Breastfeeding is hard work, and it can come with a variety of challenges. Monkey and I have had our share of struggles with breastfeeding, in part due to his prematurity. It seems like every time we have it “down” he changes something and sends me back to the drawing board. I am going to share with you some of the things I used as part of my “Breastfeeding Tool Kit” that helped us become successful at breastfeeding (Still going strong at almost 11 months) and overcome the many challenges that we faced.
1 – Breastfeeding Pillow
Having support to get the baby in the right position is so important. When they are tiny newborns they are like little jelly fish and are no help at all at staying where you want them to be. Plus your arms will get tired of trying to hold them in one spot during nursing. If you have a breastfeeding pillow you can rest the baby on it, freeing up your hands to hold the baby’s head or your breast if needed. I used ours all of the time; I picked up a cover for it for easy washing. Plus the pillow has many other uses as they get older – use it to rest the baby on for tummy time (they will appreciate not having their face in the floor), and it is also a great support when they are learning how to sit up.
|Monkey hitting the bottle to hard in the NICU – 4 weeks old|
2 – Getting reliable advice from healthcare professionals
When Monkey was still in the NICU we had the benefit of being able to see the lactation consultant a couple of times a week, which was such a blessing while trying to get him to latch properly (his mouth was just too tiny!). Once we were home we went to see the lactation consultant at our local public health office (they have some helpful videos online too) and then to a Breastfeeding Clinic with is run by 2 doctors that specialize in breastfeeding in Brampton. We went weekly for 6 weeks once we were home from the hospital and then every 2 weeks for a couple more follow up visits. It was great to be able to see Monkey gaining weight and be able to ask questions and get reliable advice. The support system was amazing as they wanted to work WITH YOU to succeed. I would highly recommend finding out before you deliver what resources are available in your area and have them on hand in case you run into any challenges.
3 – Mom-to-Mom support
As wonderful and helpful as advice was from the many healthcare professionals that we saw during the start of our breastfeeding journey, nothing could replace support from friends and family members who had also breastfed their little ones. Being able to discuss challenges and triumphs is soothing for your soul, and talking to other adults is always a plus when you are at home with a baby!
Don’t know anyone who breastfeeds? You can also find mom to mom support through your local Le Leche League – Monkey and I go once a month to meetings and it was been wonderful to meet other like-minded mommies and be able to ask them questions and hear their experiences. Plus there are always yummy snacks :o)
4 – Breast Pump
My pump was my best friend during the first few weeks of Monkey’s life and without it, I would not have been able to breastfeed him. Since he was born so early he didn’t know how to suck yet, babies learn that reflex around 34 weeks so he had to be fed though an NG tube. So I pumped for him – every 3 hours during the day, and one 6 hour break at night, repeat. I had picked up a manual pump before Monkey was born, but knew it would not be up to this sort of task. So within a couple of hours of his birth I was sending my mom out to pick up a Medela Pump In Style Advanced – it is a double electric pump and is AMAZING. I still use it on a daily basis to pump milk to freeze and to use to mix with Monkey food. Monkey would get a bottle a day from daddy until he was 6 months old which allowed them to have special bonding time. Without my Medela PISA I would not have been able to give Monkey the benefits of breastmilk right from day 1 and then continue to ensure he is getting the best nutrition even when starting solids.
5 – Determination
This is the most important “tool” in the kit – if you don’t believe that you CAN breastfeed and you are not committed to it then it is likely that it won’t work out for long. For me breastfeeding Monkey was VERY important to me. I always thought I would breastfeed my babies, but when he was born early I was even more committed. My body had failed at protecting him and letting him grow inside me for 8 more weeks, the least I could do is make sure that he got the best possible nutrition for his rocky start (I do know that Monkey being born early was not my fault, but mama guilt is a funny thing…)
To help me stay committed during the difficult times I used the Two Day rule – when things seemed impossible and I wanted to give up, I decided to keep going for 2 more days and then re-evaluate. Each and every time after the 2 days whatever issue was had resolved/changed/improved giving me the strength to carry on. This got me through so many difficulties including Monkey’s poor latch due to his tiny mouth, cracked nipples, thrush, nipple blanching and the list goes on…
If you are thinking of giving up on breastfeeding, keep at it for 2 more days (you CAN do it!) and seek help and support during that time. Then after the 2 days see how things are going and make your decisions from there. Making the choice breastfeed or not should not be undertaken in the “heat of the moment” while in pain/listening to a screaming baby/being sleep deprived in the middle of the night – give it 2 days and you might be surprised at what the outcome is.
Everyone’s breastfeeding experience is different and unique. What tools did you use to help you succeed at breastfeeding?