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Before my son was born, I naively thought breastfeeding would come easily for me.
I have a medical background, I did a lot of research, and well… breastfeeding is biologically natural, right?
Hah! Every woman who has ever tried to breastfeed just laughed out loud.
Breastfeeding is many things, but easy is not one of them.
Pain, plugged ducts, milk blebs, heat packs, nipple shells, hours at the pump… Did I already say pain? And that’s not to mention the added stress of a crying baby who seems starved 2 minutes after finishing a half-hour feed.
I’m convinced that breastfeeding is one of the hardest parts of motherhood; physically, mentally and emotionally.
There’s more to our story.
Along with doing things the same way every time, I discovered the power of a slow, deep breath.
The Power of a Deep Breath
I struggled with a whole slew of emotions related to nursing in those early weeks. Among them were stress, frustration and anger.
As you can imagine, those emotions are not a recipe for a positive nursing experience.
Those emotions also, unbeknownst to me, often blocked my ability to letdown.
From my time pumping, I knew I didn’t have supply issues. Yet, for some reason, Raleigh often seemed unhappy when he was nursing. I would try to count the rate of sucks vs swallows to determine how much milk he was getting, and it always sounded like he did a lot of sucking and very little swallowing.
I don’t even remember exactly how I discovered the power that a deep breath had on my letdown, but somehow, I learned a very important trick.
When I would start to nurse, I would do these four simple steps:
- Close my eyes.
- Lay my head back.
- Take a slow, deep breath.
- Repeat if necessary.
This simple process of closing my eyes, leaning my head back and taking a big, deep breath started to signal my body to trigger a letdown and get my milk flowing.
It was months into Raleigh’s life before I discovered this trick.
Once I knew that this worked, I was able to let down easier and faster, and I could soon hear him swallowing more. I KNEW there was milk coming out, and I knew he was filling his belly.
Combined with the tip about feeding in the same place, the same way, every time, the simple process of closing my eyes, leaning my head back and taking a deep breath allowed us to find a rhythm and nurse successfully.
One Year Later
One year later, I still do this same trick at the beginning of most feedings.
Sometimes, I let down without trying very hard. But other times, I need to forcefully relax myself and trigger the letdown with the simple habit that I cultivated through repeated practice.
I wish I had discovered it sooner.
I wonder if those early weeks would have gone more smoothly if I had known then about the power of a slow, deep breath.