A New Mother’s Advice on Breastfeeding

October 9, 2023, sierraharlan

Woman with long hair and green shirt breastfeeding her babyEveryone’s experience feeding their baby is unique. I learned this from speaking with friends and reading books and blog posts before having my baby. Some parents choose to use formula, some parents want to breastfeed but are unable to, while some folks use a combination of methods. I knew early on that I wanted to breastfeed. What I didn’t know was what a learning process it would be for me and my baby. Through my experience, I became familiar with many resources in our community and have advice for fellow new parents interested in breastfeeding.

My Experience Breastfeeding

A month before having my baby, Camille, I took a class on breastfeeding through Good Samaritan Regional Hospital (this resource, as well as others related to breastfeeding, can be found here). Through the class, I learned what a proper latch should look like, proper milk storage, and more. This was helpful information but it is one thing to look at pictures of how a baby should latch and another to try and do it yourself as a new parent. During her first time nursing, my baby damaged some of my breast tissue, which caused breastfeeding to be unbearably painful. If I could go back in time, I would ask one of my support people to help me with those initial latches.  If you consider doing this, think about:

  1. Who is a support person who has experience breastfeeding that will respect your boundaries and keep the focus on you and your baby?
  2. When do you want them to offer support? (Will they be with you when your baby is delivered? Come over right after?)
  3. How do you want them to initiate this? Will they check in with you? What language do you want them to use? (Will they say something like, “Would you like me to share what I’m noticing about your latch?” or would you appreciate a more direct approach?)
  4. Make sure you choose someone you are comfortable being direct with in case you change your mind and want to savor those early moments without interruption.
  5. If your hospital has lactation consultants, you can reach out and see if they can meet with you after birth for support.

Person in a green and navy polka dot shirt pumping breastmilkAfter my nipples were damaged, I was in too much pain to nurse, and we fed Camille with a dropper (under the direction of a lactation consultant) for the first few weeks and later switched to bottles, as instructed by our pediatrician. This was an emotionally difficult time for me as a new mother, and I felt like I was doing something wrong. If you have difficulty breastfeeding, remember that this is common and does not reflect on you as a parent. We saw lactation consultants at Good Samaritan and later saw the lactation consultant at The Birth Center in Corvallis. The visits were helpful, but I would go home, try to nurse, and still experience pain.

Changing how I thought of breastfeeding

Man in blue shirt sitting on a blue couch feeding a baby a bottleI changed how I thought of breastfeeding and began calling nursing my “practice sessions.” My husband, Nate, would ask if I wanted a bottle heated up or if I was going to practice breastfeeding. This shift in my mindset and the language we were using took a lot of pressure off me. I also stopped trying to nurse at night and only nursed when I knew I could be patient and make it a positive experience for me and my baby. After a month, we started to have consistent progress, and when Camille was around two months, I was almost exclusively breastfeeding and only doing a bottle when I wanted to. The main things that helped were learning how to help Camille latch properly, understanding that latching would become easier as Camille’s mouth grew (a lactation consultant told us this), only nursing when I was rested, and letting go of guilt around using bottles.

My advice to new parents

If a new parent asked me for advice on breastfeeding, I would tell them:

  1. Take a breastfeeding class before you give birth and have your partner or birth support person (friend, relative, etc.) come with you so they can support you with this.
  2. Consider asking someone you trust to support you when you first start breastfeeding.
  3. Remember that everyone’s experience is different. For some people, it does happen easily. For others, it is more difficult. If it’s hard for you and your baby or if you’re unable to, it’s not your fault, and you are still a great parent.
  4. If you do bottle feed research, “paced feeding.” This is the method that was recommended to us by our pediatrician and lactation consultants.
  5. Give yourself grace! Thinking of it as a learned skill and allowing myself to use bottles as well was the right choice for me.
  6. Know your local breastfeeding support resources. Check out the Linn Benton Lincoln Breastfeeding Coalition