By Kayla Postak
“Are you going to breastfeed?”
At the time, this innocent question coming from my 5 year old niece, was unexpected and met with the response “Yeah, of course.”
But that was before I was pregnant and actually WAY before I was even thinking of babies. It was the easy answer to a not-so-easy decision to make when you become a mother. If you are rumbling with this same question and want to create an enjoyable breastfeeding experience for you and your baby, then keep reading! I hope by sharing my experience and breastfeeding hacks, I can help you along your journey.
My first experience with nursing had a bumpy start. My baby was 2 days old and had nursed several times. It seemed okay at first but then she would quickly fall asleep after latching. I was engorged, we were scared first-time parents, and when my midwife asked, “Do you have a bottle?” I was really worried. I wondered, “A bottle? Do we have to switch to formula? Have I failed? And what am I supposed to do with these 2 huge, inflated, milk-making machines?” Sorry, maybe I went a bit too far? Well, all of these were real questions from a real scared new momma. We found a hand-me-down bottle and then our wise midwife, with over 40 years experience made a tiny bit of sugar water. I KNOW! I would’ve never thought of that and also, for the record, didn’t want sugar in my baby for like 10 years!! But, it did the trick. My baby woke up after having a jolt of calories, latched back on like a champ and nursed. What a relief! We were able to nurse, almost exclusively, for 10 months.
After that, we never had any nursing issues, despite my concerns of nipple confusion, sugar diabetes and all the other worst-case scenarios I had imagined. But at 10 months, I was pregnant with my 2nd baby and turns out, I was told I needed to eat 4,000 calories a day to nurse and be pregnant. Folks, that just wasn’t happening. So to end the frustration for both me and my baby, we weaned and she started drinking goat’s milk. It’s so good for babies! I know, I sound like a hippy right? Oh did I mention the home births? Don’t worry, we’ll get to essential oils in a second. Anyways…
My second time nursing lasted much longer, 2 years to be exact. Whoa, I know. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to 2 years or longer.
I wanted to see if we could do it, and we did great! Aside from teething and night weaning that is. Those days are tough, momma. Now, looking back, those hard times were so short-lived. And the benefits for both me and my baby were so worth it. I could go on and on about the amazing miracle-producing benefits of breastmilk and the bond you share as mom and baby, but instead, you can check that out on WebMD.
Here are several resources that helped me so much in the ups and downs of breastfeeding. Please confirm all of these things with your local lactation consultants - this is my personal experience I am sharing!
Flash back several years to my husband and I sitting in our Bradley Method class. We learned so much in those 12 weeks that it was worth all the semi-awkward moments. I’m a pretty private person and so discussing every part of birth amongst stranger couples wasn’t always comfortable, but we’ll read about me being a private person in a minute.
One thing I remember from our in-class discussion of breastfeeding was that it’s really important to have the baby’s whole body facing you while nursing or “tummy-to tummy” you could say. This seems like a no-brainer but it’s really easy to just let the baby lay on their back with their head turned toward you. This makes it really difficult for the baby, and can lead to them unlatching and guess what that means for you? SORE NIPPLES. And milk getting everywhere. Just trust me on this one, turn them all the way towards you. Comfy baby, comfy momma.
Speaking of sore nipples... another simple thing to make sure you both have a positive experience, is if the latch is uncomfortable in any way, DETACH. But make sure you use one finger to press on their little lips to break the suction first. I’m serious, if you try to pull away from their suction you will find yourself VERY sore.
The next tip? Oprah. Need I say more? She had a guest named Priscilla Dunstan on her show and she’s known as the “Baby Whisperer.” She teaches 5 basic sounds that babies make to communicate their needs to us. It’s not only fascinating but it IS SO TRUE! I am extremely grateful that I learned this before I had babies because time and time again I could understand their needs and it made postpartum so much easier. Check out the video here.
Now, remember when I said I was a private person? It was so scary to think of nursing in public! I will spare you the details of my first embarrassing attempt. But I refused to nurse in the bathroom, and I encourage you to as well. Nobody else eats on a toilet, (we hope), and neither should your baby. So, I would nurse in the back seat of the car, or just make sure to nurse before going anywhere. I soon got comfortable with it and even ditched the nursing covers or blankets, which get in the way anyways. I found that if you wear a tank top under your shirt, a nursing bra and can sit cross legged you can nurse in almost complete privacy, anywhere. I observed a veteran mom of 8 kids nurse once and her nursing posture changed the game for me. I would bring one leg up to my elbow to help me hold the baby, and it shielded the view of my baby pulling off. Another benefit to this is that you are bringing baby to your nipple. Most new moms will try to hunch over to meet the baby where they are. Trust me, bring the baby to your nipple, we don’t want any sore backs, or nips, here! One of my best friends commented that she never even saw my nipple and I nursed around her all the time. So, my friends, if you’re worried about lack of privacy, or discomfort, you too can become a breastfeeding ninja. And if you’re 100% body positive and could care less about the flash, then momma, FIST BUMP!
So let’s talk supply, shall we? This is a concern for moms and is completely normal. First thing you should know, is that supply on demand is real. If your baby will be having a growth spurt soon, he’ll nurse more often to build your supply. So please, please, don’t rush or time your baby. Just trust your baby and your body’s response. Next, make sure you drink TONS of water. Not only is it great for your health, but makes breastfeeding more successful as well. The standard recommendation is that you drink half of your weight, in ounces, daily. So get a cute, insulated water bottle and keep it with you!
Now, there are times when maybe you’ve been sick, stressed or maybe you work out hard at the gym, and you need some extra supply support (say that ten times fast). Here are some things that worked well for me: There are momma milk herbal teas you can drink as well as using fennel and/or basil essential oils to increase your milk supply. With essential oils, I highly recommend using a therapeutic grade oil that you can ingest. If the label says “not for internal use” then run the other way. Specifically these oils, which are both herbs, should be safe for ingestion always. And if they’re not, then they aren’t pure and shouldn’t be on your skin anyways. I recommend doTERRA, personally. I would take a drop of fennel under my tongue and rub a drop of basil with 5 drops olive oil on my breast, avoiding the nipple, after nursing. The basil and olive oil you can combine in a glass container and keep nearby for easy use. My supply was always back to normal, or more, within a day.
There may be other times when you need to decrease your supply, such as weaning or engorgement, etc. For those times, I took a drop of Peppermint essential oil under my tongue several times a day, refreshing and helpful! For more information on safe internal use of essential oils, click here.
We’ve covered a lot and the bottom line is that breastfeeding can be a beautiful and rewarding experience for both you and your baby. It will challenge you. There will be days that you just don’t know if your baby is hungry or too full. You will probably have moments where you want to quit. And only you can know when the time to wean is. Always trust that mother’s intuition and do what is best for you and your baby. If you are having a hard time, reach out to someone! La Leche League is always a great resource, and there is a chapter of La Leche League in Bristol, TN.
Here in Johnson City, you can find lactation consultants to help you at the Nursing Nook, and Village Pediatrics. Another fantastic resource is a breastfeeding support group in the Tri-Cities called BABE Breastfeeding Coalition.
At the end of the day, take care of yourself. This is such an incredible and important time in your life! Be sure to destress, trust yourself and have compassion for yourself. I believe that most moms do the very best they can and if that looks like bottle-feeding so you can get some rest, then do it! Breast milk is so amazing for a baby, but a happy, healthy mom is better! Much love to you momma!
A note: This blog post was not sponsored, though Here and Now Motherhood partners were highlighted.
This post was written by Kayla Postak. Kayla is the mom to 2 wild souls and wife to her literal dream guy. She has been teaching mom-focused wellness classes since 2013 in homes, and many social media platforms. She's currently in full-on homeschool and homemaker mode and resides in Ogden, Utah.