastfeed

Updated on March 4, 2016

No one tells you how difficult it can be when you first start breastfeeding. It's the most natural thing in the world, right? Well, kinda. The truth is, in the beginning it's not easy (for you or baby), it can be extremely painful, and you may feel like giving up. Instead, stick to these tips on how to survive the early stages of breastfeeding.

  • Build a support system. Talk to the people closest to you about your decision to breastfeed, and ask for their support in helping you and baby get familiar with nursing. Be open and honest about what you need. Whether it be a glass of water or a shoulder to cry on, don't be afraid to ask! Also, seek out other moms who've been through it before. Ask for advice and their tried and true tips for getting through any rough patches along the breastfeeding journey.
  • Latching issues. It's a common misconception that it's second nature for babies to simply latch onto the breast and start nursing right away. It's a learning process for both mother and baby. Considering baby has never had to "work" for food up until this point, it's quite an adjustment. There's even a good & bad latch so it's critical to make sure your baby's latching properly for long term success. They learn to latch by consistent practice and correction if necessary. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance from nurses and even Lactation Consultants (Breastfeeding Specialists) during your stay at the hospital. Avoid "nipple confusion" by offering only the breast (no bottles or pacifiers) for at least two weeks.

  • Get comfortable. Get yourself into a comfortable position with baby before starting. Choose a position that works for the two of you, whether it be laying down or sitting up with a support pillow like the Boppy. Remember, you'll be here for a while. Have things close by like food & water, a mobile phone, ipod or laptop if you feel you may be hungry or need something more to pass the time.

  • Stay healthy. Your nutrition can have a major effect on milk production. It's just like when you were pregnant...you're eating for two! Not necessarily the amount of food you eat, but how nutritious it is. The same goes for drinking water. Don't go anywhere without water nearby (and be sure to drink it!). Not doing so could effect milk production. Along with a healthy diet, continue to take your prenatal vitamin to ensure anything you're not getting from food is supplemented.

  • Pump. Pumping helps establish your milk production to ensure your baby's getting enough food. It's also a lifesaver if you're engorged but it's not time to feed. You can save pumped milk in the fridge/freezer and give baby a bottle when he/she's ready. Allow daddy to give baby the bottle to build bonding between them, and give you a much needed rest. Invest in an electric pump like the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump, which can be used hands free and efficiently.

  • Treat sore nipples. Breastfeeding for about the first month can be extremely painful. Scabbing on the tip of the nipple is completely normal and WILL pass. Remember all that latch talk? A good latch makes it easier for your nipples to "toughen up" and basically build a resistance to all that sucking your baby does. In the meantime, treatment is key. One option is using a topical treatment like Lanisoh HPA Lanolin. Breast milk itself has healing properties as well, so try dabbing some of that pumped milk onto your nipples. Otherwise, simply excrete some of your milk and allow it to air dry on your nipples.

  • Dealing with Leaks. When your milk is initially getting established, it can be like a rush of fluid filling your breasts out of nowhere. Unlike the bladder which slowly fills until eventually full, the breasts can become suddenly engorged. This may cause noticeable leakage from your breasts that soaks your shirt/blouse. To avoid leaks, keep them inconspicuous by using a breast pad inside your bra to absorb any excess milk.

  • Don't give up. Just because breastfeeding takes time, energy, practice and commitment does NOT mean it isn't natural. The milk your body produces is the absolute BEST thing you can give your baby. In time it will get easier and even incredibly enjoyable! The bonding experience is like no other, and you'll feel an unbelievable sense of accomplishment after you've established your feeding routines.

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