I’ve been on my breastfeeding journey for just over ten years, and over those years, I’ve managed to learn a lot about myself and the process of breastfeeding. Following my first two unsuccessful breastfeeding attempts, I learned several mistakes to avoid that allowed me to be more successful with my last three.
Mistakes to avoid while breastfeeding
Do not dismiss breast pain
Some breast pain while breastfeeding is to be expected, especially in those first few weeks. Your body is getting used to the sensation while both you and your baby are learning what latch and positions are comfortable for the two of you. The first few latching sessions can lead to some rawness and tenderness to the nipple and the breast. You may also experience some pain upon the initial latch and upon let down. This pain can be dull or sometimes sharp, but the pain should subside with just a minute or two.
What is not normal is pain that is crippling, that does not go away, or that may be associated with fever, redness, swelling, heat to the area that is hurting, or cold-like symptoms. These can be signs that something isn’t quite right. It could be as simple as an improper latch or maybe needing to switch positions. It could also be signs of medical conditions. Lip ties and tongue ties can make breastfeeding extraordinarily challenging and have been associated with pain and discomfort while feeding since the baby may not be able to get a good latch. It could also be the sign of an infection. Both of these would need to be evaluated by a physician for potential treatment.
Trying to stick to a schedule
We’ve all heard that babies need to be on a plan. It’s been one of those old wives tails passed down from generation to generation. And it’s not true. A baby is not going to understand that it has to wait another thirty minutes to an hour before it can eat. All it knows is that it is hungry or needs to be comforted. Think about it this way; if you’re hungry, you will walk into the kitchen or go to the vending machine and get yourself some right? You don’t set ridiculous restrictions on when you’re able to drink. Your baby shouldn’t be held to those ridiculous restrictions either. A baby is relying on you to be their source of food and drink, and they will need it often.
There are several reasons why a baby needs to eat frequently and on-demand. The first reason is that a baby is growing rapidly. In the first year of life, a newborn will double (sometimes more) their birth weight. That is a lot of growth in a concise amount of time, and the body requires a lot of energy to do this. Your breast milk creates that energy.
Another reason your baby may need to breastfeed more frequently than a formula-fed baby is that breast milk is metabolized faster than formula. So this means that you may find yourself up to more at night or having to nurse your baby more often during the day to keep up with your babies growth.
Nursing more frequently, in the beginning, will also help to establish a good supply. In those first few days, your baby will be receiving only colostrum. It will take a good two to five days for your milk to “come in.” During this time, you’ll notice that your baby is eating a lot or maybe cluster feeding. This will help to bring your milk in faster and once your milk has “come in,” it will help to stabilize how much you produce.
Babies will eventually get themselves into a good routine when it comes to eating, sleeping, and napping. When a baby is first born though, the best thing you could do is feeding on demand. It’s got a ton of benefits to it plus it will allow you to spend more time bonding, which will hopefully lead to a more secure baby, and god willing, less fussy baby.
Worrying too much about production
A lot of moms, including yourself, may fall into the trap of worrying about how much you are producing. This is a terrible, anxiety-ridden habit, and you need to stop if you are in it. I know… much easier said than done. I’ve been there. Agonizing over every drop, I’m getting out of my breast pump. Or worrying that my breast feels “too empty” between feeds. I can assure you if your baby is making enough wet diapers and is not screaming or fussing or fidgeting when at the breast, you are most likely making enough.
Try to relax. Your baby is the ultimate breast pump. It will get what it needs, and it will most likely get more from the breast than that $500 fancy pump you bought. Now I know some of us to need to pump for work or to have to leave a baby for an extended length of time. If you notice your supply slumping or you feel like you are not producing enough, try pumping more frequently or for more extended periods. In general though, if you are strictly breastfeeding and your baby is growing, having enough wet diapers, and seems happy… you’re probably doing a good job and giving that baby all it needs.
Not taking care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is essential for breastfeeding. Getting an adequate amount of sleep, staying hydrated, and eating healthy filling foods will all help you to produce more food for your baby. When you’re stressed or overly tired, you may not produce as much as you would if you were relaxed and well-rested. Also, hydration is a huge factor in milk production. You have to drink more water than you usually would keep yourself from becoming dehydrated.
Only feeding from one breast
You will never touch your breast as much as you do while you’re breastfeeding. Especially in those first few months when you’re sleep-deprived and can’t remember what side you nursed on last. You want to make sure that you’re giving each breast equal amounts of nursing time. If you end up frequently nursing off of just one side, production in the side that is not being used as much may end up dropping, or you could end up not producing on that side at all. It’s perfectly normal to have a side that is more comfortable or that the baby prefers, but you want to make sure to share the love to the other side as well.
Not asking for help
Breastfeeding is hard. Even for the women that had zero issue breastfeeding, it can still be taxing. It’s time-consuming, can be painful, and can be a lot of touching for a single person. If you are having any issues while breastfeeding… ask for help. It doesn’t make you any less of a mom just because you asked for a bit of help. In fact… it’ll make you a better mom. If you have any concerns about your or your baby’s health, please reach out to a physician. You can also seek help from a local licensed lactation consultant for help with latch or production concerns. I have some great resources listed here for you.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into some of these breastfeeding traps. Being prepared and understanding the process will enable you to have a much more enjoyable and successful breastfeeding experience.