I always say that breastfeeding my babies has been both the hardest and the most natural thing I’ve ever done. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to try nursing Summer when I was pregnant with her, but I decided to try for at least a few months. The first time I got her to latch, my opinion instantly changed. For whatever reason, it just seemed like it was what I supposed to do with her, but unfortunately, we had a fair amount of setbacks that caused our breastfeeding relationship to get off to a rocky start. I’ll give you all the details below, but we dealt with everything from weight loss to latching problems to low supply.
These troubles brought me to a low place, but thanks to the kind words of fellow moms, my supportive family, and the professional guidance of a few amazing medical professionals, I was able to breastfeed Summer until she was about 15 months old. I will never forget the kindness shown to me, so since then, I’ve made it my personal mission to try to help other moms struggling with breastfeeding. I don’t want any other new mom to feel the way that I did, so over the next few months, I’ll be sharing everything I’ve learned about breastfeeding over the past two years.
Every time I share tidbits about my breastfeeding story, I’m blown away by the response from you! I get the sweetest messages from women asking questions for their friends and family who are struggling nursing their babies as well as fellow mamas letting me know they went through the same exact thing. I am an open book, so as this series of posts is published, feel free to message me on Instagram with any questions you have or topics you’d like me to cover. Today I’m going to start by sharing my honest breastfeeding story with you, what I did differently with my second baby that helped me avoid the difficulties I had nursing my first, and a few of my favorite resources to help moms struggling with breastfeeding at AdventHealth for Women.
Before we get started, here’s two little disclaimers. First of all, I truly believe fed is best. Whether you’re planning on exclusively breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or somewhere in between, do whatever is best for you, your baby, and your family. A happy and healthy mama and baby are the #1 priority, so I absolutely don’t judge other moms’ choices about feeding. I’m only one mom sharing my experience as someone who’s done both and found what worked best for her and her family!
And secondly, while I’m confident in all that I’ve learned about breastfeeding over the past two years, I am not a medical professional. All of the tips shared in today’s post shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding or your child’s feeding, please contact a board-certified lactation consultant, your doctor, and/or your child’s pediatrician depending on the issue. I want to make sure you get the correct advice for your exact situation, and I’ll share a few resources down below if you’re not sure where to start.
A First Time Mom’s Honest Breastfeeding StoryI just had to break out an old picture of Summer since this story involves her directly. I can’t believe she used to be so little!
Ok, let’s go back a little over two years ago. As I shared in my honest birth story post, my delivery experience with Summer wasn’t optimal. In short, I pushed for 4.5 hours but ultimately had to have an emergency c-section because Summer was “sunny side up,” AKA in an OP or posterior position. Her chin was stuck behind my pelvis, and a vaginal delivery just wasn’t going to work. Like most c-section moms, I was exhausted and a little overwhelmed after my baby’s delivery, but I was also extremely sad. I hadn’t wanted a c-section, and Summer was immediately taken away from me for nearly an hour (no medical complications – just taken out to see family).
I was left in a room alone for what seemed like an eternity, and when I was finally reunited with Summer, I tried to latch her on my own. Summer was so sleepy, and I just couldn’t get her to latch correctly (not that I even really knew what that was). I called a nurse to help, and she just said that breastfeeding would be extremely difficult for me because I had flat nipples, literally tossed a breast shield at me (I didn’t even know what it was), said “use this,” and left the room. I tried and tried to get Summer some milk, but I honestly just didn’t know what I was doing.
I tried to do skin to skin and latch Summer over and over. I told the nurses that I didn’t think things were going well because Summer alternated between being extremely fussy and extremely tired. I didn’t think milk was coming out, and I couldn’t get her to latch on for more than a minute or two without falling asleep. They reassured me everything was fine and said a lactation consultant would come in the morning. I tried to feed her all night long, but I knew something was wrong.
Over the next few days of our hospital stay, we had lactation consultants come into our room to help for a few minutes at a time. Each time, they’d help me get the baby to latch and give me a few tips. They were kind, and the information did help a little bit, but it was hard to replicate their results when they left the room. I’d call down to the office to make another appointment, but they were so backed up I’d usually have to wait until the next day. Unfortunately I didn’t know the signs that baby wasn’t getting enough milk, but I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right.
To make matter’s worse, there was a mix-up with my nurses, and I wasn’t allowed to eat anything for several days. It was the prescription for low milk supply: an overtired, stressed-out, and hungry mom who wasn’t educated on breastfeeding plus a baby who wouldn’t latch. Despite my concerns, I trusted the professionals and just hoped things would get better.
Unfortunately things didn’t get better. While we were cleared to leave the hospital, our pediatrician was concerned about Summer’s weight loss at her first check-up and encouraged us to supplement with formula. Even though I know that fed is best, I felt horrible. It felt like I’d been starving my child, and I felt so guilty thinking I put her at risk. When she chugged down her first bottle of formula, my heart sank, and I felt completely helpless. I reached out to the lactation services office at the hospital where I delivered and scheduled an appointment. I wanted to make breastfeeding work, and I really needed someone to help teach me the basics and get us back on track.
When I walked into our appointment with the lactation consultant with my husband and Summer, I had so much hope. They’d been kind to me in the hospital, albeit rushed, and I was eager to learn. The hospital was a teaching hospital, so the lactation consultant asked if her student could observe. I said absolutely! More eyes and brains on an issue are always better than one, and I’m such a fan of women mentoring other women. Unfortunately, she spent most of the session whispering (in a louder voice than was appropriate) negative things about me and our situation to her student.
She asked me a few questions about our experience breastfeeding and supplementing with formula, and then we did a weighted feed to check milk output. Summer was still extremely tired at that point and wasn’t quite hungry yet, so she wouldn’t latch at the appointment. After a few minutes of trying, she asked me to give the baby a bottle of formula.Afterwards, she examined Summer and whispered to her student that there were too many things wrong with the baby to make things work. She told me Summer had a lip tie, a tongue tie, and poor sucking skills. Based on the feeding schedule I’d given her (recommended by our pediatrician), she also told me her formula intake was too high to really make exclusively breastfeeding an option and said we’d been force-feeding her like a Thanksgiving turkey.
At this point, I was overwhelmed and crying, and she asked me to use my breast pump for her. I pumped for twenty minutes and next to nothing came out. Again, her response was entirely pessimistic. While she did give me some good information (basic pumping schedule, a few suggestions to get Summer to latch, stay on top of pain management, and make sure I was eating/drinking enough), I left the appointment feeling helpless. As I walked out of her office, she not-so-quietly told her student “she’s never going to be able to breastfeed that baby.” I immediately ran to our car and started sobbing. I was a new mom without the proper information. I was sleep-deprived, hurting, and already overwhelmed, and the person who I’d gone to for hope had left me completely hopeless.
At our follow-up pediatrician appointment, I told the doctor about my experience. He said that unfortunately, he’d heard the same story about that specific lactation consultant time and time again from other moms. He referred me to another LC and actually gave me hope and helpful tips. He assured me Summer had no ties and no problems sucking. We also sought the opinion of dental professionals who agreed there was nothing wrong.
When we visited the second lactation consultant, everything changed. She was kind, patient, and listened to my concerns. She helped me understand how much milk Summer was actually getting, gave me a game plan for increasing my milk supply, and let me know that it was entirely possible to move towards exclusively breastfeeding if that’s what I wanted. Over the next few months, we gradually weaned Summer off of formula, and my emotional health improved dramatically.
While I was initially apprehensive about nursing Summer, I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling experience. We eventually almost exclusively breastfed for over 15 months apart from the occasional bottle of formula for convenience or if I was anxious about my supply. Overcoming all of the hardships at the beginning made me appreciate the good times even more, and more importantly, helped me develop a game plan to avoid these problems with my future children. Keep reading to learn the best breastfeeding tips I learned along the way in addition to my favorite breastfeeding resources for new moms.
The Best Breastfeeding Tips for New MomsI’m happy to report that my breastfeeding journey has been SO much easier this time. The things I learned with Summer helped me prepare for Luna, and combined with a great delivery and support team at AdventHealth for Women Orlando, everything has been easy and beautiful. Breastfeeding your baby doesn’t have to painful or stressful. Here are the things I wish I’d known before trying to nurse my first baby along with a few great resources from AdventHealth for Women.
1. Seek education and create a support system BEFORE baby arrives.Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Seek education and a great medical team for support while you’re pregnant, and I guarantee you that you’ll have an easier experience than I did. With my second baby, Luna, I prioritized finding a different hospital that offered more support for breastfeeding straight away. After touring AdventHealth for Women Orlando, I knew I’d have a great medical team and amazing resources available to me after delivery. You can read about our amazing delivery experience here.
I’d also recommend taking a breastfeeding course WITH your significant other because it will help both of you create a game plan and get on the same page. If you’re in Central Florida, there are great parent education classes – including breastfeeding – offered at AdventHealth for Women’s The Baby Place Academy throughout the Orlando area. I had a great experience with their classes and found the teachers to be kind, supportive, and extremely well-informed. Learn about the best parent education classes to take during your pregnancy here.
Lastly, you’ll want to find a pediatrician who’s supported of and well-versed in breastfeeding. You can find out how to find a pediatrician who’s the perfect fit for your family here.
2. Getting baby to latch correctly is the #1 priority.In order for your milk to come in properly and prevent excessive damage to your nipples, you really need to prioritize getting your baby to latch properly. A correct latch will feel like baby is securely attached to your areola (NOT biting down on your nipple), and it should not be painful. Your nipple shouldn’t be distorted or squashed into a lipstick shape after breastfeeding. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t worry – it’s normal. BUT you’ll want to correct the issues as soon as possible.
It’s extremely important for your baby to be properly latched and sucking to encourage your milk to come in. I’d highly encourage you to seek the help of a board-certified lactation consultant as soon as possible after your delivery to get things off to a good start. Once you understand what a proper latch is and how to achieve it (LC can suggest the best positions and techniques), just latch, latch, latch!
3. Fit in as much skin-to-skin contact as you can.Skin-to-skin contact is so important for mom and baby. I loved that AdventHealth for Women prioritizes immediate skin-to-skin time after labor as long as there are no medical conditions that need to be addressed immediately. In between feedings and naps, leave your baby in a diaper and snuggle with them as much as possible.
4. Ask questions and get the answers you need.As soon as you go into labor, let your medical team know you’d like help establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship with your baby. The nurses will help you contact lactation services, but try to look for a hospital where the nursing staff is also trained to give breastfeeding guidance. Once baby arrives, don’t be afraid to ask questions and keep asking questions until you truly understand. Don’t be proud or embarrassed. In order to keep your baby healthy, you really need to understand how to feed them properly.
Also be sure to ask questions about how to know things are going well and when you should be concerned they aren’t going well. How many dirty and wet diapers should baby have each day? When should their dirty diapers switch from black and tar-like to yellow and seedy? How can I tell baby is getting milk? Let your significant other ask questions too and listen in on your conversation. You’ll both be overwhelmed and sleep-deprived, so it never hurts to have more than one person soaking in the information.
5. Watch your baby, not the clock.Don’t worry obsessively timing your feeds. Instead, focus on identifying your baby’s cues that they’re hungry. Let them latch for as long as they want to and keep them on each side of your breast until they release their latch. If they don’t seem satisfied after feeding on both sides, simply switch sides again and start over. As a lactation consultant once told me, “babies always get seconds, and they always get dessert too if they want it.” Your baby should be eating every 2-3 hours or 8-12 times a day, so just follow their lead. They’ll let you know when they’re hungry and when they’re finished.
6. Take care of yourself.I KNOW that you’re going to take care of your baby, but here’s the thing, you need to take care of yourself too. If you’re tired, stressed, hungry, or in pain, your milk isn’t going to come in properly. Make sure you stay hydrated and eat as soon as you’re cleared by your medical team. Fit in naps whenever you can and try to relax however you can. Snuggle with your baby, listen to music, pray, talk to family, watch mindless reality TV – whatever helps you relax. Use a breastfeeding pillow or ask the nurse for extra pillows to create a comfortable breastfeeding position. If you’ve had a c-section, stay on top of your pain medication. It may not seem like it should be a priority at the time, but helping yourself recover will help your breastfeeding journey.
7. Look out for signs that things aren’t working.It’s ok if things aren’t working properly. Both you AND your baby are learning a new skill, so there’s guaranteed to be a few speed bumps at the beginning. You’ll want to stay in touch with your medical team to learn what to look for, but here are a few reasons to seek help from AdventHealth for Women.
You’ll want to seek help if you have any trauma or abrasions to your nipples, or if you have nipple soreness that extends past seven days. If you’re having trouble waking your baby for feedings, getting a good latch, and hearing/seeing baby swallow for 48-72 hours, you’ll definitely want to seek outside help. You’ll also want to make sure you feel a change in the fullness of your breasts after a feeding has ended and monitor your baby’s diaper count. If your baby has less than six wet diapers in 24-hours, there’s cause for concern.
If you or your baby have any of these symptoms, please reach out to your medical team (board-certified lactation consultants and pediatricians are a good start) for guidance. But don’t worry, mama! It’s ok if things don’t go perfectly at the beginning, and it absolutely doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to breastfeed. Get the help that you need, and things can and will get better.
The Best Breastfeeding Resources for New MomsWhether you’re still pregnant or a few months into being a mom, I want to let you know that it’s never too late to get help with breastfeeding. Here are a few of my favorite resources for breastfeeding moms in Central Florida. If you don’t live in the area, I’d encourage you to seek out this type of help in your area.
The Breastfeeding Center HotlineAdventHealth for Women’s breastfeeding center has board-certified lactation consultants available to speak to over the phone. This phone line is such a valuable resource to help you answer quick questions or get information on where to get the help you need. The consultants are so kind and have a wealth of information. I even placed a call while I was still pregnant because I was anxious I’d have a low milk supply again. I was able to get all of my questions answered and create a game plan over the phone, and it genuinely eased my anxiety. You can find out more here or call 407-303-7650 to speak with a lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding and/or Mom GroupsAdventHealth for Women offers a weekly gathering called The Baby Bunch for moms with babies from newborn to 12 months old. The group discusses everything from feeding and infant development to maternal health. You can get your questions answered by professionals and make a few new mom friends at the same time! There’s an $8 fee for the meetings (or three for $20), but it includes lunch. Register for The Baby Bunch’s different locations here: Altamonte Springs, Celebration, Orlando, and Winter Park.
Breastfeeding support group sessions led by a board-certified lactation consultant are also available from AdventHealth. They’ll be able to answer questions, give consultations, and give you more information on breast pump rentals and establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship for your baby. Find out more information at the bottom of this page.
Consultations with a Board-Certified Lactation ConsultantMany moms think that one-on-one breastfeeding consultations are only available directly after birth, but that isn’t the case! AdventHealth for Women offers one-on-one consultations with a board-certified lactation consultant by appointment. They’ll be able to dig deeper into your specific information and help you troubleshoot any issues you and/or baby may be facing.
In some cases, these consultations can be billed to insurance. If you’re not sure what your insurance covers, I’d encourage you to reach out to them directly. For my particular plan, my sessions were covered, but it wasn’t outlined in my plan overview. I had to reach out for more specific information. You can schedule an appointment by calling 407-303-7650 or find out more here.
The last thing I want to say is that it’s going to be tough at the beginning – like ALL new skills. You and your baby are learning an entirely new skill, and it will take time for both of you to figure things out. That’s ok, and with the right help, I promise things will get so much easier. If you want to breastfeed your baby, you and your medical team can find a way to make it work. Whether you’re feeding at the breast, pumping and bottle-feeding, getting donor breastmilk, supplementing with formula, or exclusively breastfeeding, it is OK. A fed baby is the ultimate goal, and it’s ok if your plan changes along the way. You got this, mama!
Over the next month, I’ll be sharing more breastfeeding resources as well as what has helped me maintain a healthy milk supply for both of my babies. If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, feel free to reach out! I’d love to hear your thoughts and requests.
More Resources for New and Expecting Parents
What to Expect During Your Labor and Delivery Stay
Tour of AdventHealth for Women Orlando
The Best Parenting and Childbirth Classes to Take During Your Pregnancy
Luna’s Birth Story: A Positive VBAC Story + My Experience at AdventHealth for Women Orlando
What To Pack in Your Hospital Bag for Your Labor and Delivery Stay
VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section) Q&A with a Board-Certified OB-GYN
How to Choose The Best Pediatrician for Your Family