As new mothers, we set goals - goals for our recovery, for our new baby, for shedding that baby weight (ugh!) and, for breastfeeding. For me, my initial goal was 12 months. I figured hey, how hard can it be - I'll breastfeed for a year...easy.
Well, six months in I'm working full time in a stressful executive role, I've stopped nursing and am only pumping and my supply starts to slow down. Suddenly, my 12 month goal is not so easy anymore. Needless to say, I was devistated - I felt like a failure, and I couldn't accept having to give my baby formula. So I started to do some hardcore research and figure out what I needed to do in order to reach my goal.
1. Relax, and be Patient
It may be hard to do, especially when you are just starting out, but it's very important to try to limit your stress. If you are struggling with getting a proper latch or feel your supply is getting weak - find a nice, quiet place and get comfortable. Make sure you have something to support your arms so once you have your baby in a good hold, you don't get uncomfortable or have to move. Relaxing, listening to calming music or even turning the lights down a bit will help tell your body it's time to let the milk flow. If your supply is getting low, or your baby isn't quite getting the hang of it - just stay calm and be patient. Unless your baby is showing signs of not getting enough nutrients, keep at it...you know what they say, "practice makes perfect."
2. Drink a lot of Water
You're probably already used to drinking a fair amount of water from being pregnant, but now that you're little one has entered the world, it's no time to stop. Not only might you find yourself thirsty as you're nursing your little bundle of joy but the extra water intake also helps keep your output on the up and up (got all that?).
3. Take Care of Yourself
Listen to your body - if you are sore or otherwise uncomfortable, take care of the problem right away before it gets worse and interferes with your breastfeeding goals. Get yourself some nursing cream, use a warm compress (or even a cool one!) but make sure you stay on top of your overall comfort. And if you see any signs of an infection (mastitis) or thrush - contact your doctor right away.
4. Eat Right
Just like when you were pregnant, your body still needs some extra calories. Making milk actually burns calories at an amazing rate (a little breastfeeding bonus for mamas looking to shed some baby weight!) so it is important to increase your intake by about 500 calories per day. Of course, this should be 500 healthy calories - it's not an excuse to go eat pizza and ice cream every day. Focus on foods rich in protein and vitamins. Drink some fenugreek tea if your supply is starting to slow down for a nice, all natural way to increase your production.
5. Get Help and Support
You're not in this alone - remember that. There are millions of women going through the same thing you are, and there are not only forums to help support you but also your doctor, your pediatrician and organizations like La Leche League. Connect with friends, neighbors, or even mamas you've never met - but make sure to share your thoughts and find support from others who have been where you are. There's nothing better for an emotional boost than hearing a success story of another mama.
So how did I fare in all of this? I'm happy to say that I not only reached my goal - I exceeded it! I was able to continue breastfeeding (100% pumping, by the way - which does put you at a disadvantage as nursing creates a stronger demand) for 19 months. I couldn't be happier that I stuck it out and found some really helpful information to turn my experience around and put me on the path toward success. Good luck, mamas!