SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

June 2014

10 Ways to Make Breastfeeding Easier

I’ll be the first to admit that breastfeeding is not easy, especially for a new mum. It was with a lot of hard work, tears and sheer determination that I managed to nurse my daughter till she was 14 months old. If you thought it would be effortless, sorry mum! But be encouraged, the key word here is easier. Here are some honest tips.

1. Don’t stinge on seeing the Pros.

Confession: less than 24 hours after I brought my newborn home, I took her back to the hospital to see the Lactation Consultant (LC). My baby had cried the whole night, I was exhausted and in pain. I cried tears of relief, when the LC addressed multiple issues of engorgement, latching, tongue training (who knew I needed to do that?) and assured me my six-day-old baby was not starving, by weighing her after a feed. The specialised help was worth every cent! Maximise your time with lactation-trained personnel during your hospital stay, and don’t hesitate to call or visit even months later. I’ve found LCs to be critical when doctors have misdiagnosed my issues.


2. Accept that some initial discomfort is normal.

I think I’ll always miss the magical intimacy of holding my child and nursing her, but those tender moments didn’t come without a bumpy (lumpy) start. When my body first began producing breast milk days after I had delivered (the wait is normal), I was rudely awakened to sore and hard boobs. Though pre-natal classes stressed that nursing isn’t supposed to hurt, I felt nibbled upon when my newborn first latched. After correcting her latch, my body still had to get accustomed to the new sensations of a suckling baby and massaging leaky breasts. So accept that it takes time for you and baby to find a groove and believe me, it can get better! Your body condition and milk supply reaches an equilibrium that better matches the baby’s needs.

3. Master the basics!

Like acquiring any other new skill, breastfeeding is a whole new field of knowledge with multiple techniques to read up on, practice, and learn. Some must-learn basics:

• Experiment with different positions/holds to see which works for both baby and you. Changing the direction of the latch helps to clear milk in different sections of the breasts and prevent clogged ducts.

• Learn how to massage your breasts and hand express milk; it is easier for an infant to latch onto a softer areola.

• Discover the appropriate use of hot/cold compresses and cabbage leaves – these simple aids can help manage engorgement, production, let down and bring much relief!

4. Don’t assume the baby is always hungry.

You might notice others love to ask, ‘Is the baby hungry?’ whenever he/she wails, even if you’ve been nursing for the last hour! Forgivably, it’s easy to assume so but infants have many needs. I only realised months into motherhood that I frequently misinterpreted my girl’s overtired cries as hunger. Learn to observe your baby’s body language (refer to pictorial cue charts) and decipher their cries. Establishing some form of regularity (every two-three hours for instance) in feeding helps babies to take substantial milk feeds, as opposed to ‘snacking’ all day. Knowing when they last fed helps you eliminate hunger as a possible reason for their fussiness, and you can troubleshoot for other causes, such as needing a diaper change, a nap, to be burped etc.


5. Get support from your husband.

Discuss early on with your partner about your desire to breastfeed, and help him understand your realities and challenges. It’s important to own this decision as a couple. I remember how much it meant to me when my husband gracefully fended off suggestions from well-meaning relatives to feed formula to my baby, while I was still trying to establish milk supply. When we eventually started storing breast milk, he also took on a night bottle feed, making a heavenly five-hour block of sleep possible! Your partner’s encouragement and help will certainly help you build perseverance when the nights are long.

6. Find a community of fellow nursing mums.

Don’t expect friends and loved ones who have never breastfed to fully understand your woes – it certainly is a very unique (and sometimes misunderstood) journey. Find fellow nursing mums to share your struggles with and cheer each other on. I’m so thankful for my community of mummy girlfriends whom I have access to constantly, through instant messaging. Whether it was times of battling nursing strikes with my baby, or the anguish of mastitis, these ladies were best able to empathise and also offer quick tips.

7. Make nursing a comfortable part of your routine.

Believe it or not, one of my bigger regrets in breastfeeding my first child was not having a comfy chair to nurse in! Given the number of hours you spend daily feeding your baby, do get comfortable to avoid body aches and wrist strain. Some prefer to nurse lying down, and others use the time to couch potato with their favourite TV dramas! A breastfeeding pillow can be very helpful to position a younger baby. If you’re pumping regularly, invest in a powerful, double electric breast pump that can make the process more efficient, and find well-fitting flanges (I prefer the angled ones).

8. Practise nursing outside your home.

Feeding a baby outside can be scary and inconvenient but it is so empowering when you eventually figure out how to manage baby on the go independently. I liked to meet up with friends in malls with well-equipped nursing rooms, and tried to avoid travelling during feeding times as much as possible. I also practised using different tools, like a nursing shawl and a baby carrier, which eventually enabled me to nurse while walking around or tucked away discreetly in a café corner.

9. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Relax and remember that babies are resilient creatures! So don’t get obsessed with how much you’re producing (the pump is not always an accurate indicator), but rather check for sufficient wet and poopy diapers, and monitor overall weight gain. There will be days when feeding schedules are thrown out of the window, and they seem disinterested in drinking or want to suckle endlessly because of a growth spurt. Try to keep calm and remember, “This too will pass”!

10. It’s not the end of the world if you have to stop.

The day will come when you (or baby!) decide to wean, and whatever the reasons, know it’s not the end of the world. You’re not any less of a mother because you’re not nursing your baby through Kindergarten. As wonderful as that close attachment can be, there are other ways to bond with your baby, and no one should make you feel guilty for not going longer – not even your own expectations. Trust that this was designed to be a beautiful – and not stressful – process of serving your child with the perfect nourishment, and a season to be enjoyed while it lasts.

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10 Ways to Make Breastfeeding Easier