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 so natural would transpire so smoothly, but nothing beats the plugged ducts, engorged breasts and bloody cuts that my poor boobies had to endure.
- Emotionally, I was drained. I felt burdened with a responsibility that 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 couldn’t join in on the girls night out (pumping and a bachelorette party in Vegas don’t exactly mix).
But I did it. My goal was to breastfeed for a year, and I’m the last person who would have believed I actually did 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:
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, 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 here 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 them any longer.
4. Find a comfortable way to nurse
The boppy was my BFF. I relied on that sucker to rest and even free my arms while he was nursing. In addition to pillow props, I also tried different positions (I still remember the “football hold”) to see which one felt most comfortable for that moment.
5. Request 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 completely comfortable calling them up for support, ideas, or just a good rant about how hard this was. Knowing that they breastfed despite similar difficulties gave me 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. At around eight months was when I reached the point where I didn’t feel the need to set goals or dread the impending months still to come (I suppose because I was drawing closer to my goal of one year).
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. 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: Try one or more of these tips and let us know how you did in the comments below.