I’m a few weeks shy of breastfeeding my son for one whole year. Hallelujah! The end is near.
If you had asked me 11 months ago if I could do this for a full year, I would have laughed in your face. I hated it. All of it. But yet, here I am.
Looking back, I was annoyingly naïve when I was pregnant. First-time moms are often naive about a lot of things, but that’s especially true when it comes to the commitment of breastfeeding. At least it was for me. Throughout my pregnancy, I planned on breastfeeding for a year. No problem I told myself. But two weeks in, I called my bluff. This was HARD.
Now that I’m about to start weaning my son, I can’t believe I actually made it.
From a mom who never thought she could do this, here are my top three breastfeeding tips:
1. It takes time.
You can read all the internet has to offer about breastfeeding, and you still won’t be prepared for those first few weeks. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be patient during that first month. It’s an adjustment for you AND for baby. You’ll constantly question whether your baby is latched correctly, and your baby will constantly want to be latched. It’s exhausting. You’ll likely spend most of your days sore, tired, overwhelmed, and…wet.
But trust me when I say this too shall pass. If breastfeeding is important to you, and baby is cooperating, know that it does get easier after those first few weeks.
2. It’s emotional.
Fortunately for me, my son was naturally good at latching. Unfortunately for me, I had a rather low milk supply which caused me to tirelessly work to pump enough milk for his next day at daycare. That meant pumping after each nursing session, including a last-minute pump in the morning just to top off the day’s supply. I was always late for work. I’m lucky I had that type of flexibility.
Between special pillows, silicon pumps, lanolin, breast pads, nursing bras, hospital-grade pumps, support groups, the constant washing or sterilization of pump parts, and countless other accessories, a lot goes into the success of a breastfeeding mama. Some moms bake lactation cookies and brownies and eat oatmeal every day to keep their supply up. We endure nursing every hour for the first few weeks. We wake up multiple times each night to feed our babies while the rest of the house sleeps. And whoever said there’s no use crying over spilled milk has clearly never spilled their own breast milk.
Breastfeeding is an emotional job. You invest so much of your life to this process. It’s impossible to not be an emotional mess over the effort it takes to keep another human alive – from your own body.
3. Ask for help.
My biggest piece of advice for any breastfeeding mom is to not be afraid to ask for help. Life doesn’t get any easier if you stay at home, crying to yourself, wondering if you’re doing it all correctly. Asking for help is the best thing you can do for yourself and for your baby. Don’t ever hesitate; just get the help you need.
I attended the St. Luke’s Breastfeeding Friends group every Tuesday afternoon. If not for that group, I’m not sure I would have made it this far. It’s so incredibly comforting to be surrounded by other moms who are in the trenches, experiencing the same challenges as you. Feeling like you’re not alone is an important part of surviving motherhood and the mothers in that group, along with the lactation consultant, gave me the support I needed.
There are plenty of resources available in the Cedar Rapids area, including the following:
La Leche League of Cedar Rapids: Monthly nursing support meetings are held at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library. The group also holds virtual support meetings. Find out more information at the La Leche League of Cedar Rapids Facebook page.
Mercy Medical Center Breastfeeding Group: This is a free support group for mothers. A IBCLC attends to answer questions and assist with latching concerns. A scale is available to weigh your baby. Visit the Mercy Medical Center website for details.
St. Luke’s Breastfeeding Friends Group: This is another free group for mothers of babies one year or younger. Meet with a lactation consultant and other moms to share your experiences and ask questions. A scale is available to weigh your baby. Visit St. Luke’s website for details.
Cedar Rapids Leaky Mamas Facebook Support Group. All moms can access this online breastfeeding group comprised of experienced moms and lactation professionals. Check out the Cedar Rapids Leaky Mamas Facebook Group to join.
The Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition: Find a local lactation consultant using the Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition website.
WIC: If you participate in WIC, you can request a referral for a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. To get more information, call 319-366-7632.
Naturally Nourished Lactation Services: Beth Buchholtz is a RN and an IBCLC in the Cedar Rapids area. Her services include home visits and phone consultations. Give her a call at 641-425-2676 or check out the Naturally Nourished website.
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