I love breastfeeding my babies. I nursed my older son until he was almost a 3-year-old toddler, and I'm currently nursing my 18 month old (with no signs of slowing down). Breastfeeding, for us and once we made it over a few bumps, has been a completely rewarding and fulfilling experience. Still, I must admit there were more than a few things I wish I'd known about breastfeeding when I was a new mom, starting my breastfeeding journey and (understandably) clueless.
It's not unusual for new moms to enter motherhood at somewhat of a loss, and I was no exception. My older son was born via c-section and, due to some complications, I was unable to hold him or do skin-to-skin for several hours. We had some difficulty latching and my milk didn't come in for several days. He developed pretty severe jaundice and had to be readmitted to the hospital after we were given the clear to go home. We supplemented with formula for the first few weeks but once we got our breastfeeding established, it was on.
I was surprised at how difficult breastfeeding could be, and my confidence was shaken as a result. I was afraid and unsure as to whether or not my body was going to be able to do what I was asking of it. It seemed like other mothers were effortlessly nursing their babies, and I was devastated that it didn't seem to come naturally for me. Luckily I was able to continue, but I really wish there had been someone to tell me the following things, to save me the self-doubt and recrimination. So, with that in mind and in the name of solidarity and continued education, here are a few things I wish I'd known about breastfeeding when I first started.
It's Not Easy
Just because it's natural doesn't mean it comes naturally or that it's easy. In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding, there can be (and usually is) a substantial learning curve.
You and your baby are both mastering a new skill and it can be difficult. Visit your local Le Leche League for support and be sure to check in with a lactation consultant at your hospital or birth center.
It Can Be Painful
Sometimes, breastfeeding hurts. Sometimes the pain is normal, but sometimes it can be indicative of a structural problem (either with the shape of your nipple or with baby's mouth).
If you develop blisters or cracked nipples or if you want to scream in pain with every latch, consult your lactation consultant.
It Can Make Weight Loss Difficult
Sorry, but it's true. After an initial surge in weight loss, it can become difficult to drop the baby weight. Your body wants to hang on to those extra energy stores to make milk.
It Makes You Feel Like Superwoman
When you first see those baby fat rolls develop and the pediatrician tells you how much weight your baby has gained, you puff up with pride. You did that, breastfeeding mama. That's all you (and your boobs).
Your Boobs Have A Mind Of Your Own
Nursing pads and extra tops will be your best friends. You will wake up with torpedo boobs that are painful to even touch, and huge wet spots on your sheets. Everything settles down as your body figures out what's normal, but until then (and it can take weeks, mind you) keep extra clothes with you when you go out, in case you spring a leak.
It Can Become Second Nature
I'm nursing my 18 month old as I write this, holding him with one hand and typing with the other. No big deal. Even though it's awkward and tricky in the beginning, you and your baby will find your groove.
New Babies Want To Nurse Constantly
Newborns want to nurse all the time. All. The. Time. It's normal, but it can be tedious and sometimes you can start to worry if there's something wrong. Usually there isn't. Babies just like to nurse.
It Can Be Intimidating As Hell
When you realize that you are providing your baby with valuable nutrition, it can be scary.
"What if my milk isn't good enough?"
"What if I don't make enough?"
The endless questions and self-doubt can be paralyzing. If you have serious concerns, consult your pediatrician or lactation consultant. If you feel like you need support from other nursing mamas, visit your local Le Leche League group (either in person or on social media).
It Can Be Lonely As Hell
Nursing mothers can end up homebound pretty easily if we're not careful. Nursing in public can be scary or uncomfortable and, more often than not, it just seems easier to stay home than risk a potential fallout.
It Can Be Empowering As Hell
You make food with your body. Bad. Ass.