A couple of months after giving birth to my son, I got food poisoning. Food poisoning is always awful, but it's extra awful when you're exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) a baby, because it makes it even harder to stay hydrated. Trying desperately to get comfortable, I defaulted to what I normally do when my stomach hurts: I laid down on my stomach. The next morning, I woke up with a plugged duct, and the worst breast pain of my life. Turns out, sleeping on your stomach is one of the mistakes every EBF mom will eventually make.
Though breastfeeding has been a largely great experience for me and my son, it's inevitable to make mistakes when doing anything new. I've said it before and I'll say it again: just because something is "natural," doesn't mean that it's effortless or that it's not really easy to make mistakes here and there. So it's totally normal to make any of the following mishaps, but don't worry if and when you do. Most of them are not make-or-break as far as your nursing relationship is concerned, as long as you don't make them on a regular basis.
As for that plugged duct? It went away after a day of drinking tons of water, nursing on that side first at every feeding, and massaging it during a couple of long hot showers. Like most breastfeeding mistakes, it was fixable, as long as you don't let it slide for too long.
Letting A Breastfeeding Problem Slide For Too Long Without Getting Help
Whether it's a painfully shallow latch right after birth or anything else that's causing you pain or grief, it's totally common for moms to feel like we should just push through our own pain for the benefit of our babies.
Thing is, you are just as important as your child and breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. Plus, if something hurts while you're nursing, it usually means your baby isn't latched properly, which means they're getting less milk than they could be. If something feels painful or wrong, get help from a lactation consultant or support group.
Sleeping On Your Stomach
Sorry, tummy-sleepers: if you're planning to breastfeed, giving birth is not a green light to start sleeping on your stomach again. (On the plus side: at least you've had a couple of trimesters to practice sleeping in a different position!) Compressing your boobs by sleeping on your stomach — or any other way, like with in a poorly-fit or poorly positioned baby carrier, too-tight bra, etc. — can cause really painful plugged ducts, which can sometimes even turn into mastitis.
Ain't nobody got time for that. Just sleep on your side or your back until your breasts aren't so active.
Not Drinking Enough Water
Breast milk is 88 percent water, so if you're going thirsty, you're going to run into some problems. There's no magic number of ounces all nursing moms must drink, but you have to drink enough to not feel thirsty all the time, and that's typically more than you'd need if you weren't breastfeeding. Just keep a water bottle with you at all times, and drink from it constantly. Set an alarm for yourself if you need to, or find ways to flavor it and make it more interesting if plain water bores you. But definitely make sure you stay hydrated.
Not Eating Enough
Making milk burns a lot of energy, so you have to keep refilling your energy reserves. It can be hard to prioritize your own needs when you're scrambling around with a new baby, but your and your baby's health depend on it. Eat up, mamas!
Not Getting Enough Rest
I know, I know. Sleep deprivation isn't so much a mistake as a hazard of the trade for moms of new humans. However, when your body is keeping two or more people alive, it needs to rest as often as possible. Prioritizing rest is a must when you're EBF.
Wearing A Nursing Bra That Doesn't Quite Fit
Ill-fitting bras are a plague to all womankind, but they're especially bad for breastfeeding moms. When you're EBF, and your breasts are working their hardest (and are likely at their biggest), it's so important to be comfortable and well supported (and to avoid too-tight bras that can cause those dreaded plugged ducts). Shudder.
Worrying If You're Making Enough Milk*
*Without evidence, that is.
Of course it's natural to be concerned if your child is well hydrated and well fed. But if they're wetting enough diapers, gaining weight, and meeting milestones, there's no reason to worry about milk supply. Indeed, a lot of moms actually jeopardize their milk supply by falsely believing their milk supply is low, then doing things that undermine it for real.
Forgetting To Re-Close Your Nursing Bra
A typical breastfed baby eats anywhere from eight to 12 times a day. When you whip a boob out that many times day in and day out, it's pretty much inevitable that you'll forget to re-close your bra at some point. If you're lucky, you'll just forget your boob is chilling out under your shirt. Just, you know, don't be surprised if you accidentally walk away from a nursing session totally exposed at least once. Oh, well.
Being Embarrassed To Breastfeed Somewhere
You have a right to feed your baby anywhere you have a right to be, period. Would you feel bad about giving your hungry kid a cheese stick or some fruit snacks in a public place? Then why feel bad about breastfeeding?
Feeling Like You Have To Explain Yourself To Haters
Though, fortunately, they're few in number, the Boob Police (aka people who hate on breastfeeding moms for nursing in public, or just nursing in general) can totally mess up your flow.
But while it's sometimes useful or even necessary to explain the ins and outs of breastfeeding to partners who don't quite understand how it works, we really don't have to explain why breastfeeding is legit or valuable to random haters who snark on what we're doing. If you want to let them have it, that's totally OK (and the funnier/sassier, the better). But if you just want to feed your kid in peace, don't feel like you have to justify yourself to random people or unenlightened family and friends. You don't have to waste your energy on people who are more interested in picking a fight than learning.