9 Tips on Staying Motivated to Breastfeed

For the first several months of breastfeeding, I felt like a cow, and it had nothing to do with my post-pregnancy body. If I wasn’t breastfeeding, I was pumping. I didn’t realize how often babies need to eat, nor how long each feeding session would take. And at family parties, I was either draped with a shawl cover or locked away in a bedroom nursing my baby. I was a milking machine.

9 Tips on Staying Motivated to Breastfeed

When I was pregnant, I had planned on breastfeeding my baby. I heard about its benefits, wanted to save some serious cash, and hey, it’s nature so how hard could it be? For me, very:

  • Physically, breastfeeding hurt. You would think something natural would happen smoothly. But nothing beats the plugged ducts, engorged breasts and bloody cuts I endured.
  • Emotionally, I felt drained. I felt burdened with a responsibility I couldn’t pass off to anyone else. And waking up to feed, every hour and a half to two, was no joke.
  • Long-touted as convenient, breastfeeding also had its own nuances for me. Since boobs don’t exactly know when to turn off, I had to wear these nursing pads to soak up any “leakage.” If not the pads, then I was wearing these ridiculous plastic breast shields. I had to bypass some fun and travel, for instance.

But somehow I did it. My goal was to breastfeed for a year, and I’m the last person who would have believed I would do it.

For someone who wanted to quit every day the first few weeks, I relied on the following motivational tips and tricks to keep me going.

Below are 9 tips on staying motivated to breastfeed:

1. Remind yourself about the benefits of breastfeeding
Just when I was ready to call it quits, I would log online and read about the benefits of breastfeeding:

  • better immunity
  • brain development
  • a healthy source of nutrients
  • more variety in taste (to potentially avoid picky-eating in the future)
  • cost-effective

Every choice we make has pros and cons, and when the cons seemed to loom over me, I fought back by reminding myself about the pros.

2. Use a double pump
Seriously. Forget manual, forget single electric. You already have zero time for yourself. The last thing you need is doubling your breastfeeding time because of a single pump. When I breastfed my twins, I ditched the single pump and went forthe  hospital-grade double. Nothing worse than sitting in a room knowing you could’ve been outta there in 15 minutes instead of 30.

3. Set goals, even daily goals
When I wanted to quit, I challenged myself and said, “Okay, just get through this one day, and we’ll take it from there.” When that day came and went, I upped my goal: “Okay, now let’s see if you can handle two more days.”

This mental trickery kept going until I was setting monthly goals (“Let’s get to six months at least”). Eventually I reached a point where I didn’t need to set goals any longer.

4. Find a comfortable way to nurse
Don’t bypass the need for a nursing pillow. I relied on that sucker to rest and even free my arms while the baby was nursing.

Besides a nursing pillow, I tried different positions to see which one felt most comfortable for that moment. This Boppy was the one I used for my singleton, and the My Brest Friend Twin Deluxe was crucial to breastfeeding my twins.

5. Rely on dad’s support
You’re 100% responsible for your baby’s food intake. In exchange, your partner can handle other chores while you feed your baby. My husband made pretty impressive breakfasts, not to mention handling most of the chores and diaper duty.

6. Find support in other women who breastfed
My sisters and cousins breastfed, so I felt comfortable calling them up for support, ideas, or just a good rant about how hard this was. Knowing they breastfed despite similar difficulties gave me the gusto to keep trying.

Don’t have a close network? Join a breastfeeding support group like La Leche League or The Pump Station (if you’re in Los Angeles).

7. Realize that breastfeeding gets easier
I was in a ton of pain in the beginning, but eventually, my boobs adjusted and the pain subsided after a few weeks. It really does get easier. Especially once you’ve mastered the right way for your baby to latch and your breasts have acclimated to nursing.

8. Tell yourself that you can always quit
I told myself that if breastfeeding got so difficult that my misery outweighed the benefits I sought, then I quit. I didn’t want to set myself up as a holier-than-thou, breastfeeding martyr if it meant my well-being. Giving myself an ‘out’ helped make the situation seem not so dire or permanent.

Quitting breastfeeding isn’t a sign of failure or that I wasn’t a good mom. It was just the time for me to stop. We all quit breastfeeding—each of us just chooses when that time will be.

9. Talk to your doctor
For several weeks, I experienced an intense, tingling pain, particularly on one nipple, and was so ready to quit. I brushed the pain aside thinking it must be a normal association with breastfeeding. It wasn’t—I had thrush and needed antibiotics to clear it up.

Lesson learned: If you’re in pain, like the kind that makes you want to curl up in a ball and stay in bed, talk to your doctor. You might have complications you can lessen with medicine or lactation advice.

*

Breastfeeding can be tough, no doubt. I couldn’t believe how challenging something I assumed would be easy actually wasn’t. But it’s doable. From someone who was ready to give up every day, take it from me that you can work this breastfeeding thing. Give it a few more tries before making a decision, and read these 9 reminders to keep you motivated.

You’ll be so glad you did.

Check out these related posts:

Your turn: What are some of the challenges of staying motivated to breastfeed? Let me know in the comments!

Disclosure: Amazon links are my affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Nina

Nina is a working mom to three boys—a five-year-old and toddler twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she's learning about being mom and all its joys and challenges. She also covers topics like how kids learn and play, family life, being a working mom and life with twins. Download her free ebook, "Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom" for more tips.

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  1. says

    This post really hits home with me. The emotional and physical drain was way more than I ever expected. We had poor latch in the beginning and it HURT. I was sore for the entire first month. But, like you, I somehow made it through and I’m SO GLAD that I did. The lifetime benefits for both myself and my child FAR outweigh the burden. I made it to 20 months before I was about to implode, then I knew it was time to end the nursing relationship. I always encourage moms to go as long as possible, as every day you can keep it going helps in so many ways.

  2. says

    A support system rocks! Once nights started to get unbearable with Kira (she hadn’t slept through the night for her entire first 18 months) I cut breastfeeding down to just the morning to give Phil a chance to offer her milk at night. She didn’t want it, like I assumed she wouldn’t, but she stopped relying on ME at 1am.

    #9 – pretend that you ARE holier than thou if you encounter a formula-feeding mommy who wants to know WHY you are STILL breastfeeding your baby?! I found that helped me because it did rehash the benefits and it made me feel like a super momma.

  3. says

    The best thing I did was to take full advantage of lactation consultants. My son was in the NICU for his first two weeks, and they had an on-staff lactation consultant who helped me to make the most of pumping, learn how to properly latch, and so on. She also gave me her number, so that I could call anytime that I had questions. I know that not everyone will have a lactation consultant so easily accessible, but if you can find a way, I found her expertise and encouragement to be absolutely invaluable.

    Also, I agree about the double pump. For serious. Best. Thing. Ever.

  4. Steph says

    I had a crazy oversupply and the lactation consultant shrugged it off and told me to be grateful that it wasn’t an undersupply. But it was making our daughter miserable. I did my own research and discovered block feeding (feeding on one side for a certain block of time regardless how often the baby nurses during that time). This worked wonders for us and in no time my supply regulated and our baby girl had much less digestive trouble. So I guess my tip is to do your own research if you know something is up and you aren’t getting a satisfactory answer.

  5. jamily5 says

    No worry about recalls, helps you shed those baby pounds (sometimes), *can* act as a birth control in some women, produces “i love my baby and want to bond with him” feelings, lwssens the chance of overeating (not including pumping),

  6. Erika@YouJustDidWhat says

    It helped me to have a lactation nurse who would come to my house and check up on me. It made it that much easier. It also helped hearing her tell me to enjoy a glass of wine every now and then!

  7. Mairi King says

    This is a great piece, telling some of the less- romantic things about nursing a baby and how to stay with it. I misunderstood the title, thinking you meant, “once you’ve decided to quit breast feeding, how not to backslide to nursing again”!!! In fact, you mean quite the opposite. I’m on the fence about weaning my 11 month old, and appreciated the encouragement to stick with it.

    • says

      Mairi, you’re right: the title could be taken as extra motivation on how to quit breastfeeding lol. But yes, quite the opposite! I’ll need to be careful on how to word my titles and may have to rewrite this one 😉 Thanks for pointing it out!

  8. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says

    My daughter and I took a breast-feeding class before her first was born. My hubbie said, “Why do you have to take a class to breast-feed? Here’s the breast. Here’s the mouth. Plug it in.”
    But the class was encouraging and informative–even though I’d breast-fed my 3 kids years before.

  9. says

    I’m seriously hating my manual pump for work. What was I thinking?!

    I do, however, use it to pump the non-babied breast when I’m nursing at home when I’m the fullest (mornings; evenings home from work)! So, I’ll keep that sucker for now…

  10. says

    I wrote about this very topic in my own blog recently, and my story went a little different from your, but I learned many of the same lessons. If we ever have another child I have a whole new mindset and experiences to draw from that will hopefully give me a different outcome next time. Even after changing my original plan to nurse for a whole year like you did, I still want to try to nurse a future baby for 18 months. I am glad you shared this. I think more mothers need to share their stories about this so that others can see that there are not just 2 kinds of moms: those who breastfeed without obstacles, and those who just want to use formula. There are lots and lots and LOTS of experiences in-between.

  11. Jessica Baker says

    I think I must have been very lucky with breast feeding as other than the first week with my first, I enjoyed every minute of it with both my daughters. My advice would be to breast feed rather than pump whenever you can manage it, that breastfeeding on demand makes the whole breast feeding experience very much harder. After the first week I just fed my daughter every 3-4 hours by the clock, and it went sooooooo much easier. I also limited the feeding time. And sure, my daughter didn’t take enough the first feed and was very grumpy waiting to the next feed but she certainly didn’t mess around feeding that time! We very quickly established a sensible routine where she ate efficiently and i didn’t feel like I had a baby attached to my nipples 24-7 (which will definitely give you sore nipples!) And finally if your nipples get even remotely sore dry them off and put on nipple cream (usually some kind of wax) STRAIGHT AWAY never wait until you get broken skin. You will be in agony if you wait!!!!
    I breastfed my first until 15 months, and my second until 14 months, only stopping when they seemed to be ready.
    Well done for making a year, very few people manage it.

    • says

      Jessica, thanks for these tips. Looking back, my toddler probably could have benefited from feeding on the clock rather than on demand. He thrives with routine and I couldn’t seem to figure out whether he was really hungry, just needed to sleep, just sucking, etc.

      • Jessica Baker says

        I also used dummies/pacifiers as well. So if they just wanted to suck they sucked on those. With my first I started with a dummy at about a week old, and with my second I started dummies at about 2 days old (although the midwives did tell me off about it, but it worked very well and I have no problems.) Also breast feeding my second was sooo much easier than when I first started with my eldest. I guess one of you knows what they are doing!

  12. says

    My lactation nurse provides a free weekly 2-hour Mother’s group. I went religiously for the first 6 months. It was so helpful because she was there to answer questions, look at my breasts (when needed), and offer advice. It was also helpful to be with other moms nursing to talk about things we were concerned with or to support each other through the process.

    I really feel that having this support was a big contributor to me nursing for so long. As of today, I’m still nursing Oster at night. All other nursing sessions have been eliminated. It’s been a year and a week. I’m finally ready to stop. I’m looking forward to going back to visit my nurse so she can see how big Oster has gotten and to share with her the success I had with her help.

    • says

      Me too! lol. Haha, the second time around with the twins was easier to keep going knowing I was able to do it before. But that was also when I had less supply and thrush, so it wasn’t always easy peasy.