There are so many decisions you have to make during your pregnancy and when you become a new mom. What stroller or car seat should you buy? How many diapers will I need to start out with? What will my baby wear home from the hospital? And so many more.
One of the most important questions you’ll want to decide is how you want to feed your baby. Now, here at The Everymom, we are totally Team #FedIsBest and believe that it doesn’t matter if you choose to exclusively pump, breastfeed, formula feed, or combo feed. As long as your baby is eating, that’s all that matters!
Breastfeeding is one of the ways you may choose to feed your baby. While there are many joys to breastfeeding, there are also moments of frustration, worry, and overall “am I doing this right?” feelings.
Here are seven ways to make your breastfeeding journey more enjoyable:
1. Have realistic expectations
When I first started breastfeeding, I didn’t expect the sore nipples, engorgement, or the cluster feeding that came along with it. And I also know other breastfeeding mothers who didn’t experience these things. The best thing you can do when starting out is to know that “normal” looks different for every mama and to set your expectations accordingly. Understand this process is new for you and that it’s completely OK if you are unsure of something along the way.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The single most important part of my breastfeeding journey has been the help and advice from my lactation consultant. There were moments when I was feeling frustrated, confused, and guilty for not knowing what I was doing—many times to the point where I almost decided to choose a different feeding option.
Each time, I made an in-home appointment with my lactation consultant, and through her advice, guidance, and procedures, she was able to reassure me that I was, in fact, doing just fine. Asking for help while breastfeeding (or, let’s be honest, in all of motherhood!) does not mean you’re weak or inadequate. It just means you’re human and want the best for you and your baby.
3. Stock up on your supplies
Who’s had a moment feeding your baby and your other breast starts leaking through your shirt? Or had chapped and sore nipples from a teething baby and nothing to soothe the pain in between feedings. Having your breastfeeding supply closet stocked with pads and ointments will help you avoid those inevitable breastfeeding moments that many mothers run in to.
4. Find your (breastfeeding) support system, love them hard
There is nothing better than asking another mom a question and hearing that you’re not alone in what you’re thinking or feeling. Find a community of breastfeeding mothers where you can ask your questions to others who may have experienced some of the things you’re going through. These communities can be local in your city or in a virtual group like this one on Facebook. As my child gets older, I’m in my online group weekly asking questions as they come up for me. And it’s nice to help other moms who are a bit behind you on their journey and answer their questions too.
5. Do your research
Leaning too heavily on Google to answer your questions at 3 a.m. can lead you down a rabbit hole of scary results. But there are a few credible sources out there that are worth keeping in your back pocket when you’re curious about your own journey. KellyMom and La Leche League are trusted websites among breastfeeding parents for everything from how many feedings your baby should get in a day to how to build up a freezer supply of breastmilk.
6. Buy easy nursing clothes
Having the right bra, tank top, or dress makes all the difference when it comes time to feed your baby. Nothing will fluster you faster than having to lift your dress all the way up or fuss with a bra not made for nursing mothers. New styles are coming out all the time from brands like Old Navy, Gap, and Target, and it truly does make you feel better when you have clothes that support the journey you’re on.
7. Drop the guilt and shame
Being a mother is beautiful and challenging, and breastfeeding is too. Because of that, there is no room for guilt and shame. Know that you are doing the best you can and that you don’t have to be perfect or feel like you need to do everything perfectly. Feelings of guilt or shame, from yourself or from others, around your choice to breastfeed will only make the journey more difficult. Choose to leave those feelings behind and continue to believe that you’re doing a great job every step of the way.
If you are a breastfeeding mom or are thinking of being one, know that it can be a really enjoyable experience between you and your baby. And again remember, no matter what, fed is always best!
This article was originally published in October 2019. It has been updated for timeliness.