She was mouthing and acting hungry every 45 minutes. Since she was my second baby, I went into breastfeeding knowing how to do it. But, it still challenged me because no two babies are exactly alike. When breastfeeding is not working, the first step is to remember that every baby is different.
My first did not latch perfectly right away. It took about 2 weeks of practice until we got it right. I layered on the lanolin like crazy to ease the pain. The lactation consultant at the hospital helped me with some pointers, but saying “It should not hurt if you are doing it correctly,” is a bit misleading.
When breastfeeding is not working – or you wonder if you are doing it right – let me just share my experiences and what did and did not work for me. It will give you some encouragement and tips to try.
In this time of formula shortages, no mama wants to see her baby go hungry!
It breaks my heart so much to think about what is going on these days. No matter what, trying all you can to breastfeed is work. It can feel so overwhelming. I have solutions.
If Breastfeeding Is Not Working
My daughter wanted to latch every 45 minutes as an infant. She did not really ever nap. It was the first time I felt angry and frustrated with my own child! It made my heart hurt to think that I was getting so stressed over this baby just wanting comfort and food.
As a tired mom, I wanted a break. I knew that I needed to be patient. I was able to successfully breastfeed my oldest. I was committed to help my second baby get the same nourishment. It just felt so much harder with two little ones.
First off, baby 2 did not want to wake up and eat in the hospital. Luckily she was a bigger baby, so her birthweight did not decrease too significantly. We tried everything to wake her up and entice her to eat. She needed sleep more.
The nurses were getting stressed and stressing me out. At one point they made me feel like it was my fault for not producing enough yet. I manually tried to get some colostrum flowing to entice baby to want to nurse.
This helped a bit. For one feeding.
I really think just skin-to-skin would have done the same. Baby was tired and she just was not ready to eat. As a c-section baby she could have still been sleepy from the meds they gave me. Or with her higher birthweight, she just did not need to eat right away.
No matter which reason, I stuck to trying to get her to latch every few hours. Manually expressing a little colostrum first was helpful for getting her started. You can try that. Tips for how to manually express are here.
How to Breastfeed Successfully
A few years ago I shared my breastfeeding tips. It was a remarkable experience to breastfeed two babies at once! It was humbling too because it took time to get into a groove.
I know many moms struggle to learn to feed one baby. There are a variety of considerations to keep in mind.
- Breastfeeding is time consuming.
- Breastfeeding can hurt at the beginning.
- Babies eat at different intervals.
- Breastfeeding is best done like a workout plan.
Breastfeeding is time consuming.
My first baby fit the mold of only wanting to nurse every 4 hours. But, he continued that pattern through the night. He woke up at night frequently to eat. He was breastfed for a total of 6 months.
We planned our lives around nursing sessions. I ran errands in the window after his mid-morning feeding. Everything worked around the feeding and nap schedule. But, we got into a good routine.
My husband was not totally on board with breastfeeding with baby 1. It was just so new to him. I cut the nursing timeline short. My baby was bottle fed from 6 months to one year old.
I feel for you mamas who formula feed! Just know you can try these tips for getting your milk supply going.
After adding baby number two, life turned upside down a bit. She wanted to nurse every 45 minutes. NO joke!
She also did not sleep well. It was exhausting. I could not even pump because she ate so frequently. There was no time to try to create a stockpile of milk for bottle feedings.
I wanted to supplement with formula – just so I could get a breather.
The first bottle of formula we gave her she threw everything up immediately after drinking it all down. It was horrible.
I felt more convicted to just buckle down, embrace this baby’s needs and stick with breastfeeding. Spending money on multiple different formula brands was not something I wanted to do or had money to do!
After committing to just breastfeeding, we did it! She and I made it to a full year. It still feels like a huge accomplishment.
I could have tried different formulas, but felt God prompting me to just calm down and settle into breastfeeding.
It took so much of my time. My days were full of a baby, preschooler, and breastfeeding.
Because I felt so exhausted, I did feel twinges of postpartum depression. I recognized it in the moments. When she would cry and cry, I did have to leave baby in her bed and walk away a few times to just breath. I had to get my mind right.
Total transparency: Mothering can drain your cup. Take that moment to set baby in a safe place like their bed or secure them in a swing. Step away and breathe. Ask your spouse for help. Read scriptures or motivating quotes. Then, get back in, and be a present mama.
We have greater strength than we know sometimes.
The time I needed to put in to breastfeeding babies was the biggest shock to me. It really is your full-time job. You are sustaining your child’s life! The health benefits of natural breastmilk are the best. The time was so worth it.
Breastfeeding can hurt.
In the hospital after delivery with my oldest, the nurse was checking on me. She wanted to see if baby was eating. I was struggling to figure out how to get him to latch. She said it should not hurt.
It hurt so badly! I was lathering on the lanolin. I was gritting my teeth upon placing him to my chest. I was in so much pain and had to breath through it.
After a few sucks, things would improve, but my skin was cracked after a few days.
It is a lie that it will not hurt. Proper latch takes some learning. My body had to get used to baby. Baby and I had to get coordinated. It was a process.
With baby number one, it took about 2 weeks to get to a good latch – even with a lactation consultant’s help. With baby two it took about a week. With the twins it was a few days. I knew what I was doing so we started off pretty well right away.
Be patient with yourself and your baby.
What I did when the latch hurt is I would put my finger in baby’s mouth to open it. That would stop them from sucking. Then, I would re-position myself and baby.
Babies Eat at Different Intervals
Baby one ate every 4 hours. Baby two wanted to eat every 45 minutes. The twins were nursing about every 2-3 hours. Obviously, a baby’s hunger is going to fluctuate.
Some feedings they will eat a lot. Other sessions they will just snack. Kind of like us adults!
The idea that all babies need to eat only every 4 hours is silliness. Humans are not robots. We each have different appetites and metabolisms. To establish breastfeeding, attempting to nurse every few hours is key. After that, following baby’s cues – when their weight is healthy – works. Do your research and take your doctor’s advice into consideration.
At first it was very frustrating to have to stop and feed my second baby so frequently. It required a mindset shift. She was a clingy baby too. I had to wear her in a carrier to cook so I could use both hands. She was always in my arms otherwise.
A lot of her need to feed was comfort. I knew that. Being a stay at home mom allowed me to have the time to give her that time and comfort. I am grateful that it worked out the way it did.
Be flexible. If your baby eats by the book, that is great! If they do not, it does not necessarily mean your supply it low or you are breastfeeding in the wrong way.
I boosted water intake, calorie intake, reduced sugar and caffeine to an extent to make sure my body was producing as much as baby needed. It is funny to think back to baby two that wanted to eat so frequently. I thought it was me and I was not producing. Then, twins came 2 ½ years later and my supply met their needs.
It was just different babies, personalities and needs. Keep that in mind.
Breastfeeding is Best Done Like a Workout Plan
With what I know now, I would approach breastfeeding like a workout plan or athletic training. Stick with me here…
You have to monitor baby’s feeding intervals to start to watch for a schedule. You have to drink a ton of water all the time! You have to eat differently. Your body will burn the baby weight by producing breastmilk, but if baby is eating frequently, or you have multiples like I did, you need to up your calorie intake.
I noticed that it was not until 6 months after I was done breastfeeding that I lost the baby weight. My body needed to hold on to some weight to make sure it could produce enough milk.
Obviously, eat when you are hungry. Make healthy food choices. Don’t deprive yourself of treats. Just don’t overdo it either.
And, drink a ton of water! Watch your urine color and read this to be safe when upping water intake.
When we workout regularly or train for an athletic event, we have to keep track of our eating, water and physical activity. Breastfeeding is a big physical activity for the body. It is like working out while sitting still! 😉
When you have read the research about the benefits babies get from breastmilk, it is a great goal to stick with it. Get the help you need by reading books or consulting a lactation specialist.
Remember that all babies are different and will eat differently. Ultimately your body has just birthed a child. It then goes through a workout every time you sit and feed them!
Give yourself credit for the work that you are doing to care for your baby. Breastfeeding successfully is worth it.
What problems are you experiencing with breastfeeding? Have you overcome any breastfeeding challenges and have tips to share? Leave a comment below to let us know!