Today’s your day if you’re thinking about breastfeeding exclusively and want to hear a mom’s real-life experience.
It wasn’t until I had my fourth baby that I was fully committed to breastfeeding exclusively for the long haul.
I breastfed for about six months for my first three babies during the newborn stage but continuously supplemental with formula.
With baby number four, I’d read enough information to be convinced that breastfeeding was best and that it was the only milk source I wanted to supply to my baby.
I was familiar with many of the other formula options and was set on exclusively breastfeeding moving forward with each baby.
With all the books, articles, and videos I watched, nothing compared to my own experience.
But, thankfully I was prepared with what to expect, and I just had to stick to my decision.
Even if friends and family did not fully understand my firm decision to breastfeed my baby exclusively.
Is It Possible To Exclusively Breastfeed?
Yes. As long as your baby grows and gains weight, you do not have to supplement with formula. It is possible to breastfeed your baby for as long as you choose to exclusively breastfeed. But, as always “fed is best” if all else fails.
How Long Do You Exclusively Breastfeed For?
How long you choose to breastfeed is a personal decision and depends on how well your baby is growing and developing. Even after you introduce your baby to solid food, you can continue to nurse your baby. The average mom exclusively breastfeeds for the baby’s first six months and then gradually introduces other food while breastfeeding for two years or longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth.
Do I Need To Pump If I Exclusively Breastfeed?
No. Pumping is only needed if you must prepare bottles because you will not be able to nurse your baby. Or, if you have consumed medications, alcohol, etc., that may be harmful to your baby, you may wish to pump and dump before nursing again. If none of the above applies, you do not have to pump.
Breastfeeding Exclusively for Two Years
My first goal was to breastfeed for an entire year.
I ended up breastfeeding for 2 1/2 years each, for my fourth and fifth babies.
But, I am sure this would not have happened if I had not been strategic with a pre-breastfeeding plan.
Also, I had to educate myself about what it takes to sustain an exclusively breastfed baby before and after introducing solids.
Here are five ways I prepared for exclusive breastfeeding before the baby arrived.
1. Learned From Breastfeeding Mothers
I read a lot during my pre-breastfeeding phase to understand the science and nutritional benefit of breastfeeding. Still, I also read about mothers who successfully exclusively breastfed their babies extensively.
I needed to feel inspired and mentally prepared to handle the demands of exclusively breastfeeding.
I think it’s essential for mothers to know that it may not start smooth sailing when they are new to breastfeeding. But if you are prepared and don’t allow yourself to stress out completely, you can weather the early days of breastfeeding.
2. One Bottle For Emergencies Only
I kept one 6oz. bottle on hand only for emergencies if, for some reason, I could not breastfeed. I kept that one bottle tucked away and out of sight as if it didn’t exist.
If you’re wondering, I never had to use it. I have not used a bottle for my last two babies.
I learned how easy it is to feel that breastfeeding is too painful initially, which would justify any mom not wanting to follow through.
Because of this, I treated that bottle as if it didn’t exist.
I avoided the temptation of buying tons of bottles because I was planning on exclusively breastfeeding.
And one of the surest ways of complicating breastfeeding is by introducing bottles and creating nipple confusion for your baby.
From all the reading and learning about breastfeeding, I realized that bottle nipples allow milk to flow through much more effortlessly, causing babies to work less to get milk.
Breastfed babies have to work a little more (when first learning) to drink their mother’s milk.
Training newborns early on how to latch on and breastfeed without substituting a bottle nipple is one of the first important steps to successful exclusively breastfeeding.
3. Avoided Buying Pacifiers
Pacifiers on the market today only get cuter and more creative as the years go by.
But, I chose early on to avoid them because, despite the texture and feel, a pacifier could cause more nipple confusion and temporarily satiate a hungry baby.
One of the biggest keys to successfully breastfeeding is feeding on demand.
I learned that a mother’s milk supply should keep up with her baby’s hunger demands.
And a pacifier could potentially interfere with that.
4. Understood The Realities Of Breastfeeding
Exclusively breastfeeding is not a death trap; your life is not on pause, and you are not stuck inside nursing a baby all day.
But there are some actual realities that come along with breastfeeding.
I was prepared to have my baby with me most of the time. Or, I planned not to be away from my baby for a long time. And for me, I knew I would be co-sleeping with my baby for a while.
Those are some of the realities of exclusively breastfeeding. In my experience, it’s much easier to wake up in the middle of the night and nurse a baby in bed versus getting out of bed, stumbling through the dark, and going through the entire routine with my eyes half-open.
And date nights, grocery store runs, doctor appointments, etc., I had the understanding that my nursing baby would be there with me.
This was a part of motherhood I was ready to accept.
For some people, these are the breaking points where it’s just not worth all the hassle. But these are scenarios I considered and thought through before my baby arrived so that I could have a more realistic perspective of how a life as a nursing mom would be.
And I knew this was just a fleeting season in life that was worth it.
5. Gathered Nursing Supplies
You may prefer a nursing station or just nursing supplies. Either way, it’s essential to plan. Since I homeschooled with multiple kids, I knew the idea of one stationary nursing station would be the least functional.
Therefore, I compiled a list of nursing supplies to keep on hand to help me stay consistent with breastfeeding.
My breastfeeding supplies contained the following:
- Reusable Nursing pads
- Nursing bras/nursing tanks (or similar)
- Nipple cream
- Healthy mom snacks
- Refillable water bottle
- Nursing cover (for public outings)
- Muslin blankets (my favorite brand is by Aden and Anais)
- Nursing pillow
- A manual hand pump for emergencies only
How Do You Successfully Exclusively Breastfeed?
After months of planning and preparing to breastfeed, it comes time to put it all into action!
The moment your baby is born, it’s feeding time.
The first few hours are usually pretty simple. After that, you’re in awe of the new little bundle you’re holding, and it’s as if time is standing still.
After a few days of sleepless nights, home life, and sore nipples, this is where new moms begin to question their breastfeeding decision.
Working through this slightly uncomfortable breastfeeding phase is when you have to remind yourself that it does get better.
This painful phase of breastfeeding is only temporary and does get better with time.
After bringing my baby home and settling in for a few days, some essential tips helped me not give up on exclusively breastfeeding.
Tips for Easier Breastfeeding
- Babywearing – Keeping your baby close makes it easier and convenient to nurse, especially while out and about. It’s very common for babies to go through many cluster feedings cycles. Keeping your baby close will make it much easier for you.
- Stay hydrated – Making sure you stay hydrated with plenty of fluids is essential to maintaining your milk supply. Water is best, of course. But drinking fluids with extra electrolytes will give you an extra boost of hydration, helping with milk supply. If you noticed your milk supply has dipped, your first step should be to increase your fluids.
- Eating healthy, high-calorie meals – Because you burn so many calories while breastfeeding, you may feel more hungry than usual. However, breastfeeding is not the time to worry about dieting to avoid calories. Instead, you want to fuel your body with nutrient-dense food to help with successful breastfeeding.
- Wear nursing-friendly clothing – Nothing is more annoying during breastfeeding than having to try and nurse while wearing clothing that is too tight or made with zippers in awkward places. Wearing clothing that gives easy access for your baby to nurse will help keep you and your baby happy.
- Practice breastfeeding at home so you’re more comfortable in public. This may not sound too important, but if you are new to breastfeeding, practicing nursing comfortably and discreetly (if that’s your choice) will help you feel calmer and less anxious about nursing in public. Also, it’s nice to practice nursing in different positions at home, so you’ll feel like a pro in public!
- Relax. Don’t rush your nursing sessions – Let your baby take their time. Your baby may be a “fast” or “slow” eater. Sometimes babies like to take quick breaks in between nursing. Babies enjoy their nursing time, and it’s best not to rush them through the process. Instead, give yourself the time and space to calmly nurse your baby.
- Feed on demand – This is huge when it comes to successful breastfeeding. Watch for your baby’s cues and allow them to nurse on demand. They will naturally develop regular times of the day when they want to nurse while continuing to nurse at sporadic times. For example, stop and allow them to nurse when your baby shows signs of hunger.
- Maintain regular skin-to-skin time – Research shows that skin-to-skin can help boost your milk supply because it stimulates the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Both of these help your body to release more milk.
- Limit unnecessary medicines, toxins, etc. – While nursing, it’s important to remember that what passes through your bloodstream can pass into your milk. So take extra consideration of what you consume during your time of breastfeeding.
- Inform your medical team you are nursing – During doctor, dental, or any visit where medication may be prescribed is essential to inform medical professionals you are currently breastfeeding.
- Meet with a lactation consultant and or breastfeeding support group – meeting with a lactation consultant was one of the best decisions I made when I first decided to breastfeed exclusively. Getting expert advice gave me lots of confidence to stick with it. Being able to ask questions, get tips, and do weekly baby weigh-ins, were helpful and comforting as I set out on my breastfeeding journey. Often, these services are accessible through your local hospital or health centers, and now there are even virtual sessions available. You can always check with your insurance plan to see if any breastfeeding support services are covered. In addition, gathering with other breastfeeding moms will help you feel supported and encouraged, knowing that exclusively breastfeeding is possible.
Breastfeeding exclusively is possible and can be a wonderful experience for you and your baby.
Take it from me, a mom like you wanting to give the best to our babies.
PIN IT FOR LATER:
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
Parent’s Choice Diapers