I first want to state this disclaimer that there is absolutely nothing wrong if you do not breastfeed your baby for 1 year or longer. This is my 4th baby and the only baby I breastfed beyond the first year. With my other babies, the first two I nursed for 3 months and baby number 3 was nursed for almost 6 months. With baby number 4, I was much better educated and made a conscious decision that I wanted to nurse for at least 1 year or longer. I do not work outside the home, so I did not have to put a lot of effort towards pumping. If you have to pump, or supplement with formula, that is totally fine. What’s most important is that your baby is fed, growing and happy. It did take commitment and consistency to exclusively breastfeed but it has been all worth it. So what did I do? Here goes!
Decide to Exclusively Breastfeed While Pregnant
However far along in your pregnancy you are and you have decided to exclusively breastfeed start educating yourself on breastfeeding. Although the information on breastfeeding is limitless here are a few recommended websites:
You are really going to need the mental determination to stick with exclusively breastfeeding, especially if exclusively breastfeeding is not the norm within your circle. I am a African American mom, and let me tell you, everyone around me did not totally get why I was still breastfeeding my baby or why I chose not to give him bottle with cereal in it to help him sleep better. But, I’d already chosen that I wanted to exclusively breastfed and would continue to do so as long as he was interested. So the unwanted comments, or advice to use alternatives to feed him did not discourage me from my decision.
Keep Your Baby Close
For every feeding I nursed him. I repeat, for every feeding I nursed him. So yes that meant, he was with us on dates, important meetings, and he co-slept with us. I was and still am a huge fan of baby wearing, because I learned that keeping your baby close to your body naturally assists with maintaining your milk supply. For this reason and the convenience of being hands free, I would suggest baby-wearing.
There were also many people who thought it was an inconvenience to always have my baby with me on dates or outings so I could nurse, but I knew it wouldn’t be this way forever. At some point he will no longer need to nurse, so I excepted my decision and what the reality of that consisted of. Having a baby with me the majority of the time so I could nurse on demand. Of course there were outing I didn’t attend, but that was OK. At this point in my life breastfeeding was a bigger priority versus being able to attend every social event. So yes, you will have to be ready to live out the effects of your decision to exclusively breastfeed. It’s not a death sentence, as some may make you feel. It’s just the season you are in for a while.
I always prefer co-sleeping with my baby in their younger years. Maybe I’m considered lazy, but it was just so much easier to me to nurse my baby during the night with him beside my instead of getting up, going into another room to nurse him, then put him back to sleep. That just was not for me. And I will be completely honest with you, and confess that I even nursed him to sleep. For naps and nighttime. I didn’t plan to, it just happened. And honestly, I didn’t mind. Now in my circumstance, my other children were 13, 12, and 7 so they are little older. Which made it a little easier to take time to nurse him to sleep. In this case, you have to do what works best for your family.
Special Tips and Tricks?
Now I’ve heard many mothers say they’ve used teas, and cookies to help with milk supply. Once again, I somewhat went against the grain with this. I read enough information, that I was convinced that as long as I drank enough fluids, especially water, and ate an well balanced meal, and vitamins, that would be enough to sustain my milk supply. And it worked! I’ve never used lactating teas, or cookies and at 14 months were still going strong!
One little trick I stumble across was sports drinks appear to boost up my milk supply. I accidentally made this discovery because I dramatically cut back on sodas, and juices and sometimes I wanted a sweet drink so I would grab a sports drink. Anytime I would consume the drink at night, I would have major milk leakage. Major. So, the one tip that work for me personally anytime I felt like an extra boost, I would drink about a half bottle of sports drink.
I only pumped during the first 3 months to have a stash of milk for an emergency, but thankfully we’ve never had to use it. Once again this was another tip I read that suggest pumping will help increase milk. But, from my experience I pumped to store excess milk and that was it. I didn’t find it to be a necessity to increase milk supply.
I didn’t use a pacifier. I stayed away from bottles. And fed on demand.
Road to Success
I know all of this advice probably sounded pretty easy to follow. But let me make it clear, that I faced the same challenges of any other exclusively breastfeeding mom. The beginning was horribly painful, as I went through several nipple creams trying to find which gave the best relief. I cried tears of frustration as I battled thoughts about why am I doing this. I have 4 children. I can easily just supplement. I battled feeling of resentment towards my husband as I felt he did not understand the physical demands that come with nursing. Adjusting to nursing in public, while getting over what people may think. Sacrificing certain outfits that are not nursing friendly. And not to mention, all the many pauses I have to make throughout my day to stop and feed the baby.
But you know what? It’s been all worth it. I loved not having to carry formula around in the diaper bag. I loved the closeness and bonding time that I experience while looking into my baby’s eyes while nursing. I love not having to make a bottle during the night, while my husband and I both are beyond exhausted. I really enjoyed partnering with a community lactation consultant and attending a weekly breastfeeding support group. I felt comforted knowing that anytime my baby was sick I would tell myself, “thank I’m breastfeeding, because without the breast-milk it would be worse.” The nutritional benefits are endless. And I actually achieved a goal that I don’t take for granted and I know is no easy task. Do I feel proud? Absolutely. Was it hard work? You bet. Would I do it again? Hands down yes!
So remember make the decision the exclusively breastfeed as soon as possible. Don’t worry about people’s opinion who do not agree with what your doing. Keep your baby close and feed on demand. Eat well, stay hydrated and try not to stress and enjoy the process.
Until next time.