Breastfeeding is well…a lot. Even if the latch is great, milk is flowing, and the baby is growing off the charts, being a breastfeeding mom is not always easy. Whether you’re exclusively breastfeeding, combo-feeding, exclusively pumping, or anything in between, providing human milk is both labor and time-intensive, as well as physically and emotionally demanding.
A little self-care at this time of life can go a long way. As postpartum doulas, we’re all about making sure parents themselves are happy, supported, and thriving. After all, you are literally keeping another person alive with your body—and that means that you need a lot of care. And some of that care can come from yourself, via simple routines, healthy boundaries, and practical planning. Here are our tips for practicing self-care while you’re breastfeeding.
Set up a breastfeeding station
Feeding a newborn takes a lot of time and energy. One way you can set yourself up for ease is to make a breastfeeding station with all of the supplies you may need before, during, or after a feeding (since the reality is that you may also be trapped under a sleeping baby when they aren’t actually latched on). We’re talking phone, charger, snacks, water bottle, nursing pads, nipple cream, headphones, pump and pumping supplies, a book or magazine, and of course, any baby stuff you may need.
Set the station up in the area you most often feed in, whether that’s the living room, baby’s room, or elsewhere. Some parents like to have these supplies in a cart with wheels or a basket, so everything is easily portable. When all you need is at hand, you’ll be as comfy as possible during cluster feeds or bleary middle-of-the-night nursing sessions.
Have a lactation consultant on speed dial
Sure, you probably got some initial support from a lactation consultant right after birth, but you may still have issues or questions crop up over the course of your breastfeeding relationship. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a location consultant for additional support with breastfeeding. Community lactation consultants are wonderful resources for everything from latch and pumping to teething and weaning—and having an established relationship with one makes it super easy to get support when you need it.
Do some Googling or ask for referrals from other parents in your area. If you’re limited on local choices, companies like Simplifed and Expectful offer easy online consultations via the comfort of your own home.
Rest (and then rest some more)
As modern moms, the message from society is “go go go.” But that’s not always the right mode, especially if you’re a brand-new parent. Whether you’ve been breastfeeding for one day or 365 days, providing human milk can be intense for the body, mind, and spirit. So, all the more reason to rest as much as you can.
We are huge advocates of dedicated postpartum rest. Vaginal birth or cesarean, you need serious time to recover from pregnancy and birth. Your MO should be lying down, hanging out, drinking fluids, and eating nutritious foods with plenty of fiber, protein, and fat. We always recommend people follow the adage “five days in the bed, five days around the bed, five days on the couch” directly after birth. If it’s not possible for you to have dedicated postpartum rest of this kind due to work, family, or other circumstances, think creatively about how you can build a bit more rest into your daily life, like an early bedtime or Saturday afternoon family nap. And yes, do sleep when the baby sleeps, if you can 😉
Rest isn’t only valuable in the immediate postpartum time—it’s key for all parents, especially those who are lactating. Prioritizing rest—whether that means actual sleep, dedicated downtime, or taking tasks off your plate—is vital for the well-being of parents. We know it’s easier said than done to build more rest into your life as a parent, but the first step is allowing yourself to be ok with the idea of valuing it in your life.
Ask for support
Breastfeeding is better with a community. Whether that’s joining a helpful breastfeeding support group online, having experienced mama friends you can text when things get hard, or simply being able to rely on your family, successful lactation happens in the context of the people in your life. Although you may be the one providing the milk, your ability to do that is directly impacted by the support you receive from others. So when you need that support, speak up!
We do recommend asking for support specifically related to breastfeeding, but also for things well beyond that, too! Life logistics. Childcare. Food. Errands. The list goes on! Set up a MealTrain, build perinatal support into your registry with services like Be Her Village, text a friend to take your toddler on a playground date. You know what you need—and it’s ok to ask for it.
As virtual postpartum doulas, we’re always here to help, too. If you’d like to get instant access to a doula for support around everything related to the postpartum period, (from bleeding and birth recovery to feeding and baby life), download our app and use the code ERGO25 for 25% off one month of our text-with-a-doula plan.
We know it can feel awkward to ask, but we firmly believe that everything comes back around in time. Plus, we think you’ll find that most people are more than glad to help.
Center pleasure as much as you can
You are allowed to feel good. During this time of your life, what would make you feel good? Ask yourself this question on a regular basis and be honest about the answer. It might be something small, like lounging around in a fancy robe or buying your favorite candy at the grocery store. It might be something more intentional, like writing in a gratitude journal or setting aside some time to meditate. It might be quality time with your partner, without the kiddo. It might even be something more big picture, like cutting down on pumping sessions or reconsidering your career.
In whatever way you can, center your own joy and pleasure—as a breastfeeding parent, but also beyond that, into other aspects of your life.
Do at least one thing per day just for you
Many parents feel like they don’t even recognize themselves in the first few weeks and months after giving birth. Who is this leaky, sleep-deprived person willing to whip a boob out at a moment’s notice? Oh…it’s you! Whenever possible, structure your day and schedule some time to do something just for you, something enjoyable and restorative. And nope—showering doesn’t count, because that’s basic hygiene 😉
It could be a quick walk around the neighborhood, 30 minutes watching Netflix, a mindful moment drinking a cup of tea, a workout…whatever fits you and your lifestyle. Enlist your partner or other support people in the mission to ensure that your “me time” happens regularly.
You know the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” That’s most especially true when you’re breastfeeding. So whatever you choose, make this time a non-negotiable. It may be tricky, but it will be worth it. For your baby, for your breastfeeding relationship, for your family and most importantly, for you.