Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, rewarding, and satisfying experience—there's no doubt. But it can also be a confusing, frustrating, and stressful time for new mamas. It's a whole new world, and it doesn't always click right away for everyone.
Yet the pressure we put on ourselves to figure it out and make it perfect can be a heavy load to carry. And no mother should have to carry that alone. That's why lactation support and education are super important on our journeys—especially in the beginning.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that baby should be exclusively breastfed throughout the first six months of life, and even after solid foods are introduced, up to two years. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mom and baby continue breastfeeding until at least one year. Yet most mothers say that they don't reach their own breastfeeding goals.
So how do we reach these goals?
We chatted with five experts to get their secret weapons, #1 best piece of advice on how to find success as a new nursing mama. Here's what they had to say.
1. When in doubt, get back to basics
Wendy Wisner, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and popular breastfeeding writer says, “Most breastfeeding problems can be solved by going back to basics. If your nipples hurt, you probably just need to change position, shape and hold your breasts, or unlatch and start again. If you aren't making enough milk, you probably just need to nurse more frequently."
Start with the basics before assuming anything more complicated is going on.
“Trust biology, your body, and your baby," Wendy adds.
2. Support matters—in a big way
Megan O'Neill, CLC and Director of Lactation Support at Acelleron Maternal Health & Wellness says, “Find support as early as possible. Take a breastfeeding class, locate a support group, find a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) or IBCLC that you can meet with if you run into any road bumps or have questions. Talk to friends that reached their own breastfeeding goals."
“Express your desire to breastfeed to your partner, family and close friends. Let them know that their encouragement is important to you. Set small goals and reach out to your support team when you are having a hard time. Breastfeeding can have its ups and downs...and so can parenting! Find people that will be that listening ear and supportive sounding board that we all need."
3. Knowledge is power + it creates confident mamas
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC and Owner, Lactation Link LLC says, “I think one of the biggest factors in mothers reaching their breastfeeding goals is confidence. Confidence they are doing well, confidence baby is getting enough, confidence in what to do when issues arise. Prenatal education is important. We all have mother's intuition inside of us, but having reliable information and options helps us to create the confidence to tap into that mother's intuition more readily.
4.Trust your instincts
Meg Nagle, IBCLC, blogger at The Milk Meg and author of, “Boobin' All Day...Boobin' All Night. A Gentle Approach To Sleep For Breastfeeding Families" says, “Trust your instincts! So often I hear new mothers say, 'I'm just a first time mother so I'm not sure...' If there was one thing I wish for every new mother it's to realize that you know more than you think."
“You will know if breastfeeding is not working. You will know if your baby is unsettled or something just isn't right. If you suspect something is going on, please seek help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who listens to you, respects your instincts and feelings and helps form a plan for you to reach your breastfeeding goals."
5. There will be tough days for all of us
Wendy Wisner, IBCLC also adds, “If you are at the beginning, know that chances are, you will eventually fall in love with breastfeeding. If things are so hard that you're not sure how you'll make it to the next feeding—just take it day by day, feeding by feeding, and you will get to the other side.
“Go to a breastfeeding support meeting. Meet other moms who are feeling as you are, and talk to other moms who made it through to the sweet spot of breastfeeding.
“Even when you get there, know that it is normal to have rough days as your baby gets older. Teething, growth spurts, and other fussy phases can all drive a nursing mother mad! We have all been there. You have the right to complain. You have the right to vent. It's all part of the cycle of life you are in with your baby, and with breastfeeding."
6. No matter what—you are enough, mama
Jessica Martin-Weber founder of The Leaky Boob says, “No matter what happens with your breastfeeding goals, you are enough. How our babies come to us births us as the parents that particular child needs. Likewise, our feeding journeys with our babies lay the foundation of our parenting confidence.
Your breastfeeding journey doesn't have to be all or nothing to be successful, it isn't a pass/fail event.
Asking for help and accepting your journey as it unfolds will help you to remember you and your baby are what are most important."