As a first time mother of a 4 month old, I have found breastfeeding to be one of the most wonderful experiences of motherhood. When my son was 2 months old, I finally let go of the way I thought breastfeeding was suppose to be and embraced the reality of what it actually was. Mothers, here is my advice (based on personal experience) if you are planning to breastfeed.
Be flexible. When I first imagined breastfeeding, I thought my son would eventually adapt to a set feeding pattern, but that was not the case. I learned very quickly to follow his cues. Babies will instinctually feed more when their mother is not producing enough milk or when they are going through a growth spurt. The only way to increase their mother's milk supply is by sucking. My son has always been a baby who cluster feeds. At 4 months, he eats every hour to hour and a half. His cluster feeding was most intense when he had his posterior tongue and lip tie; at times, he would feed for up to 4 hours in one sitting. Click here to read more about how my son's tongue and lip tie impacted breastfeeding.
Appreciate yourself for what you are able to do. Sometimes, things do not go as anticipated. For the first 2 months, my milk supply was insufficient due to my son's tongue and lip tie. Until my milk supply increased, we had to supplement at least one bottle a day with formula. I felt very guilty that I did not have enough milk supply to feed him around the clock, but I realized if your supply is low, feed your baby what you can and appreciate what you are able to give him rather than focusing on what you can't. What's important is that he is fed, regardless of whether it's breast milk or formula.
The most efficient and effective way to increase milk supply is by having your baby suck. The more milk your baby demands the more supply you will have. Pump after feedings to ensure that you get as much milk out as possible. If you supplement with formula, pump while your baby is eating or soon after to stimulate your milk production.
It is also important to pump after as many feedings as possible if your body produces too much milk. If your baby is not emptying out your breasts, there is a risk a mastitis.
Relax and enjoy these moments. At times, breastfeeding may become frustrating when you don't have any time to do anything else. Chores are left undone, and time to yourself is scarce. If possible, ask and accept help for chores. Breastfeeding is a job; you will need to both try to rest and try to eat nutritionally as much as possible.
I find that by being flexible, appreciating myself for what I am able to do, and relaxing and enjoying these moments truly make breastfeeding a wonderful experience.