The first month of breastfeeding can really be the most difficult weeks of breastfeeding. But don’t give up! Here are 10 tips to conquer early breastfeeding challenges! #5 is probably the most overlooked.
The first month of breastfeeding can really be the most difficult weeks of breastfeeding. And, unfortunately, it’s the time many moms give up.
I don’t blame them. It’s hard. It can hurt. During that time, there may be little milk and much tears–and maybe even some blood.
As I mentioned a few weeks back, the best breastfeeding advice anyone ever gave me was to just give it two weeks.
That little nugget of wisdom was all I needed to persevere to the 50+ months of breastfeeding that I now have under my belt. I firmly believe that if you can give it those two weeks, you can give it two more weeks. And, before you know it, you will have mastered one full month of breastfeeding!
If you can make it through that month, you’ll be well on your way to a successful breastfeeding experience.
Image by Mothering Touch
So WHY is the first month of breastfeeding so challenging?
Think about it. You’ve just been through 9 months of pregnancy and maybe hours (or even days) of intense labor. Labor in itself is beautiful and wonderful–but it’s also like running a marathon.
Your body’s been through A LOT. Your hormones are going CRAZY.
You might have postpartum depression.
But there’s a precious little one looking at you who is even hungrier.
And you’re his or her only source of nourishment.
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. It WILL get better.
Here are some things that have helped me get through that first month (three times now!):
1. Breast-Soothing Creams
In the past, I’ve mentioned that lanolin was my best friend during those few weeks. Especially during my first breastfeeding experience, I’ve loaded up on the lanolin! I used the Lansinoh lanolin, which is 100% pure and contains no preservatives or additives.
I’ve since learned of the amazing benefits of coconut oil, which I believe is even better for sore nipples. Find out what works for you. If you are birthing in a hospital, I would advise to pack some breast-soothing creams to have on hand once baby arrives!
Note: You will most likely be sore those first few weeks with each child you breastfeed. I was shocked that I was sore with my second and third–especially with having nursed my first for almost two years. My third had a poor latch, and my nipples were probably the sorest with her!
2. A Breastfeeding Pillow
I used a Boppy. My Breast Friend is another option. To be honest, I only really used the Boppy during my first breastfeeding experience. With other little ones under toe during my second and third experiences, I had to learn to nurse without being completely still with baby on a pillow!
But during my first breastfeeding experience, it was so comfortable propping my daughter up on this pillow. You can later use the pillow for baby’s tummy time.
3. Good Reading Material
I suggest reading The Nursing Mother’s Companion and The Womanly Art of Breastfeedingthat first month. I kept both books by my “nursing station” (the place where I normally nursed). My hubby even bought me a small book light, so I could read while nursing at night without waking him up!
Drinking enough fluids is vital to milk production. Nursing moms should drink to their thirst, meaning that they should follow their body’s cues and drink when they feel thirsty. I kept a glass of water by my bed and nursing station and drank it ALL DAY!
Like I said, you’ve just been through perhaps the marathon of your LIFE! Your body needs to rest in order to make milk. It sounds cliche, but TRY to rest while your baby is resting. This is easier with your first baby because you don’t have older children to care for.
If a friend or relative volunteers to come help you, by all means, take them up on the offer, and GO TAKE A NAP! If can afford to do so, hire a postpartum doula to help you around the house.
Image by ODHD
It took 5 DAYS for my milk to come in with my first daughter. Each day, my stomach knotted up more and more–thinking my milk would never come. I stressed–big time. I remember looking at myself and saying: “Milk! Come in! Please!” Eventually, my milk arrived, but all my stressing probably did not help things.
7. Demand Feeding
When your baby is tiny, I would give them as much feeding time as they want. I would encourage them to nurse long and often.
Your milk supply is directly related to the baby’s demand. The milk they take in during those early days will help establish your supply (and help prevent problems later on).
I remember feeling FAMISHED those first days home after my first daughter’s birth. Not only have you just burned a massive amount of calories after your labor and delivery, but you’re also burning an extra 300-500 calories per day to make milk!
Eat lots of good fats, try a lactation cookie and enjoy being able to eat a little more than normal for the time being.
Image by Daquella manera
9. A Good Support System
Talk to your nursing friends, check out a Breastfeeding USA or La Leche Leaguemeeting, chat with your breastfeeding buddies in an online forum, like on your local Mommies Network, Baby Center or DiaperSwappers.
Never feel like you are in this alone! I remember thinking during those late-night feedings: “There are millions of mothers all over the world doing exactly the same thing that I’m doing right now!”
In my book, this is the most important. Remember that the God who created your baby, the God who created YOU, created your body to nourish this little baby He’s entrusted to you. When you feel like giving up, ask Him to help you.
What helped YOU get through the first month of breastfeeding?
If you liked this post, you may also like my post on homemade lactation cookies.
This post is part of the Breast-Kept Secrets: Breastfeeding Advice from One Mom to Another series. Go back and read all posts here.
I am one of those moms with nightmare stories. Wth my firstborn, I was in so much pain and to the point of bleeding for 2 months, no matter what creams were prescribed for my nipples. It hurt so bad. I had someone check, and my daughter’s latch was just fine. She had an exceptionally strong suction. Even at a year old, I could easily pump 12+ ounces at a time every 4-6 hours for her. I persisted. It hurt, but since I had checked with my doctor and other than extreme pain and lots of tears for those two months, it was not harming me or her,so I made up my mind that there was no other option. It DID GET BETTER after those first couple months though, and was a wonderful experience. I have not regrets and would do it again, especially seeing the strong and healthy 4 year old that she is. She stopped nursing on her own at 13 months. My second born just turned a year old and is still nursing 2x a day with soy milk supplementation. She was the opposite. She was a very lazy nurser from day 1. Those first couple weeks were sore, but not nearly the pain and no bleeding. Prayer was so vital to me through both rounds, praying for strength to do what I knew I needed to do. And having a good friend to call and cry with when I was having a hard time.
Thanks for this series! Breastfeeding failed with my first two and I’m due with #3 TOMORROW! It failed in part because I didn’t know I can only produce milk on ONE side. Now that I know that, I’m hoping things will be different this time around. I’m aiming to be successful and your series is very encouraging. Thanks again!
One thing that made a HUGE difference for me in the few weeks following delivery was moving a super comfy recliner into our bedroom. We’re fortunate enough that we had space for it in there, and having had an episiotomy (uuuugh) it made sitting in one spot for an extended period of time much more bearable for me. On those nights when baby girl decided she wanted to have a nursing marathon, I was able to sleep in the recliner with her as well without the worry of hubby (who’s both a sound and very restless sleeper) squashing her. That chair is in her room now and I love it so much. If and when we add to the brood, it’s definitely going to be migrating around to follow the babies.
Thank you so much! I’m due any day now and getting a little nervous about breastfeeding. I want to do it so badly, but I’ve had so many people tell me that they just couldn’t get it to work. Luckily, I have both my mom, mother-in-law and sister-in-law that all successfully breastfed, so I should have tons of support.
This was great timing for me.
I was nervous too before my first (8 months) ago because I didn’t have anyone in my family who had successfully breastfed longer than 6 months. But with the encouragement of my husband, my sister, a friend or two, and a lactation consultant, I’m still going strong with breastfeeding 8 months later. My daughter is showing no signs of wanting to wean.
If you’re concerned about milk supply, the number 1 suggestion I have is fennel essential oil. You can buy the Young Living brand on Amazon. In my experience (and my sister’s – who had trouble with milk supply with her first two babies but not her third) fennel essential oil is one of the fastest ways to boost milk supply.
I think just sheer determination to do it. I wasn’t really pro breastfeeding before I had my son but something changed in me those days after he was born. My milk took almost a full week to come in because I had an emergency c-section and I didn’t see him for a few hours after I had him. I pumped like crazy and when it finally came in, and I saw how good it was for him, I set it in my mind that I was going to do this for as long as I was producing it. My son quit nursing on his own around 14 months but I still pump and he gets 1/2 breastmilk and 1/2 organic whole milk in a sippy cup twice a day. He is super healthy, never been sick and so full of energy and life. I also lost all my baby weight plus some less than a year after I had him so I am a huge supporter of it!
Andrea @the Distracted Housewife.com
I love that you said give it 2 weeks because that is my number one suggestion to new Moms. I have had two kids and with both I kept telling myself I just had to make it 2-4 weeks and If I was still in pain I was done I would quit. I knew the pain would be gone by then but It made feel better saying that. Thanks so much for posting this!
Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace
Love these tips! I need the refresher as we get ready for round two. I confess, I’m nervous about sore nipples…I’m eager to try coconut oil though. Good reminder!
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I love these articles. How many words can a wordsmith smith?
Great post, and I agree with all of it (though I have never been much on the rest and relaxation… fortunately I had a great homebirth midwife this 2nd time around who made me relax the first week! And a great husband and mom that helped me out sooo much…)
I would add, for those that feel comfortable with it and are able to, having a home birth really facilitates a great start to breastfeeding. Homebirth midwives are typically more directly involved with you, and really knowledgeable on breastfeeding. With my first son, I had a natural birth in a hospital, and while I really enjoyed my experience, we got off to a rocky start for more than one reason. And I didn’t have my midwife to turn to, since she was a busy hospital midwife and didn’t really do the “one on one” thing. We managed to nurse successfully for 16 months, but had some bumpy patches in the road. My second son, who is almost 4 months, has been MUCH easier, and I am so thankful!
I would say the things that have helped me in breastfeeding my 2 sons the most are: determination, education, support from family and friends who have breastfed, and not being afraid to nurse constantly the first 6 weeks or so. I think with my first I couldn’t believe that he wanted to nurse so soon after he had just unlatched, and didn’t always respond to his cues right away! With my second son, I just nursed him without even looking at the clock, and my milk supply is more plentiful this time, and he is also a bigger, chubbier baby (though of course that can just be the difference between individual babies, as well).
Another thing, that has helped me is pumping. the first 2 months, I pumped before bed and during his long nap, so I could have milk in the freezer. I think just having that extra breastmilk and the ability to feed him by bottle in an emergency really took a load off my shoulders… my first son never used a bottle and I would stress sometimes because I was the only one who could feed him. And stress is never good for milk supply!
Posts like this are always difficult for me to read. I did everything in this list (and much much more), but my milk never came in. I ate and drank constantly, my daughter had a perfect latch, but no milk. Finally after a month, she had lost so much weight that her pedi threatened to hospitalize her. We switched to formula and everything was fine. She’s perfect and healthy and wonderful, but I still haven’t quite gotten over it emotionally!
This is the same with me……I’m due in a couple of weeks with #3. I tried BF with my first two and despite all the things I tried as per above and more, my kids were starving. Looking into family history/genetics, and the fact that I was only able to pump out a total of 50mL of milk from both breasts in one week (that’s right, one week and only that much in total, not per pump) I simply don’t produce milk. And it took me a long time to accept this.
Despite this, I will still attempt BF with #3, but to save me and my child of the stress of effectively starving and losing way too much weight in the first few weeks, severe jaundice etc, I will supplement with formula. If things happen to be better this time around, and by some miracle I do produce plentiful milk supplies, then the formula feeding will cease. But I will try not to beat myself up as much if sole formula feeding is what is needed to ensure the health and survival of my baby. At the end of the day, my two kids are happy and healthy with minimal illness – only since coming into contact with other kids have they been sick – hard to avoid at school etc.
I had a similar experience and just didn’t make any more milk than you describe despite trying to follow all the suggestions. Since you are going to try again, I wanted to be sure you know about the supplemental system that you can tape to your breast so that the baby gets supplemented while nursing without having to introduce a bottle. You can google it or ask a lactation consultant. My kids are in their twenties so I can say they survived formula! It was a disappointment though. See how I stopped and read this thread on breastfeeding-lol.
Nothing helped. I was alone, just me and my husband, completely clueless as to what to expect. Under the hospital drugs, breastfeeding was a breeze the first 2 days and then it turned into a nightmare when i went home and the drugs wore off. I just couldn’t do it. After 3 weeks trying and bleeding and crying through it all, my nerves were shot, the lack of sleep killed me and all I got were women saying how I was doing one thing or another wrong. We gave up! The pressure of wanting to breastfeed and not being able to drove me into PPD, which sucked. I tried calling LLL and using a lactation especialist, but nothing helped, my son had hypertonicity due to the labor drugs and a high palate which didn’t quite much the length of my niples (he got milk at the expense of putting my niples through the shredder). My recommendation to anyone, as I wish I had this, is to have family around. If you have a mom, sister, best friend, anyone who’s ubber supportive and who’ll help you through the ups and downs, who won’t be affected by the baby’s sleeping hours like mommy and daddy. We were so utterly lonely it truthfully sucked. My second piece of advice is: do everything in your power and endure it well, but if it doesn’t work, don’t kill yourself over it. I had no one to tell me this. The opposite. I had women telling me I was a bad mother for not breastfeeding, my own mom who is a world away and didn’t come to help told me she put up with the pain why couldn’t I do so as well? If that won’t drive you into depression, nothing will. Think about it… what people think of you doesn’t matter. What matters is that you love your child, you do everything possible to do everything right by that little person (not by the doctor, your parents or society) and then the rest doesn’t matter. My 2 cents for those struggling and beating themselves up for either failing to breastfeed or close enough to a nervous breakdown because of their attempt to do right by everyone except themselves. Love and peace y’all! <3
The biggest thing that helped me (along with the list you made 🙂 was just having support from friends. I just really needed to know that I wasn’t alone (I had a really difficult time with both my girls for the first few months) and that it was normal for me to feel upset and a little down about how things were going. Support is underrated! 🙂
Best nipple cream ever– mother love nipple cream!!! So easy to apply, soothing, and natural/safe for baby!
I second the mother love nipple cream. I tried Lansinoh and Medela’s version of lanolin and didn’t really care for it, both felt kind of heavy and thick. Mother love was super smooth and worth every penny.
Ok, one of the things that helped me was my cat. Whenever breastfeeding really hurt (and I went a good two months before feeling any relief), I would have my husband take the baby and I would go sit in a separate room with my cat and just pet him. His purring really helped calm me and always made me feel better. I know not every person has a pet (or wants a pet), but for those that do, taking a few moments to spend one on one with them can really help get through the rough patches.
One of the most important things I learned as a nursing mom is heat/cold therapy. Before nursing on one breast, warm it with a warm washcloth to get the milk flowing. At the same time cool the other breast with refrigerated gel packs (you can make your own). It’s so important to control the swelling and help avoid clogged ducts. I had a VERY hard time with my first baby not knowing this tip. She was small and my breasts were HUGE. That baby just could not latch one since my breasts were so swollen and eventually engorged. After I figured it out things went much more smoothly and I am lucky e ought to have successfully nursed four children well into toddlerhood. Take your time, lots of warm showers with breast massages to keep breasts soft. And rest rest rest. XO
Thank you for these tips!!
I have BF 6 kids!!! I am a cow!!! So the best thing I could do was pump and freeze all the extra, for the first month. Despite creams showers cabbage leaves, massaging… I am huge for the first 3 weeks. So after almost all feelings I would pump. My baby is almost 6 months old I still have milk in the deep freeze.#1 stopped on her own at 13 months #2 got ear infections at 10 months and stopped #3 stopped at 5 months on his own #4 baby was a very lazy breast feeder, I stopped her at 7 months. #5 I nursed till he was close to 2, kind of weird for me. But we are soooo close. Get a good pillow and chair. And drink tons of water
6 kids–you are superwoman!!! Thanks for sharing your tips!!
One of the most important things for new moms to know about is growth spurts. They come at predictable times. The first one is when the baby is about 2 weeks old. Baby will have one or two days of wanting to nurse constantly. Many new moms think their milk supply isn’t adequate to satisfy baby. Baby just needs more for a few days in order to do some major growing. All this extra nursing will take your milk supply to a new level for your growing baby. This is when many moms quit and just give formula instead. When mom feels baby just isn’t getting satisfied at the breast, sometimes she will be tempted to offer a bottle of formula, which, of course, baby will probably take, and then fall asleep for about 4 hours, like a “food coma.” This may look like a satisfied baby, but it’s just a knocked-out baby. Have at least one friend who is a successful breastfeeder, so you can get some support when you feel like giving up. It’s so worth it to hang in there! I nursed one for a year, and another for a year and a half. One of the most enjoyable, peaceful, and satisfying things I’ve done in my life!
Such great advice! Thank you for sharing!
One thing I would add: surrender. Surrender to the fact that for the next few weeks or more, your job is to sit and feed your baby. Don’t wish it away, or expect that a baby will only nurse ___ amount of time; that causes lots of frustration and unrealistic expectations. This is your job, it’s a beautiful one that only you can do, and only for a small season. Cherish it and surrender to the fact that it is demanding, but wonderful (even if you’re not feeling-it right now.)
I remember my baby’s pediatrician telling me not to worry if my milk did not come in for a few days since babies are not really hungry and the colostrum is what baby needed at first anyway.
Those were comforting words to hear from a trusted source! …..especially since Grandmother just kept insisting the baby would starve if I did not bottle feed.
I listened to La Leche League and my pediatrician and successfully nursed both my children…my firstborn ten months and my second child for 15 months.
Amazing what you can do when you listen to supportive people and educate yourself with literature from La Leche League.
I love La Leche League! Glad you got some great advice!
Thank You for this article! I have just completed my 1st week of breast feeding. I really needed to read this. Thanks!
Thank you for these tips/advice. Thank you to all the other commenter for you advice/encouragement. I am currently finishing my second week of breastfeeding my daughter and am so ready to give up. These kind words really lifted me up after a long night of screaming and a horrible day of constantly being covered in milk, baby baby girl fighting to latch on properly, and me sitting here in tears. It feels like a losing battle. Your kind words made me realize I already made it two weeks, so I can definitely shoot for two more!
I’m so sorry you’ve had a rough two weeks but I am so glad you were encouraged. Keep on keeping on, Mama, and know that you are a good mama no matter what!
I was so grateful to have the LaLeche League at my disposal. When I found it difficult to nurse on the right side, they tried to help and finally told me to just nurse on the left side. It was good to get the ‘go-ahead’ to stop struggling to nurse on the right side. I nursed exclusively on the left side for two years for each of my two daughters. They are now 23 and 21. All done!
Shauna Medley St. John
This is a great article. My firstborn was about 5 weeks early and had a very hard time nursing. I was blessed with a wonderful lactation consultant who helped me out so much. I nursed her for a year, my second preemie for 14 months, and my third child for 22 months. I loved nursing. My advice would be to seek out the lactation consultant at the hospital, even if you are not having problems, as they always have a pearl of wisdom to share. God bless them.
Nursing is not easy at first for a lot of us, hang in there, do the best you can. If you have no milk, if you go to formula, try not to be too hard on yourself.
There are many days that you feel that all you do is nurse, but think about it: if that’s all you do, you’ve done so much! You’ve completely nourished a sweet baby. God bless all.
I think knowing that your body was made to feed your baby helps with confidence. To produce milk you need to eat, rest, drink and relax. Having someone to take care of you for the first week or so can help with these.
I started my breast feeding career with five-week early twins. Small babies have a hard time staying awake for a full feeding. It takes a lot of patience to go at their pace. I breasted all but one past two years, two went to three years. My last two have Down syndrome and needed pumped milk, because they were too weak to stay awake for a full feeding. They transitioned to total breast feeding by 10 weeks.
When I help with a birth as a doula, I stay until breast feeding is established. I have run into a few issues. But I know where to get help! I helped all my daughters-in-law get started. Experienced help makes a big difference!
Wish I’d had more help and support with my third. She was a bad latcher. I was in horrible pain. She sent me confusing cues and didn’t wake at night to eat. My supply (which is normally very good) decreased. I could not manage the nurse, bottle pump routine with two other kids and too much going on. I quit nursing her at 7 weeks. I prayed about it….for some reason God chose not to answer my prayers. I still don’t get it…..I get angry and hurt sometimes reading these kinds of posts. She’s my last and I wanted so badly to nurse her, but it had to be reasonably easy or I couldn’t manage it. I did succeed with my older two, so it wasn’t my body that failed. It was just too painful and emotionally draining when she stopped gaining weight. Sometimes you can’t sacrifice sanity and harmony in the home on the altar of breastfeeding. My daughter is 6 months old now and I’m still pumping for her but will have to quit before a trip in April. I have to be content with that and move on, but it’s hard.
What did your breastfeeding station look like? Where was it?
In addition to the lanolin cream my saving grace was the medela hydrogel pads that one of the lactation consultants at the hospital told me about. they are AMAZING!!
The first month of breastfeeding is most challenging part of motherhood. The new baby constantly keeps you occupied and tired. No sleep is a bonus. This information is very useful but mothers must read it before the delivery. I wish I had such information when I was pregnant.
I haven’t had the joy of having a baby (or being pregnant yet). I read this information in faith that I WILL one day (in Gods time) be able to use it. With every painful nurse and every sleepless night, I will be thankful that my prayers were answered. Treasure every second, don’t forget to live in the moment, and PLEASE be grateful you have been blessed with the most precious gift in the world. I’m still waiting for mine- (8 years) praying it will happen and soon.
I’ll say a prayer for you right now too! I hope you get that gift you desire!
I love this article! I have survived breastfeeding my baby only because I had an increadible great help – an e-book by Susan Urban “How to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy” that I got here www.parental-love.com . It has got all the information about breastfeeding! After reading it I didn’t have to read anything else or ask for help! And because it’s an e-book I had it with me all the time in my phone, even in the hospital when my baby was born! Every mom or mom-to-be should read it!
This guide is a great collection of information on breastfeeding, thanks for sharing the title.
I am just after reading “How to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy” guide by S. Urban and it is very good! It has got all the information I needed and all the tips and advices are very helpful! I am glad I saw this article and the comment about the guide! Thanks
I would add audiobook to the list! It’s very handy and you will spend a looooot of time breastfeeding. A lot. And thank you girls for mentioning Susan Urban’s guide – it was my breastfeeding bible! I’m recommending to every of my friends, haven’t read anything better on the topic.
Did you mean this guide: https://amzn.to/398hBOQ ?
This is such a helpful book. It really made me feel connected with other women and helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone in my initial struggles with breastfeeding. There are so many things in it that I wish I had read before my baby was born. I really think it would have made a world of difference reading it beforehand! Good one