My Tips and Advice for Successful Breastfeeding
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Breastfeeding. For some of us, this one little word causes anxiety, maybe even fear. If you’ve ever tried or thought of trying to breastfeed your child, you know that breastfeeding comes with a lot of questions. I honestly don’t think anyone has ever started breastfeeding and has not had to rely on the help of someone be it a lactation consultant, friend, or family member. I have two children.
I began breastfeeding my son when he was born in 2014, but it only lasted a few weeks. I decided to forego direct breast and instead, I exclusively pumped for eight months. I will relate later on what that was like. When my daughter was born in 2016, I was armed with more information and I felt ready to tackle this scary word called breastfeeding.
Here’s what happened.
The Breastfeeding Struggle
Two years after my son was born, my daughter came into this life. Before she was born, I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding again. With my son, I had tried for a few weeks, but I never felt comfortable doing it. I liked that I was providing nutrients to feed him, but the way I was breastfeeding felt uncomfortable to me. At the hospital, I had asked the lactation consultant for a method that wouldn’t hurt my back since I have a sensitive back. She suggested propped pillows below one arm and propped pillows under my baby (I had no boppy at the time, but I can see where I probably would’ve benefitted from one). Basically, I wasn’t holding him, yet he could still get to my breast. Except, I felt flames down my back just from sitting like that long periods of time. Since I’d never felt pain like that before, I blamed it on the epidural.
At this time, I was also pumping since I had engorged breasts from so much milk! I had to get that milk out! Initially, I was so scared of what pumping felt like, but I did it and felt relief when my breasts would go back down to size. From that very moment that my milk first came in and every time I had engorged breasts, I would get a lump under my left armpit from backed up milk. After I pumped, the lump would be gone. This is so much easier than giving him my breast, I remember thinking. So, I decided to stop giving him my breast and just pumped every four hours.
To make this part of the story short because I want to focus on direct breastfeeding, I’ll tell you that I will NEVER exclusively pump again! I grew to hate it. I can’t tell you how many bloody blisters I got from friction with the plastic. Imagine having a big, painful blister in an area that has to be rubbed constantly and roughly for 10 minutes. This is what I endured every few months or so. I cried while pumping when I had these blisters. For my second child, I adamantly opposed pumping and psyched myself up for successful breastfeeding sans pump.
At the Hospital After She Was Born
I asked to see a lactation consultant again because honestly, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing. I told her I wanted an easy way to breastfeed where I put less strain on my back. She showed me cross cradle. I asked her to take a picture of me doing cross cradle so I would remember when I went home. We set up a recliner in my children’s nursery and I breastfed there. After a few times and studying the picture well, I got the hang of it. Sometimes I would bring my knees up and that would offer support to my daughter. I didn’t feel any back pain breastfeeding! Score!
I gave her both breasts at each feeding and to help me remember which breast to begin with for the next session, I added a little chalkboard to the wall behind the recliner. Every session, I would write down: the order in which I gave her each breast, if we were successful (i.e. did she stay on for more than 10-15 minutes each side) and also if she had a bowel movement or wet diaper. This is very similar to the chart the hospital gives you after you give birth. I wanted to follow the same strategy to ensure that my daughter was getting enough milk.
At each well visit after that, we saw that she was gaining weight, but not as much as her pediatrician would’ve liked, so I had to feed her more than eight times a day. We were working on about 10 sessions a day. Now why was she not gaining enough weight?
There are many theories as to why she didn’t gain enough weight in the beginning. As with most newborns, they are very sleepy in the first few moths of their lives. Evangeline was no exception. Lord could that girl sleep!! She ate and slept and that was it. It was like I didn’t even have a baby around. She gave me no troubles. My son was also a sleepy baby but he would not sleep at night. I would have to rock him and finally co-sleep for him to fall asleep. My daughter, on the other hand, would fall right asleep once I placed her in her basinet.
So she was a sleepy baby. I would have to nudge her to get her to nurse over 10 minutes on each breast.
Another theory was trouble with my inner workings, i.e. I had a lot of milk supply that wasn’t being released and therefore I was getting backed up, causing plugged milk ducts. And I didn’t get just one here, another there; I was getting multiple plugs on one or both breasts every week! And on top of that, one day, a little white dot appeared on my nipple, not my aerola, but my nipple, where my child has to suck and that little tiny dot hurt like a mother! I didn’t know what it was, but I researched it and found out it was a milk bleb or milk blister. If you’ve never heard of this, look it up online. It is basically milk that is stuck underneath the top of your nipple. Thankfully, mine were tiny, not big like some of the ones I’ve seen. But tiny or big, it was painful. Everytime I had one, it felt like someone was sticking a knife into my nipple when I would breastfeed. Ironically, I only got them on my left breast, never on my right, and always in the same area.
So Why Continue?
So sleepy baby, plugged ducts, milk blebs… why on earth would I continue to torture myself week in and week out you might wonder? Why didn’t I stop breastfeeding? Save myself some pain.
Around month two of breastfeeding I wanted to quit. I loved the sensation of feeding my baby, but when I had plugged ducts and a milk bleb, I just couldn’t. What could I do? I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding. The few days that I didn’t have plugged ducts or a milk bleb, breastfeeding was easy peasy. But when I had them, I would cry all the time from the pain. So I went to an old friend.
YOU ARE READING:
Breastfeeding Resources, located in Stratford, CT is a small practice run by lactation consultants, registered nurses, and founded by a pediatrician/ lactation consultant, Christina Smilie M.D. I went her in 2014 for some help figuring out what flange to use with my pump. I went back in 2016 when I kept getting plugged ducts.
Dr. Smilie felt around both breasts and told me: “You’ve got multiple plugs in both breasts. You poor thing!” She showed me how to relieve the plugs myself and told me not to pump. Pumping just caused more milk flow.
More milk flow and a plugged duct causes bigger plugs. She taught me how to rotate and squeeze beginning with the areola and working down to the nipple. It hurt so much, but milk would squeeze out and some of my plugs would unclog.
I mentioned that I read about sunflower lecithin and how it helps with plugs. She said it was something I could try. In regards to the milk blebs, she told me to use warm compresses on them and see if they “popped” on their own, i.e. the milk underneath would release.
Sunflower lecithin: I started taking it and saw results in only a few days. I swear by this product. As I continued to take it, around the fifth or so day, I stopped getting plugged ducts. I am not kidding! I took about three a day for the rest of the time that I breastfed my daughter. The only times I got plugged ducts werea few months later when my husband and I were playfighting in a pool in Ecuador and he elbowed me in my boob. I knew immediately that I woudl get a plugged duct and I did (along with a bruise)! I did the twist and squeeze that Dr. Smilie showed me and after about two days the plug went away.
For the milk blebs, I used warm compresses then let Evangeline feed right after. Sometimes the blebs would pop from her sucking action. Other times, when they didn’t, I read that I could pick at the bleb with a clean nail. So I started doing that and sometimes I would see the milk release. It was such a relief! Blebs are so painful. Unfortunately I got these all the way until the end of my breastfeeding journey.
Why I had to Stop Breastfeeding
When Evangeline was nine months old, we learned that she had only gained one pound from six months until nine months. That’s one pound in three months!!! Her pediatrician suggested we begin to supplement with formula and for me to pump to see exactly how much milk I was producing. The dreaded pump. Ugh! I took it out of storage and did it. I hated it the whole time. However, I learned that I was making a total of about three ounces! That was it! I thought, I’ve been starving my poor daughter! Her pediatrican reassured me that I was probably making more than what the machine was pumping out. However, she suggested I continue to supplement with formula and breastfeed as well.
So I did. Except, before Evangeline would bite me once in a while. Now, she was biting every time I gave her my breast. And hard! And towards the end, I was doing really well with breastfeeding. I didn’t want to stop! But I couldn’t take the biting. So I stopped giving her my breast. I pumped maybe once a day while giving her formula as well. She started gaining weight again and we did weekly weight checks just to be sure. Then we started monthly weight checks.
What I’ll Do Differently With my Next Baby
Here’s what I learned with Evangeline that I will enforce with my next baby (due January 2018)! I am going to breastfeed again, no doubt! This time I plan on going to a year or longer. So that my unborn child doesn’t go through what Evangeline went through, I decided I would pump every so often to see how much milk I was producing. I don’t want to wait until six or nine months to find out that this baby isn’t getting enough milk. As much as I loathe the idea of pumping, I will do it for the sake of my child and to make sure that he/she is getting enough milk.
I’m due January 3rd, 2018, so about a week or two before my due date I will begin taking the sunflower lecithin (I still have some leftover from last time). Let’s try to get no plugs this time from the get-go! In regards to the milk blebs, there is nothing I can do to avoid that. I have a feeling that the reason I get them on my left breast and not my right is because my right nipple is very round, whereas my left nipple is a bit uneven on the surface. Some tissue sticks up a bit. I have a feeling this is why I get the bleb in the same spot every time.
In the end, it’s all worth it for my children. I love the closeness that breastfeeding gave me with Evangeline and I remember how when I first started weaning her off of my breast, she would try to grab at it. Ugh, I felt so bad and shed some tears; I still miss it and wish I could’ve continued.
1- Take Sunflower Lecithin a few days before your due date or as soon as you get home after delivery.
2- Don’t stress about it! Relax and find a position that is comfortable for you!
3- Utilize your lactation consultant services.
4- If you get plugged ducts, massage them, then twist from the areola moving down toward the nipple, squeezing until you see milk come out.
5- If you get milk blebs, use a warm compress on on it for about 10 minutes prior to breastfeeding. Then, see if it pops after the feeding. If not, try to move the skin aside using a clean fingernail.
6- If you have a lot of milk, use a bib on baby so that you don’t get spilled milk all over you and baby.
7- If you aren’t keen on pumping as well as breastfeeding like I was, try to pump once a week or every two weeks just to make sure you are producing an adequate milk supply.
So that’s my experience and my advice! Good luck to all you breastfeeding mamas and know that you rock all the way! If you have any questions let me know below! And I’d love to know: what was your experience breastfeeding like?
Shop This Article:
Please Note: Baby Henry Likes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.