Breastfeeding is hard! Breastfeeding is easy! You will hear both of these proclamations. Which is it? The truth is it can be hard for some mamas, and it can be easy peasy for others. I’m going to share ten steps that can make your breastfeeding journey easier. I am all about making life for a new mom easier.

Mama, have you heard the phrase, little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems? Anyone who has said that clearly hasn’t been trying to breastfeed a screaming baby at 2 am when she is going on about twenty minutes of sleep for the last two days.

Some days will be easier than others. Most moms do hit that magic moment when they think to themselves; this is easy!

I’m going to tell you the secrets to make breastfeeding easier for you.

The Ten Steps

Step 1 –Take a class

Photo credit: nateOne on Visualhunt / CC BY

Think about all the time that you put into preparing for the birth. Now think about how little time most moms put into preparing to breastfeed. Most of the breastfeeding preparation time involves taking a class that is about two hours long.  The rest of the breastfeeding prep time is spending time trying to decide what pump and other products to get. I promise you, babies can and do, breastfeed every day without pumps, pillows and all the other things you have been told to buy. However, the education is pretty important, so make sure you don’t neglect it.

  • Education
    • Take a class – this is one of the most important things you can do to prepare. In person or online, pick the option that works best for you.
    • While you are pregnant, it can be difficult to think about what is going to happen after the baby arrives. This is normal. Most moms are just focused on getting the baby out of their body, so don’t expect to learn everything you will ever need to know about breastfeeding in one class. If the class tries to teach you all that, you will zone out and not hear anything after the first hour, two hours max. It would take hours to teach a class where you learn everything about breastfeeding that you need to know.
    • Look for a class that will prepare you for the first couple of weeks.

Step 2 – Choose a supportive health care provider for your baby

A health care provider who knows their stuff when it comes to breastfeeding is going to make the difference over whether you stress about every little detail or whether you feel confident and reassured about how things are going.

Read more about how to figure this out when interviewing a health care provider for your little one in my article here. You can read the whole thing or just jump down to tip #4.

5 Easy to Remember Tips for Surviving the First Week of Breastfeeding

Step 3 -Line up at least two Lactation Consultants.

Photo credit: Joint Base Lewis McChord on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

You need someone you can call to ask questions and who you can see if you need a face to face lactation consult. Read more about this here:

Getting Help With Breastfeeding

Step 4 – Know the most common problems

  • Concern about milk supply. This is one of the most common reasons that moms say is the reason they gave up breastfeeding before they had planned to, even if their baby is thriving on their breast milk. I have had moms with a chubby baby tell me that they are worried that their baby isn’t getting enough to eat. I look at their little chubster, with leg rolls and a double chin and say, “I don’t think this one is missing any meals. We have a good laugh, and then I look her in the eyes and say, Just. Stop. Worrying!
  • Why moms worry about this
    • Their baby eats very often.
      • This can be very normal.
    • They don’t have a supportive support network of family and friends.
    • They compare themselves or their baby to other moms and babies.
    • When they pump, they don’t get as much as they think they should, often because they are comparing themselves to other moms.
  • Sore Nipples is the other most common reason for giving up breastfeeding.

Sore Nipples

Step 5 – Build your tribe 

You need people who will support you during your breastfeeding journey

  • Friends
    • Do you have any friends who are breastfeeding?
    • Even if you were not close to someone before, you might find that you will enjoy spending time together now that you breastfeeding in common. Reach out to them, even if your babies are not exactly the same age.
  • If you don’t have anyone who fits the above description, join some Mom and breastfeeding groups. A hospital or community center can be a good place to look for these.

Step 6 – Get Some Stuff That Will Make Life Easier

Products – you don’t need everything they tell you to buy! Almost everything you are told to buy can be replaced with things you have around your house. If you want to buy things, these are some things that other moms find useful. I have also included ways you can make do with what you have around the house.

    • Nursing stool
      • A box. Most people have boxes. Find one that brings your legs up to a comfortable height, one that encourages you to sit back and relax. If you want to make the box pretty, put some wrapping paper on it. If you have a hot glue gun and some fabric laying around, you could cover it with that.
    • Nursing bra and tanks
      • I am working on instructions for making things like this out of what you have. Sign up for that when you see it available. Look for it within the next couple of weeks.
    • Nursing pads. I recommend some nice flannel pads. You could sew these yourself if you have some leftover flannel from a sewing project. You could also take an old towel and cut some circles out of it.
    • Nursing pillow
      • Any pillow can make nursing more comfortable.
    • A pump – check if your insurance will provide one. There’s no do-it-yourself replacement for this. I write about choosing a pump here

Everything else you wanted to know about pumping!

Step 7 -Get food in your freezer

I didn’t figure this out until my 3rd baby. It made life so much easier to have a meal that I could just pop in the microwave. I was able to put off cooking for a month.

  • If someone offers to bring you a meal, take them up on it!
  • If you have gone crazy already buying baby clothes and supplies, and you are having a shower, put freezer meals on your list of things you would like.
  • Better yet, have a shower where everyone brings you a freezer meal as the gift!

Step 8 – Get some breastfeeding books

  • Get at least one and no more than two books.
    • You may or may not read the books when you’re pregnant, but you should have them.
  • Choose books that will be easy to read in sections. You don’t want to have to read a ten-page chapter to figure out whether it’s normal for your baby to get the hiccups all the time (it is).

Step 9 – Have a trusted website or two 

This will be for those moments when you don’t have time to read about it in your book.

  • Bookmark the site.
  • Never, ever google a breastfeeding problem! It is sure to overwhelm you, and you are sure to read some crazy things.
  • I suggest that you bookmark this site right now!

Step 10 – Practice being able to breastfeed in public

You probably had one of two thoughts when you read that. Either you thought, “Of course I’ll breastfeed in public! Why on earth would I have to practice it?” Or you thought, “I am too modest to breastfeed in public. I’ll just pump and bottlefeed for those times I’m in public.” If you had the “I could never” thought, what would you do if you didn’t have time to pump, or you had a screaming baby and you spilled the bottle of milk, or you had to be out longer than you expected and your baby drank all the milk you had pumped.

Trust me on this one.

Whichever thought you had, you will be glad you practiced, especially if you feel like you need pillows when you feed. You probably will not have a pillow when you are at the mall or the doctor’s office.

Practicing when you are not under pressure will make it so much easier when that moment comes.

  • Clothes – always dress in clothes that are breastfeeding friendly. You can buy breastfeeding clothes. You can also wear clothes that will lend themselves well to you getting access to your breasts. Shirts and sweaters are going to be best for this. A loose button up shirt will work too.
  • Do it in front of a mirror
  • Decide if you need a cover. Sometimes these just draw more attention to what you’re doing. Practice breastfeeding without one in case you forget it.

One final thought

Breastfeeding your new bundle of joy can be hard, or easy, and may be both at different times. There are lots of things that you can do to make it easier.

What kinds of things have you heard about or done that you felt like it made breastfeeding easier? Leave a comment to share with other mamas! There is nothing like mama to mama support.

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Photo credit: sean dreilinger on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Next time

Plugged ducts and mastitis.