During World Breastfeeding Week, as a breastfeeding mother myself, I aim to shed light on the lesser-discussed challenges. And offer tips to make the journey easier, because every mom deserves support and encouragement on this beautiful and sometimes bumpy journey.
World Breastfeeding Week: My First-Hand Experience
Hey everyone! If you’ve been following our page, you probably know that I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl recently on the 15th of June. Let me tell you, the journey into parenthood hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for me.
First off, my birth plan got completely derailed due to preeclampsia, and I ended up having an emergency C-section with a backup gynaecologist because mine was on leave. If that wasn’t enough, my breastfeeding journey has been rockier than expected.
But let me pause and acknowledge how truly blessed I am to have a healthy baby girl and be doing well myself.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned early on in parenthood: things rarely go as planned. And believe me, I’m a planner through and through. If someone tells me to “go with the flow,” I’m the type to ask, “Sure, but when does the flow actually start?”
But when it comes to breastfeeding, my milk “flow” hasn’t been what I anticipated. So, during this World Breastfeeding Week (my first as a breastfeeding mom), I want to share my story and offer encouragement to any moms out there who might be struggling or feeling alone.
Breastfeeding, something so natural and beautiful, doesn’t always come easily or naturally. And you know what surprised me? Before I faced my own struggles, I had no idea how many women go through difficulties with breastfeeding. It’s like a secret society that nobody talks about.
After reaching out for help, I can tell you that even the professionals – three lactation consultants in my case – all emphasised that breastfeeding is a skill both mom and baby have to learn together. We need to find our groove and discover what works for us while waiting for things like the milk to come in.
In my case, the main challenge has been my milk supply. Ever since I was in the hospital, it’s been a concern, and I’ve had to supplement with formula. Yes, I said it – formula! It’s something that’s often taboo and rarely discussed openly. And even though, as a dietitian, I’m usually all about “Breast is Best,” I’m persevering through the difficulties because I really want to breastfeed, but at the end of the day, a fed baby is what matters most.
I’m doing everything I can to boost my supply: fenugreek, jungle juice, berry elixir, oats, staying hydrated, and my doctor even prescribed medication. Do I hope my supply increases so that I can exclusively breastfeed soon? Absolutely! But for now, I’m grateful that science has advanced enough to provide alternatives that help me nourish my baby despite the challenges.
Whatever struggle you’re facing, poor latching, low supply, a quick letdown, or any other breastfeeding obstacle, I want to encourage you not to give up or despair. Seek help! This article isn’t about giving all the solutions because, let’s be honest, a lactation consultant can provide much better and more personalised advice than I ever could in an article.
So, if you’re facing difficulties, reach out to a lactation consultant or healthcare professional who can guide you through your unique journey. Remember, you’re not alone, and there is support available to help you navigate these challenges.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and recognise the efforts of all the amazing moms out there, no matter the path they choose to feed their little ones. Keep going, mamas! You’re doing an incredible job!
Some handy tips that can help make your breastfeeding journey a little easier:
- Get comfy in your own unique position: There are popular breastfeeding positions like the cradle hold or football hold, but don’t be afraid to find the position that feels most comfortable for you and your baby. Try different positions and use pillows or nursing cushions to support your arms, back, and the baby.
- Give TLC to your nipples: Sore nipples are a common struggle for breastfeeding moms. To prevent or soothe soreness, make sure your baby is latching on correctly. If you’re experiencing discomfort, reach out to a lactation consultant or healthcare professional for guidance. Hey, did you know you can try some soothing tricks? Apply lanolin or other nipple creams, or use breast shells between feedings. I even found relief by using a Haakaa with hot water and Epsom salts to give my nipples a steam treatment (because let’s face it, who has time to soak their bare breasts?). Call in the help of a physiotherapist with their infrared lights. There are some on sale on Takealot as well, but I cannot vouch for their effectiveness.
- Hydration and nutrition are key: Breastfeeding requires extra calories and hydration, so take care of yourself too! Drink plenty of water throughout the day and have a well-balanced diet with whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Keep healthy snacks within reach during your breastfeeding sessions. Trust me, it helps. More on this in the next section.
- Don’t neglect your mental and emotional well-being: Breastfeeding can be physically demanding and emotionally draining. Take time for self-care and don’t hesitate to ask for support when needed. Connect with other breastfeeding moms through local support groups or online communities. Remember to take breaks, rest when you can, and engage in activities that help you relax and unwind. You deserve it!
- Cluster feeding and growth spurts are normal: Don’t worry if your baby wants to feed more frequently and for longer periods of time. It’s called cluster feeding, and it often happens during growth spurts. You might feel like you’re not producing enough milk, but trust me, you are. Cluster feeding actually helps increase your milk supply to meet your baby’s growing needs. So nurse on demand, offer comfort, and seek support during these periods. You’re doing great! Seeing as low production is my big concern, I also looked into power-pumping (also called cluster pumping). It mimics cluster feeding and in that way increases supply because it works on supply and demand.
- Patience is key, trust your instincts: Remember, breastfeeding is a learning process for both you and your baby. It takes time to establish a routine and for your milk supply to stabilise. Be patient with yourself and your little one, trust your instincts, and reach out to healthcare professionals or lactation consultants whenever you have questions or concerns. They’re there to help.
Keep in mind that every breastfeeding journey is unique. What works for one mom may not work for another. So trust yourself and your baby. You’ve got this, momma!
Staying Hydrated and Nourished
Let’s talk about the essential task of nourishing ourselves while navigating the world of breastfeeding. Trust me, I quickly learned how to multitask and satisfy my increased energy needs while feeding my little one. It’s all about finding those easy-to-consume meals and snacks that make life a little smoother.
Picture this: countless evenings and early mornings spent with a Yogisip in one hand, a piece of fruit or a granola bar in the other, all while feeding my baby. And meal times? Well, they became one-handed affairs too!
So, here are a few tips to help you meet your energy needs:
- Set yourself up for success: Having food and snacks within arm’s reach makes it much easier to eat regularly. Keep handy options like fruit, drinking yogurts or smoothies, granola bars, sandwiches, oat flapjacks, and whatever else tickles your taste buds. Now, I won’t give you specific brands for smoothies or granola bars, but here’s a video that can give you some guidance. I know many moms are eager to shed the baby weight, but please remember that restricting your food intake can be counterproductive and not great for your milk supply. Trust me, intuitive eating is your friend here. What you resist persists, and you might end up craving those restricted items even more.
- Aim for progress over perfection: We all have those days when we barely have time to sit down for a meal. But here’s the secret: even small steps count. If you would have skipped a meal, but you manage to grab a slice of bread, or if you buy a rotisserie chicken and just add some salad, or even if you have cereal for dinner – guess what? You did better than skipping that meal altogether. Cut yourself some slack and don’t be too hard on yourself about what counts as a meal or a snack. Energy is energy. Think of food as fuel for your body. Whether you fill up from empty to full or have several stops for a bit of fuel, you’re still moving forward.
- Plan ahead: If you’re still pregnant and eagerly awaiting your little one’s arrival, take the time to make or buy freezer-friendly meals. Trust me, on those busy or rough days, you’ll thank yourself for having those meals ready to defrost. It’s a lifesaver!
- Bite-sized food is your friend: If you can have someone cut your food into manageable, bite-sized pieces, or if you take the time to do it yourself, you’ll find it much easier to feed yourself and listen to your hunger cues and attending to your baby at the same time. It’s all about making life a little simpler.
Remember, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby. So, nourish yourself with good food and stay hydrated. You’re doing an amazing job, and these small steps will make your breastfeeding journey a little smoother and more enjoyable. Cheers to you, super mom!
Breastfeeding is a journey filled with ups and downs, and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your struggles. As a new breastfeeding mother myself, I’ve experienced unexpected challenges along the way, but I’ve also found support and solutions that have helped me navigate this journey. The key is to reach out for help when needed and to approach breastfeeding with patience and trust in yourself and your baby. Remember that each breastfeeding journey is unique, and what works for one mother may not work for another. Stay hydrated, nourished, and take care of your mental and emotional well-being. Most importantly, know that you are doing your best and that the well-being of both you and your baby is what truly matters. Happy breastfeeding and happy World Breastfeeding Week!