Making breastfeeding work for you
You've decided to breastfeed. Great! Now what? And for how long? Setting long-term goals may seem a bit overwhelming in the first few weeks, so just try to focus on giving breastfeeding a good try. Here are some tips to help you come up with a game plan to make breastfeeding work for you.
The two-week commitment
Once you’ve given birth, spend those first two weeks concentrating on breastfeeding and recovering from childbirth. Give yourself and your baby those 14 days. You may get frustrated. You may get scared. And you may be exhausted.
The reality is that the first few weeks are the toughest time for any new mom. Breastfeeding often gets blamed for being a hardship, but your body is also recovering from two major events — pregnancy and childbirth. So give yourself a little break. Babies are born knowing how to breastfeed. It’s the moms who have some learning to do, in the same way you had to learn how to walk.
Make these first two weeks your goal. Mark it on your calendar. If after a few days of breastfeeding you’re experiencing pain and you’ve tried these tips (read Common questions about breastfeeding and pain), something is probably not right. Call your doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant as soon as possible for help. You can also call us at 1-800-994-9662 anytime between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern to talk to a breastfeeding peer counselor, another woman who has breastfed and been trained to help other women breastfeed.
The six-week groove
It usually takes about six weeks to get into a breastfeeding groove. By then, your milk has fully matured, and you and your baby have probably found a good rhythm. By six weeks, your baby should have had two or three well-baby visits at the doctor, so you can see how your breastmilk helps your baby’s growth and development. And, since your baby has grown, you don’t have to breastfeed as often as the first few days out of the hospital. You may have even started multitasking while breastfeeding or breastfeeding your baby on the go.
Going back to work or school
Every mom’s situation is different. Whether you’re returning to work or school in 12 weeks, six weeks, or even two weeks after giving birth, you can still plan to breastfeed if you can pump milk during work or school. It’s not easy, but more and more moms are doing it. Look at our tips for going back to work, and remember that the law is on your side. Most employers are required to give you time to pump and a private place to do it.
Making child care and pumping arrangements
Going back to work or school is stressful enough. But as a new mom, you may have to entrust someone to care for your baby while you’re earning a paycheck or a degree, which can add more stress.
- Make sure the person who will care for your baby understands your breastfeeding goals and follows your instructions on how your baby should be fed.
- When you’re trying to find a day care or child care provider, look for a place close to your job so you can breastfeed during a break.
If your baby is younger than 1 year and you’ll be away for most of the day, you’ll probably need to keep a schedule to maintain your milk supply. That’s when a breast pump can help.
Going farther… gradually
Many moms find themselves breastfeeding for longer than they thought they would. With the right technique and the right support, breastfeeding gets easier as your baby gets older. Plus, once you can see how your baby is growing due to your breastmilk, it can feel rewarding and even empowering. Some working moms find that at the end of a long day, a quiet nursing period helps them unwind and bond after being away from their baby.
Once your baby starts solids at around 6 months, you won’t have to breastfeed as often. But, understandably, situations change, as do feelings. So if breastfeeding is going well, keep going. If not, talk to your doctor or nurse before you begin the weaning process. Ideally, weaning your baby is a gradual (not sudden) process. And keep in mind that every day you breastfeed, your child is healthier because of it.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk.