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 transpire so smoothly, but nothing beats the plugged ducts, engorged breasts and bloody cuts I endured.
- Emotionally, I was 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—when I was a bridesmaid for a friend, I had to lug my pump to the bridal shower, and I couldn’t join in on the girls night out (pumping and a bachelorette party in Vegas don’t exactly mix).
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 actually 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), and 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. When a mom already has zero time for herself, the last thing she needs is doubling her breastfeeding time because she thought a single pump would do. If I were to do this again, I would gladly pay the extra cost of the double pump for the sheer joy of cutting my pumping sessions in half. 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
During the first few days 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”) before eventually reaching 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. In addition to nursing pillow, I also tried different positions (I still remember the “football hold”) 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
Being 100% responsible for your baby’s food intake gives you the right to ask your partner to 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
I was thankfully surrounded by sisters and cousins who breastfed their own babies, 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.
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 after a while, 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, which ironically helped motivate me to keep going.
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 eventually 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 that could be minimized with medicine or lactation advice.
Your turn: What are some of the challenges of staying motivated to breastfeed? Let me know in the comments!