happy national breastfeeding month! since we’re right smack in the middle of it, i thought this might be a great time to share some of my biggest takeaways and tips i’ve gathered over the years to hopefully help anyone who is in a similar boat! i know that this sort of topic can sometimes feel controversial, but i really really hope my words don’t contribute to that whatsoever. while i have had a very positive experience with breastfeeding, i really believe that “fed is best” and finding whatever works best for you and your little one is what is most important! i want to share my insight because i do wish when i started out with my journey of feeding my babies, that there would have been better resources available online in regards to hearing or reading people’s specific experiences with it all. so i hope this might be helpful for anyone starting out!
a little bit about my experience with breastfeeding… i have breastfed all of my kiddos, and actually breastfed eleanor during my pregnancy with samson. i consulted a few doctors about it at the time, and in my situation, it was totally fine. i ended up continuing to nurse her after samson’s arrival (since they are just 16 months apart), and loved those years of nursing both samson and eleanor simultaneously. by the time conrad was born, both of my older ones were weaned and it was a very special experience nursing only conrad for a couple years. and now, i am currently in the midst of exclusively breastfeeding both of my baby girls and figuring out the whole tandem twin nursing thing! more on that later.
the biggest and most important piece of wisdom i could ever share when it comes to breastfeeding, is to find yourself a big support system as you start out. during those first hours and days in the hospital with baby eleanor, i had the most incredible lactation consultant coming into my hospital room sometimes twice a day to check in on me, help me figure out the best positioning for me and my new baby girl and encouraged me to keep trying in the most gentle and non-judgemental ways when i grew frustrated or it felt difficult. before eleanor’s birth, i had read a couple of breastfeeding books and signed up for a la leche league in my area, but i was still a hot mess when it came to feeding, and felt a lot of pressure about it all from outside sources which added to my stress of not really knowing what i was doing. this lactation consultant was seriously one the best things that ever happened to me when it comes to my birth experiences, because she was so calm and gentle and patient and encouraging, i really credit all these years of breastfeeding my babies to her. she made a really wonderful impact on those first days starting out, and i’m so thankful. over the years, i have unfortunatelty met a few people in hospital settings that aren’t encouraging or kind in the way they offer feedback or advice (straight up had a male pediatrician come in once as i was feeding one of my babies and say, “you’re doing it wrong.” when josh came back into the room a little later and i told him what happened he laughed and was like, you should have handed the baby over and been like, “oh sorry. will you demonstrate how i’m supposed to be doing it?” ;) but in the moment i actually felt very small and like i actually was doing it wrong (for the record, i don’t think there is only one position to hold a baby and feed. if you’re comfortable, they are comfortable, the latch is great and all are safe, you’re doing great.) between that first lactation consultant and a very supportive husband, as well as friends who have shared insight along the way, it’s been easier and easier to figure this thing out over the years and enjoy the experience with my babies. if your hosptial doesn’t offer a lactation consultant, you can ask for a nurse that specializes in breastfeeding to come in and help you during those first few days. it can be tricky because sometimes the milk doesn’t come in immediately (mine came in several days later with some of my babies), but you can still perfect the latch and positioning in the meantime and in my experience, my babies have been fine waiting for the milk. another thing i want to point out here is to make sure your baby’s mouth and tongue are checked by more than one doctor or nurse during your hospital stay. if they are at all tongue-tied, that can often affect you and your baby’s experience in a negative way from the very beginning, so it’s best to have that taken care of straightaway.
another important tip is to just keep practicing. i was so awkward those first many months trying to find the best position, especially when in public and not wanting to flash anyone! but with a lot of practice, i have found which positions work best for me and how to feed my babies discreetly while walking, being in public, at night… but give it time and be kind to yourself while you do so. finding your groove for nursing doesn’t just happen overnight! i finally found over time that my favorite breastfeeding position is to lie on my side. i’m able to not tense my back and relax my shoulders this way, and also it’s just really nice when you’re feeling exhausted. :)
drink all the water and then drink more water, too. i carry a ginormous insulated cup with me everywhere in our apartment and then have a big insulated canteen for when i am out. it’s amazing to see how quickly my milk supply might go down if i haven’t been keeping up with my fluids for the day. especially nursing the twins. i have found i drink much more water if i use a straw, so i have a couple of stainless steel straws i use with all of my cups now, and it has made a big difference.
after a few weeks of successful breastfeeding, try to pump milk and introduce a bottle to your baby in addition to the breast. eleanor never took a bottle, and looking back, i think she would have if i’d have tried a few different kinds. what i didn’t realize at the time of introducing a bottle to her, was that each bottle nipple is just as different as each breast nipple, and i had bought a bottle that i thought was super “cute”, but the nipple was nothing like mine and she was very confused trying to latch on and drink. i never tried another, because i just didn’t realize there were other kinds and options at the time. i was super naive and unaware. while i loved my time breastfeeding her, i couldn’t ever really leave her during those first 6 months, since her only food source was me. if you can pump breastmilk and introduce a bottle, it really does make a difference having that mobility of being able to pump and have someone else feed them on occasion through a bottle. right now with the twins, i am using a double breast pump and trying to pump once a week so they continue to take a bottle well for josh on occasion and i can go out for a few hours or be with my other kids. it’s a serious game changer with breastfeeding, and i highly recommend.
savor it. take time to just sit and look at your beautiful baby while feeding them! this one might sound weird at first, like of course you’re doing that! but also, sometimes i find that when i’m feeding my baby girls, it’s my time to grab my phone and scroll through instagram or answer emails and just not be present at all. and the other day, i was on my phone while both were nursing and i looked down and realized both of my baby girls were actually looking directly at me while eating, and i was like, “shoot! i am missing this incredible moment!” and some of my best memories feeding all of my kids over the years are when they are eating and look up at you and start to smile and all that milk just starts to fall everywhere but you don’t mind it because it’s the sweetest moment of bonding ever and you can hardly take it! so yeah, put the phone or book or whatever down sometimes and just talk to them or sing to them or look at them while they are there with you.
when you’re in public and want to forgo the nursing blankets and covers but still be discreet, do the double shirt trick. i like to wear a very thin and tight tank under my shirt or dress or whatever i’m wearing. i’ll tuck it into my pants and this way, when i need to pull up my top shirt, my stomach is still covered and i’m not flashing it to the world. your baby’s head usually will always cover the area that needs to be covered anyway! but honestly you just have to try a few different ways out and see what you like most. there is nothing wrong with using a nursing cover, doing the double shirt trick, or just pulling out the boob and feeding your baby! i have realized over the years that people around me really aren’t paying attention and they really don’t care. once you realize this, it makes feeding your baby anywhere so much easier and enjoyable.
for twins…. what i’ve found most helpful when it comes to nursing my baby girls this round, is to keep them on the same schedule. especially in the night. i try to always feed them both at the same time so to maximize our own sleep at night. one of my girls eats really quickly and the other likes to take her time, so sometimes it doesn’t always work out like a dream, but most nights, it’s been successful. i also have lived for my tandem nursing pillow and don’t know how i’d have done those first few weeks of feeding without it when they are so fragile and tiny. i am able to have both my hands free to help position their heads and scoot them up or down or closer or whatever this way, and it makes a big difference. but i haven’t figured out how to tandem nurse them when i’m out very well, because i’m usually topless at home when i do it. :0 so when we’re out, i just nurse them one at a time right now. hopefully once they are a little bigger and can prop themselves up to feed, i’ll be able to nurse them together anywhere.
but the biggest thing here is to just trust yourself and find the best method for you and your babies! everyone’s situation and ideal and experience is so very different, and these tips are just from my own learning over the years. if you have any advice for breastfeeding, please share in the comments! i hope this is helpful for anyone in the midst of figuring it out!