A major part of becoming a parent is making decisions about how you will raise your child. Often, one of the first decisions you make as a parent is how you are going to provide nourishing meals to your baby throughout pregnancy.

After pregnancy, you’ll continue to provide these healthy meals for your newborn, but it will look a bit different. You’ll need to decide how you will continue to nourish your baby: will you provide breast milk, use formula, or a combination of the two?

To help you decide I put together a few things I thought you should know about breast/chestfeeding your new baby. Keep reading for the three things I learned the hard way. 

Note: Not everyone who lacates identifies as women. They may identify as nonbinary or men. They may prefer to use the term “chestfeeding” or “bodyfeeding” rather than using the term “breastfeeding.In this post, I’ll make a reference to both.

Breast/chestfeeding can be hard work

Feeding your child human milk is one of the most natural acts you can do, but it doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Breast/chestfeeding is a learned skill. It doesn’t always come easy,  or even feel natural, for some parents. Breast/chestfeeding comes with its fair share of surprises and challenges. 

It takes a lot of time, dedication, and practice to breast/chestfeed. You and your baby need to learn how to get the proper latch and what positions are best for feeds. You’ll also have to navigate breast/chestfeeding in public and the demands of a newborn’s feeding schedule. 

It’s a steep learning curve. Because of that, I highly recommend taking a breast/chestfeeding class during pregnancy to stack the cards in your favor for a successful breast/chestfeeding journey.

It’s okay to ask for help

About 60% of parents stop breastfeeding before their intended goal according to the CDC website. Just a few of the reasons reported are problems with latching, issues with supply, and lack of support from society and family members. Early parenthood can be very isolating which is why it’s important to seek a solid support system. 

There are two main types of professional lactation support: certified lactation consultant (CLC) and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). A lactation professional can offer advice and troubleshoot any issues you are having before you throw in the towel. Many lactation consultants encourage you to connect with them before your baby is born. This can decrease stress in the early weeks of breast/chestfeeding because you already know exactly who to call when you need help. 

You should celebrate your wins

We’ve already established that breast/chestfeeding can take up a lot of your time and energy. What we haven’t touched on is that it’s also incredibly rewarding!

Set goals or milestones that you’re working towards in your lactation journey. Whenever you hit a new milestone, give yourself a reward. A few small reward ideas are a self care day, lunch at your favorite restaurant, or a new outfit. Bigger milestones can be highlighted with a photoshoot with milk baths or nursing your baby or a weekend getaway. 

If you are weaning or have ended your breast/chestfeeding journey, you can have breastmilk (or human milk) jewelry made from milk you have frozen. I have gotten jewelry made to commemorate my own journey from Twisted Mountain Roots on Etsy. After I weaned my first kiddo, I had a Tree of Life necklace made with my breastmilk.

Ready to begin your breast/chestfeeding journey?

No matter how long you decide to breast/chestfeed for, know that I’m cheering you on. You are a badass that has created, birthed, and sustained human life. That’s amazing!

If you need recommendations for lactation support in the Southwest Michigan area, reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram. Everyone deserves support and I’m happy to connect you to trusted resources in your area. 

About the Author Kristen Schell

Kristen is a birth doula, photographer and childbirth educator. She wants to help families feel inspired by what birth can be. It can be beautiful, empowering, supported, and evidence based.

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