10 Breastfeeding Tips for the Struggling Mama

10 Breastfeeding Tips for the Struggling Mama

When my son was born, I knew I wanted to try and get him “on the boob” as quickly as possible.  I had taken all of the recommended classes, but little did I know how little those classes actually prepared me for the challenges I was about to face.  I had a doula and a midwife helping me, but I still wasn’t “getting it” as quickly as I had hoped. I went from feeling like a superhero who just birthed a baby to a failure because I couldn't feed him. Once my milk came in, my boobs grew so fast causing stretch marks and then the pain, gosh the pain was so bad and came out of nowhere.  Fast forward about a week or so and there I was nursing for 45 minutes on each side EVERY 2 hours?!? As you can imagine, I was a total zombie. I started to question if this was really worth it. I knew babies NEEDED to eat to survive and I so desperately WANTED the nourishment to come from me. Was my body not capable of doing it? Why wasn't it working? 

So many moms have similar experiences.  The struggle is real. And every baby and mom is unique which makes every struggle equally valid and different.  There is so much information out there about the “best” way to feed your baby and those messages are often conflicting and confusing.  Being a mom is hard enough as it is from the changes our bodies go through during and after pregnancy to the notion that we are supposed to “just know” what to do once our babies are born. The truth is, there is no right or wrong way for your body and your baby.  You have to find the magic potion that works best for you.

I'm sharing my story with you to encourage you on your breastfeeding journey if that is the route you have chosen to take.  One of the biggest things missing for us as new mamas is a strong support system. Sure, we have our partners, and as much as they would like to believe they know what we are going through, they don’t really get it.  One of the best things I did when I thought about giving up was reach out to a lactation consultant. From that point on, everything changed. So here are some breastfeeding tips from one mama to another.

  1. Reach out for help
  2. Get plenty of sleep and remember to relax
  3. Get comfortable
  4. Find the right position for baby
  5. Find a great breast pump
  6. Stay Hydrated
  7. Soothe sore nipples
  8. Skin to Skin Time
  9. Eat the right food
  10. Find a great pediatric chiropractor


#1 - Reach out for help

Don't be afraid to ask for help...from literally anyone.  I asked my sister, my mom, friends, experts, strangers, etc.  Find a local lactation consultant or join a Lactation Group. Having someone who can truly understand and empathize with you is incredibly helpful. My lactation consultant helped me in countless ways and was always just a phone call or email away when I needed help/encouragement.  And if you found someone but they’re not as available as you need them to be or they’re quick to get you give up or try formula, then don’t be afraid to find someone else. Just like finding the right doctor, finding the right match is critical to your success and not all lactation consultants are created equal. If the first one you meet with can’t identify your issues, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Try different ones until you find someone whose solutions are yielding positive results. Also, celebrate any bit of progress because that means it’s working. In my opinion, this is the most important step on your breastfeeding journey because having a great support system is priceless

Nook Body Pillow

#2 - Get plenty of sleep

You must think I am joking, right?  Remember I was only sleeping 15 minutes every 2 hours for over a week, so I know how hard this is to accomplish.  Our bodies need sleep to recharge and to be able to do everything we need to do for ourselves and our babies. The more rested you are, the more relaxed you will be for your baby. Your baby can sense your stress and anxiety and they will have a harder time relaxing, latching, etc. Hence the cycle begins.  Try taking nice, long, deep breaths and visualize a successful and enjoyable nursing session with your baby before you even start nursing. It's not only okay, but it’s important to take that minute to yourself

#3 - Get comfortable

I mean it. Take some time before you start nursing to get yourself situated with the right support. We made our Niche Nursing Pillow because of what we learned during our own breastfeeding journeys using other nursing pillows that just weren’t quite right.  Nursing is a two-person job, so both you and your baby need to have the right support. Try different positions for yourself by sitting in different chairs, lying down, sitting in bed, etc. Getting a nursing pillow that worked well was a game changer for me from my first son to my next two babies. You've gotta find what works best for you and run with it

Side Lying Position using the Niche

#4 - Find the right position for your baby

As you continue breastfeeding, you'll discover that your baby will prefer specific positions and will choose the one they like best. Try and pay close attention to this preferred position so that you can get into that position quickly and easily. I learned a new position with each of my babies.  Keep in mind that every baby is different, so your journey will change from one baby to the nextExperimenting with different positions also facilitates completely emptying your breasts which drastically improves milk production. Hand expressing after each feeding also helps with fully emptying your breasts, too!

#5 - Find a great breast pump

This is the simplest problem to solve, even if it can be the most expensive. (Pro tip: Check with your insurance to see if a new pump is covered!) An old pump can have a weak motor, parts may need to be replaced, and some pumps just aren’t as effective as others. If your pump is brand new, consider renting a hospital grade breast pump (check your local hospital) and comparing them to see if there’s a difference in your milk supply output.

Once you find the right pump, make sure you've got the right-sized flange. These are the wide pieces of a breast pump that cover your nipples.  Having the incorrect size can be detrimental to how much milk you get when you pump. If your nipple isn’t properly positioned, the pump will not work effectively. Check your pump’s manual and review the positioning diagrams, and when in doubt — order another size and/or check with your lactation consultant.

#6 - Stay Hydrated

Surprisingly, studies show that moms’ bodies are so amazing that we can continue to produce milk on even the most minimal diets (albeit nutritionally different). However, one thing we absolutely REQUIRE  to produce milk is water.

Drink TONS of it.  Great job if you’re hitting your 64 ounces a day, but if you’re still thirsty, no need to stop with the H2O — making milk uses a lot of water, and you need to stay hydrated to keep up. Another pro tip: don’t sit down to nurse without a giant glass of water next to you. If you’re like me, the minute that let down happens, your mouth will feel like the Sahara Desert.

#7 - Soothe Sore Nipples

Nobody wants sore nipples, so first and foremost, try to prevent sore nipples from even happening by getting the right latch with as much of the areola in your baby’s mouth as possible and then make sure the top and bottom lips are flipped out. If you’re still struggling, try a nipple shield! When I was in those early days, a nipple shield was my savior. That said, I personally don’t recommend using it for too long because baby will get used to it. But, as always, contact your lactation consultant and/or a doctor to see what works best for you. Now there are even cooler products like Silverette nipple covers you can wear in between feedings. Silver's natural healing quality helps protect your nipples from chafing and cracking!

#8 - Get skin to skin time

Get as much of that super snuggly skin-to-skin time as you can. It's by far one of my most cherished times with each of my babies.  It also helps tremendously with your milk production and releases all those yummy hormones and endorphins your body needs to connect with your baby.

#9 - Eat the right foods

Low-carb diets may have their place, but it’s generally not in a nursing mom’s diet. I had a voracious appetite when I was nursing and definitely was NOT one of those moms who shed the baby weight by nursing. If you’re a mom with that incredible ability to bounce back, I am secretly envious.  I had the opposite reaction and I actually gained weight and was hungrier while nursing than I was while pregnant! That being said, I did try my hardest to eat foods that helped me with my supply and then supplemented when I went back to work and was pumping. Avoid cruciferous veggies that might give you (and your baby) gas. Here are some great foods and supplements to have on hand while nursing:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Lentils
  • Licorice
  • Fenugreek
  • Blessed Thistle

Oatmeal & Strawberries

#10 - Find a great pediatric care provider

Ask your friends, family, or your local mom groups for recommendations for pediatricians, family practice physicians, nurse practioners to offer sound medical advice for your baby. Your OB or midwife is a great resource too. 

Bottom line, there are just so many factors that might play a part in why you might be struggling to breastfeed and a lot of them are in your control but some of them aren’t. Take a breath, know that you’ve got this. You’re doing a great job!

At Nook, we've breastfed, pumped and formula fed. We truly support every single journey because we've been there, too. We're here to show our support of ALL mamas, no matter what they choose to do. This is my story about what helped me during my journey. I've written this to give hope to those who want to make breastfeeding work and it is in no way to show a lack of support for those who choose not to or who cannot. I have friends who've adopted or are fostering babies, friends whose milk never came in and friends who simply chose to stop breastfeeding and we support EVERY journey.

Written by Helenita Frounfelkner 

Helenita Frounfelkner is a mother of 3 and at the time of publication was Nook's Head of Marketing. To read more about her nursing journey, check out our latest blog, How the Niche Helped Me Breastfeed!
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