Breastfeeding Advice (When Nothing Else Seems To Work)

I’m a mother of 5 children and I have breastfed, am still breastfeeding (my youngest is 4 months old), ALL of them. If labor doesn’t make a mother out of you, a long-term breastfeeding relationship will…it’s tougher than labor, but also more satisfying…giving you an indpeth understanding of your child that will be the foundation of a lifelong friendship.

My breastfeeding style has changed a lot over the 8 1/2 years since I had my first child.  When I had my first son I had lots of milk supply issues and I realize now that it was because my milk was not fully “coming down” like it should and he was just getting watery foremilk most of the time.

Before having my second son I researched and researched the problem and realized that I was not relaxing enough to allow the  full “let down reflex” to occur (it would happen but only partially). And I had to ask myself “why am I not relaxing during breastfeeding?” and there were many reasons that I had to work through and I worked through them while breastfeeding my second son and eventually learned how to relax while breastfeeding. How to be in the present moment and be natural about it, as natural as breathing.

I have a theory on this, because breastfeeding is not what is the norm in this society even those who DO breastfeed are uncomfortable with it because it isn’t considered “normal”…I was like this. The breast is seen overly much as a sexual object instead of utilitarian, as in it feeds babies…so it’s just as much a utilitarian body part as is the hands or feet. I had to change my thinking on this.  In the past, I had always loved watching The National Geographic channel and many times had often marvelled at the ease with which tribal mothers, walking around topless, completely comfortable, fed their babies. Nothing abnormal, disgusting or sexual about it…but very beautiful and loving. A society where the young girls were raised seeing this every day of their lives, it’s instilled within them as normal and they aren’t uncomfortable with it in any way.

Mother’s milk is a symbol of compassion. Without mother’s milk we cannot survive, so our first act as a baby together with our mother is sucking milk from our mother with a feeling of great closeness. At that time, we may not know how to express what love is, what compassion is, but there is a strong feeling of  great closeness. From the mother’s side also, if there is no strong feeling of closeness toward the baby, her milk may not flow readily. So, mother’s milk is, I think, a symbol of compassion and human affection.  And with the advent of formula, the milk barely flows in the world anymore…and compassion has declined to all but a trickle…there is a connection there me thinks.

Me breastfeeding my third son in a small theater in the WV Tourist Center at New River Gorge

So I was determined that that was where I needed to be, and I had to work on my mind and perception of my body and the breast and the act of breastfeeding itself.  I noticed that when baby latched on I would automatically tense up and draw my shoulders upward towards my ears and I also noticed that my letdown reflex happened more often when I breastfed half asleep, like during a midnight feeding, being half-asleep meant my inhibitions were lowered and I could relax easier. I realized that I was unnecessarily stressing myself out by overthinking it and always in the back of my mind, because breast only equals sex in our society, I had the sub-conscious thought of it being wrong somehow…I had to work through all this in order to relax enough to allow that reflex to fully occur.

Here are some practical tips that always helped me relax enough to allow the “let down reflex” to fully occur:

1. Laying down to breastfeed and laying down topless, without clothes to get in the way. This obviously won’t be feasible everytime you feed, but doing it at least once a day is a good idea because we tend to naturally relax when lying down. This is why sleeping with baby is a good idea.

2. When baby latched on I would give a visible out-breathing “ahhhhh” sigh of relief and visibly, overexagerratedly relax my shoulders and my entire body.

3. Loving on baby…focusing on baby, watching baby’s mouth on the nipple, stroking baby’s hair and soft skin, smelling baby, kiss baby’s soft head.

4. Being in the present. Not rushing to get done with the feeding so that I could get back to my “job”…not thinking of all that needs to be done or make to-do lists in my head, but focusing on baby but not in a worrisome “will my milk come down?” kind of way…but in a loving admiring enjoying kind of way.

5. Having a beer or glass of wine would help A LOT in bringing the inhibitions down just enough that I could relax enough to allow let down to occur.

6. PRAY. Praying that my milk come down and that I have plenty of it and then breastfeed with the confidence and faith that God answers prayer…I needed to learn to not fret or worry, that is the opposite of Faith. If worry came, I gave it to God and forgot about it and went forth with confidence knowing that God created my body to do this and do it I will!

7. Learning how to be sexually comfortable with my body, seeing it as beautiful and good instead of with a critical eye no matter what my size may be. I’ve learned that sex actually has more to do with the let down reflex than most people realize…in the same way that an orgasm can’t occur if one overthinks it, stresses, worries about it or thinks about something else…the letdown reflex works in much the same way. I find that I have to be VERY in the present and INTO the breastfeeding and my baby, much in the same way that one has to be very in the present with one’s spouse and completely comfortable and uninhibited to allow an orgasm to occur. Believe it or not pregnancy, giving birth, and breastfeeding all relate to the sex drive and operate through the same mechanism…and it’s all a beautiful, wonderful and very good creation of God!

I have been breastfeeding now for nearly 5 continuous years and I very much believe in the healing power of breast milk and I want to help other mothers, so if you are a mother and have any questions about breastfeeding please ask away in the comment section of this post 🙂

4 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Advice (When Nothing Else Seems To Work)

  1. Very good post Stephanie. I breastfed both of my children, but I was young and didn’t know as much about it then as I do now and I think it would have gone better and easier if I had had some more knowledge. I did breastfeed my first one for over a year but my second one only a few months. I wish I had known more about how my diet effects my milk, along with many more things. Especially with my second, I had some supply issues but at the time I just didn’t know what to do about it. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth (lol) at this point to have another one, but if it does happen I would so enjoy breastfeeding again while actually having a greater understanding of the process!

  2. I know exactly what you mean, so much knowledge has been lost in this day and age of how to properly mother a baby…it’s so sad. Diet is a big thing too…most people don’t realize that trans-fats actually reduce the amount and quality of the breast milk (not to mention the fact that it gives you cancer) and yet it’s in everything! *shakes head* I recently learned that taking marshmallow root (fresh or dried) increases the fat content and nutritional quality of breast milk..I read that in a book entitled “Folk Medicine” written in the early 1900’s, I found it at a used bookstore….so much knowledge just LOST….and so quickly….

  3. Did you breastfeed your 4th all during your pregnancy with your 5th? Did you have any supply issues during the last pregnancy? What age do you typically wean and do you put them on raw goat milk at 12 mths?

    I’m pregnant with my 5th and have lost most of my supply due to pregnancy hormones? Nothing I’ve done has improved it so im now having to supplement with homemade goats
    milk formula. This happened during my second pregnancy, too, and I hear it’s common, but would love to hear any advice. I can’t pump because it causes cramping, but nursing doesn’t cause any cramping, I just have low supply.

    • I continued to breastfeed Charity, my fourth, during the first half of my fifth pregnancy…but then she wouldn’t take the breast anymore, she just simply refused. I’ve read that pregnancy hormones can cause the taste of the milk to change and so I figured that is probably what the problem was. I started giving her raw goat’s milk, just minutes old right after milking (which is twice a day) when she was 7 months old and over the course of a month I had her completely weaned and on goat’s milk. When I first got pregnant with Charity I was still breastfeeding my 3rd son, Matthew, just mornings and evenings though as he was 2 years old and eating real food by that point…but he also weaned when I got halfway through the pregnancy. I think this is the body’s natural way of preserving nutrition for the growing babe in the womb, so I really wouldn’t worry about it. If I were you, I would just continue to breastfeed for as long as they wish to continue but certainly give some other form of food, breastfeeding with a low supply becomes mainly just a way of bonding with mom at that point. As far as weaning goes I definitely let them wean themselves and always exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 mo. and then after that I will start to introduce other foods as they seem to become interested…this will usually be between 7-9 months of age depending on the personality of the baby. For instance, Samuel, who is 7 mo old is currently eating a rather large amount of real food including breastmilk, especially during the night cause I co-sleep….but my 3rd son wasn’t even interested in real food until he was almost 9 months old! They are all so different and unique! And they know when they are ready to wean, just follow their lead 🙂

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