Often, for those without firsthand experience, breastfeeding can appear to be a natural, and sometimes even easy, part of motherhood. All mammals do it, after all. The reality, though, is that often breastfeeding is a difficult part of the early period of parenting. There are a seemingly endless barrage of things that can happen that can make the process tough for mom and baby alike.
You don’t have to look far at all to see evidence of the fact that breastfeeding is hard for a great many women. The newborn-breastfeeding combo can mean everything from sore breasts and sleepless nights to the emotional toll that comes when breastfeeding isn’t happening easily for mom and baby.
According to Bradley University, “Only 29% of women who have initiated breast-feeding continue beyond 6 months.” That, of course, affirms the fact that it can be a very difficult part of motherhood.
But even though it’s clear and should be acknowledged that breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart, there are a few things that moms can do to make the process slightly easier and their goals for breastfeeding more attainable.
Eat the Right Fuel
Breastfeeding can sap a mom’s energy more quickly than anything else. If a mom isn’t eating the right foods, then not only will she not feel well, she and her baby won’t be able to reap all the possible rewards of breastfeeding, either.
The right foods that will set a mom and baby up for success are the ones that are packed with nutrients. Some simple, thoughtful planning can ensure that a mom and baby have just what they need.
The breastfeeding experts at Healthline note, “Moms burn about 500 extra calories a day while producing breast milk.” That piece of the equation makes it easier to understand why breastfeeding moms need to take care of themselves. Practically speaking, this means plenty of water, protein, grains, and fruits and veggies.
Dietitian Tanya Zuckerbot wrote for Fox News that five of the best foods for breastfeeding mothers are as follows:
- Oatmeal for protein, fiber, and iron.
- Mother’s Milk Tea, which has fenugreek, promotes milk production and contains antioxidant properties to aid in breast inflammation reduction.
- Salmon, a super-food, has tons of healthy fats and can be good not just for mom, but for baby’s brain too (Though it shouldn’t be eaten in excess given the mercury content.).
- Spinach for folate, iron, Vitamin K, and calcium.
- Coconut water replenishes lost electrolytes in addition to containing magnesium and antioxidants.
Incorporating healthy snacks and meals into the schedule should be something consistently strived for, and with some relatively simple additions to the grocery list, it’s totally achievable.
Striving to provide the best nutrition immediately will create a pattern that lasts long after children are out of diapers. When the University of Nevada, Reno overviewed heart health in kids, the main factor was poor nutrition.
They write, “Based on research metrics, 91 percent of the children studied scored poorly when it came to diet.” They’re talking about toddlers as young as two with poor heart health. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to ensure that children have the most solid possible start; a mother that eats well, feeds her child well.
Find Physical Support
Here’s the truth: breastfeeding can take a toll on more than just a woman’s breasts; a great number of women make the unfortunate discovery that back pain can also be a product of breastfeeding.
Given the fact that hours of a mom’s day are spent feeding her baby, it makes sense that the wrong set-up would have dire impacts on a woman’s back.
Achieving a method that works for mother and baby is often the product of trying and failing, but that effort will not be in vain. Depending on how long a mother hopes to breastfeed, the process can last for many months, which can mean a long stretch of unnecessary discomfort that can impact her even when she’s not breastfeeding.
Mothers who invest in finding a system that works will not be expending energy in vain. If a mother is struggling with breastfeeding because she has not yet found a method that provides comfort and support, then she should know that doesn’t have to define her entire breastfeeding experience.
There are some time-tested positions for breastfeeding that all moms should know about. Additionally, sometimes the fix will come by changing the tools one is using.
Here are some quick fixes for the mom with back-pain to try:
- Use the right pillow for support during nursing and pumping: a pillow can be used to help position and maintain the position of the baby or pump.
- If part of the problem is that a mom is uncovered, stiff, and thus uncomfortable, she should embrace a nursing cover and get comfy.
- Sometimes the fix is as easy as changing locations. If the couch is always utilized, a switch to a glider or even the bed can end up being a super simple, fast fix for back pain.
Remember Emotional Well-Being
A mother’s ability to cope during breastfeeding is directly tied not only to her physical health, but also to her emotional well-being. In the early days especially, it’s not just the right food or enough sleep that matter, it’s the whole picture of one’s health.
However, making a concentrated effort to invest in her well-being is also the mother investing in the well-being of the baby. It can ultimately mean the difference between breastfeeding goals being met or not.
How in the world can a mother in a new baby-induced fog, accomplish some self-care?
Rely on others: For many moms, the fact that breastfeeding is hard across the board, is an affirming truth. For those who struggle, they don’t do so alone. Whether it be relying on others for encouragement or for some freezer meals, it’s important to see the value in letting others help.
Learn about breastfeeding: Sometimes relying on others means going to those who can help us better understand the process. Whether via the hospital’s lactation consultants, or by finding a local La Leche League group. If things aren’t going well, a mother will be empowered by knowledge and by equipping herself with the tools she needs to succeed.
See the value in pampering: That’s right, treat yo’ self. Eat the salmon for dinner, and the ice cream for dessert. A mom willing to do the things that will make her feel refreshed and revived, is a mom investing not just in herself, but in the well-being of her family as a whole.
Most moms begin to breastfeed their babies because they recognize the innate benefits of breastfeeding for mom and they also know they’re directly contributing to their child’s health. But with just a little thought, a mom can ensure that both she and her baby are getting every possible benefit from breastfeeding, and that the journey is healthy, satisfying one.