Breastfeeding is so much different than I thought it would be. And has been so different for each of my boys.
I am so thankful that I had and have the resources I do at my disposal, because my goodness – it’s overwhelming. When it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you’re up nursing your baby *again*, husbands aren’t always the most supportive. Especially considering they’re usually snoozing away next to you, like a rock. I can remember so many times feeling helpless and clueless about breastfeeding – there was and is so much books just can’t prepare you for. And to be quite honest, I still feel like a newbie even today, even after breastfeeding for the better part of the last three years.
Before having my first son, I was the typical first time mom-to-be. I went to every class I could on pregnancy, several different breastfeeding focused, and a postpartum informative session. I also spent countless hours on Pinterest, pinning and saving all the “Best Breastfeeding Advice” pins I found. I had a ton of different sources for any question I could have needed an answer to. Key word: “ton”. But I didn’t have Happy Family’s new infant feeding support platform.
Think lactation consultants.
Practically at your beck and call. But you don’t have to set an appointment. Or wait for insurance approval. These experts in all things breastfeeding also just so happen to be fellow moms. So you know they haven’t just read about it in books, rather they’ve actually been down these same roads. I wish this live chat service would have been around with my first. It would have been SUCH a huge help and answered so many of my questions in one easy spot.
I breastfed my first son for almost two years. Six hundred and forty seven days to be exact. And baby J has been nursing for 263 days so far. That’s 910 days of breastfeeding, and counting. I may not be an expert, but there sure are things that I wish someone would have told me about nursing my babies. So much I wish I would have known about breastfeeding, and everything that goes along with it. And because I want to make your breastfeeding journey easier than mine was, I’m going to share that with you today:
1. Breastfeeding HURTS
Initially. I’m going to be really real with you right now – the first few months of breastfeeding sucked. A lot. I cried a lot, especially when I was having to wake baby up every 2-3 hours to nurse at night. My nipples were raw. I was exhausted. The picture of this beautiful breastfeeding I had in my mind was nothing like what I had anticipated. Your nipples have to get used to this tiny little thing suckling at them for hours out of your day.
BUT there are some big differences between “normal” pain and pain that needs to be looked into. If the pain is just during the first minute or so when baby latches, that will go away with time and practice. You are BOTH new at this breastfeeding thing, remember that. However, if your nipples are cracking and bleeding, or blistering or itching please reach out to a knowledgable lactation consultant. Also, if you’re in pain for more than the initial time baby latches, or you notice any redness or hotness on your breasts. There could be underlying tongue / lip tie or latch issues, or mastitis and something you need to get into the doctor for, ASAP.
This shouldn’t be something you “just deal with” – there is no medal for getting through breastfeeding without help or with the least intervention or most pain. ASK FOR HELP.
2. Cluster feeding is NORMAL
Every baby goes through cluster feeding. What is cluster feeding? Cluster feeding is when your baby seems to be eating almost all day long. Baby is feeding close together, either at certain times of the day, usually at night, or it can differ between all babies and from day to day. Usually, cluster feeding is often associated with baby being more fussy.
I can’t tell you how many times I see new moms posting about this in my Facebook groups. They are worried it means baby isn’t getting enough and are looking for tips on how to increase their breastmilk supply. This does NOT mean that baby is fussy because of lack of milk. It is usually due to a developmental leap and typically doesn’t happen anymore after 6 months!
3. Breastfeeding is NOT one sized fits all
My breastfeeding journey with each of my nurslings has been so different. With my first, I was in pain for the first 4 months. He had a terrible latch, and everything I ate seemed to make him sick. I had a major oversupply that contributed to my pain and ended up pumping almost around the clock to relieve myself. Of course, any lactation consultant will tell you that by pumping myself to empty each time was just making that worse. But I didn’t know that because I never asked. I was just *so* sure that I knew what I was doing. Even though I didn’t.
With my second, his latch was SO much better. He latched on quickly and easily right after he was born, and has been breastfeeding like a champ from day one. But that doesn’t mean breastfeeding has been easy. He would nurse all day every day if I “let” him, and was quite literally attached to me for the first several month of his life. And pretty much all of his 4th month of life. Bottles? Nope. He refuses. Despite weeks and months of practice, and spending hundreds of dollars on different bottles and nipples. If it’s not straight from mom, he won’t take it.
This time around, my oversupply regulated because I didn’t pump like crazy. All that milk I pumped the first time around? Nowhere near that this time. And yet, he’s actually heavier and chunkier than my first.
4. Pumping can be a mind game
Along with that last sentiment, please know that your pumping output is not indicative of breastfeeding output. Many people do not respond well to a pump. A man made machine does not perfectly emulate your little one(s) suckling at the breast, but they can get pretty close. Which is also why its so important to learn about the pump you do have, and to get your settings correct for YOU. Another note to add – pumping is not easy. It’s hard work, and takes dedication. I have huge respect for full time pumpers. As long as baby is healthy and has enough wet and dirty diapers, know she is getting plenty!
5. Lactation consultants are a great resource
My oversupply could have been monitored and figured out so much quicker if I just would have sought out help from a lactation consultant earlier than I did. And as much as I loved my family doctor, lactation consultants are an incredible resource for a reason – they specialize in all things breastfeeding and breastmilk. I was given a lot of bad, uninformed and incorrect advice by well meaning professionals who just weren’t up on the current research.
And now you don’t even have to leave your house to connect with one. You can live-chat with a lactation consultant for FREE from 8am-8pm EST, M-F. How incredible is that?! No need to weed through all the advice on Pinterest or Facebook. These fellow moms are breastfeeding experts, and are here to answer any questions you may have. No matter how embarrassing, silly or stupid you may think your questions are, I can promise you they’ve heard it all.
6. You can eat / drink that
Breastfeeding does not mean you have to cut everything out of your life. Before you diagnose yourself and your baby with a food allergy, intolerance, or cut out all your favorite indulgences please check with a lactation consultant. If you’ve found yourself asking “Is it okay for me to drink coffee or alcohol if I’m breastfeeding?”. Then rest assured, it is.
I cannot tell you the number of angry messages I get on social media when I mention that I drink coffee and enjoy a glass of wine at night. But thanks to the breastfeeding support of my local lactation consultant, who also sent me some great links for the science behind breastmilk, I know that its totally FINE! Everything in moderation, of course, but there is NO need to pump and dump. Save that liquid gold!
And that dairy allergy we thought we had? It turns out it was actually an oversupply issue! The two just so happen to share a lot of the same characteristics.
7. Breastfeeding can make you Hangry
I imagine its what teenage boys must feel. This endless hunger. I am insatiable. I wake up hungry, I go to bed hungry. For goodness sake, sometimes I even take a snack to bed with me. And not just hungry, but so so thirsty, and even sleepy. Most of that dies down around the time baby is 6 months, but the extra thirst never went away for me.
8. Breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy
I know I know, this is supposed to be obvious, right? Except it isn’t always. For some women like myself, breastfeeding is not only superb birth control, but can actually prevent your body from being able to conceive again. Which is great, if that’s what you’re after. But when you’re actively trying to have another baby, that means weaning is necessary.
It took 14 months actively trying for us to get our rainbow baby. After the first 6 months, I cut out dream feeds and MOTN feeds, but still no baby. After 6 more months, I did finally get pregnant, but lost the baby around 8 weeks. My OBs office blamed my loss on breastfeeding, and told me to stop breastfeeding right away if I wanted a chance at staying pregnatn. The Midwifery I switched to told me that nursing did NOT cause my loss, and to take that blame off myself. I was only able to get pregnant AFTER completely cutting out any and all breastfeeding and pumping.
To piggyback off that:
9. Breastfeeding is not reliable birth control
Especially after about 6 months once you start solids. If your baby is under six months, you’re exclusively breastfeeding, and if you haven’t yet started your period, breastfeeding may provide up to 98% reliable. But I know a lot of that 2%; I have family that is living proof of that! And I can bet you about many of the people you interact with on a daily basis are probably proof as well. Repeat after me: breastfeeding is not effective contraceptive!
I do not share these things to scare you off from breastfeeding. That’s not my goal! My goal is to share what I’ve learned from almost a thousand days of breastfeeding. To let you know you’re not alone. There is a great resource out there for infant feeding advice! One that is free, and full of knowledgable women who are experts in breastfeeding and bottle feeding tips. Because above all, what matters most is you as a mother are supported in your feeding journey, no matter what that ends up looking like. Please remember that!
And that brings me to this, the number one piece of breastfeeding advice I wish someone would have told me:
10. It gets easier.
I promise, it does. You and your baby will master it, together. Like I mentioned earlier – this is new for both of you. It will feel more like second nature as time goes on and as you both get more practice. Your back, arms and breasts will get used to the motion of bringing baby up or over to nurse. The day will come that baby’s muscles are strong enough to reach up and correctly position herself to latch on. And that latch will not hurt. You will be able to instantly pacify any bump or bruise, and bring comfort no matter the reason he is upset. You will grow and nourish a child, knowing that your body did that.
You will fall into an easier routine, and the breastfeeding will change. Baby gets distracted, they teethe, they twiddle, they comfort nurse. But you will learn and adapt, and they will stop. The time spent nursing will get fewer and further in between. You will one day look down and see a once-small person, now seemingly an independent youth. You will marvel at what you created. You will miss the days when they so easily fell asleep at your bosom.
I am glad I had the wonderful resources from my mom friends and local lactation consultant. I know I am lucky to have the support I did and do, and I wish that for every new mom out there. If you have questions or need help, pease take advantage of Happy Family’s new infant feeding support platform. Monday through Friday, 8am – 8pm EST, its FREE and you can LIVE chat with one of their lactation consultants.
Did I miss anything?