If anything about breastfeeding is guaranteed, it's the fact that every mom and every baby's experience is going to be totally different. Sure, it'd be nice to become an expert on nursing after reading a single informational pamphlet, but the reality is that feeding your little one can often feel easier said than done. A breastfed baby who was once a champion at latching can change their mind for seemingly no reason at all, or your body may decide without warning that nope, exclusive breastfeeding isn't going to be the easy route for you. These challenges can make it seem like your baby-feeding routine has been completely derailed, leaving you feeling confused and uncertain about how to care for your baby — but that's where Happy Family and their Happy Mama Milk Mentors come in.
Happy Family's Happy Mama Milk Mentors are a team of nutritionists and lactation specialists that guide moms through their feeding challenges by providing them with non-judgmental feeding support via their online hub. They also all happen to be moms themselves, so we partnered with just a few of them to ask about the biggest breastfeeding lessons even they had to learn the hard way. Their experiences go to show no matter how prepared you might be, things don't always go according to plan — and that's OK, and you're certainly not alone.
1Pumping At The Office Will Take Some Getting Used To
"Turns out you can cry over spilled milk — just like I did when I was awkwardly pumping on my first day back at work after my first baby was born, and spilled an entire bottle of freshly pumped milk on my desk." —Janel F., Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, Registered Dietitian
2You And Your Baby Might Have Two Different Plans
"My younger daughter self-weaned at nine months old. I nursed my older daughter at the breast for 18 months, and I never thought this would actually happen to me — but there we were! She just stopped nursing cold turkey one day and never went back, no matter how hard I tried.
"Since I knew I wanted to continue to provide her breastmilk until she was at least a year old, I had to get creative. I became an exclusive pumper — not easy with a 2-year-old running around! — and mixed the breastmilk with whatever I could: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, you name it. She never ended up taking the breast again and she continued to refuse the expressed milk in bottles and all types of sippy cups. It was a very trying time, but we got through it!
"I had all of these expectations of what our feeding journey would be like, and I had to take a step back and let them go. The biggest lesson I was taught through all of this is that things usually don't go as planned and, more often than not, we have to let go of any preconceived notions that we have and just roll with the punches!" —Angela N., Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, Registered Dietitian
3No Two Babies Will Be Alike — Siblings Included
"I think most moms expect some aspects of our second child to be like our first, or vice versa, but early on it was clear that my second — my daughter — was totally different from my son. Not only did my daughter's delivery only take three pushes compared to four hours of pushing with my son, but my daughter also didn't sleep a wink for the first 48 hours. I was totally exhausted and didn't sleep for almost two days, but I was surprised to realize my milk came in faster this time around. With my son, my milk didn't come in until late on day four, but for my daughter it came in early on day three. The timing all worked out, but it was definitely a reminder to not compare your children (even on the first day) as they as unique and special — just like we want them to be!" —Andie S., Certified Lactation Counselor, Registered Dietitian
4Trust Your Instincts If Something Doesn't Feel Right
"The biggest lesson I learned came from pain. With my first son, breastfeeding was a little uncomfortable until he was about 5 weeks, and then the magic turning point happened and feedings became much more enjoyable. With my second son, I realized why women quit breastfeeding. I was crying every time he latched, with bleeding and cracked nipples. It was just so painful. I knew he had a shallow latch, but every time I tried to re-latch him, he moved back to the shallow position he liked. Since I'm a lactation counselor, I felt like a failure!
"Finally, I went to see another lactation counselor to get some guidance, hoping another set of eyes could show me places we can improve. After some adjustments, things were feeling better and I could continue breastfeeding without the excruciating pain. He still had times when he'd move into a shallow position and make cuts on my skin with his little teeth, but was easier to adjust and I was able to breastfeed him for 16 months. That felt like a huge victory for our journey!" —Rachel G., Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, Registered Dietitian
5You're The Only One Who Knows What's Right For You And Your Baby
"I struggled with not being able to successfully breastfeed. My baby couldn't latch, was losing weight, and the lactation consultant gave me an SNS feeder, nipple shield, and formula. Ultimately, I found that exclusive pumping and feeding expressed breast milk worked for my baby and me. Every mom is different, and figuring out the best way to feed our babies and take care of ourselves is what being a mom is all about." —Annie L., Registered Dietitian