You know when you are preparing to start something for the first time and then it’s two years later and you realize there was so much you didn’t even know? You wish you could go back in time and teach yourself a few things from the beginning.
This was me with breastfeeding.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I decided I wanted to breastfeed. I really, really wanted to. People told me that breastfeeding can be tough and even painful but I was fine with that.
I had never been around nursing mothers. But my husband’s mom and aunt breastfed both of their children. They assured me I would be able to do nurse as well.
I read different articles and nursing must-haves to try and prepare my self.
And I also prayed about it, a lot. Throughout my pregnancy, I prayed for a healthy baby and to be able to breastfeed. Having no idea if I would be able to.
Honestly, since I was not familiar with breastfeeding I pretty much thought you decide to breastfeed and if there aren’t any complications then you just breastfeed. And that’s it.
But I had so much to learn. Breastfeeding is one of those things you have to go through yourself to truly understand but being informed as much as possible will help you out though.
There may be times you think this could only be happening to you and that you are failing miserably. You are not alone and more than likely there has been another mom who has gone through the same thing as you.
Which is why it is so important to be informed on breastfeeding from the beginning.
I’m now breastfeeding my second baby and these are still the things I wish I would have known from the very beginning of my nursing journey.
The Beginning can be hard
But it does get better! Just because breastfeeding is natural does not mean it comes easy. Some moms breastfeeding journeys are easy from the beginning and some moms go through a lot more than they anticipated.
With my daughter, my journey was bumpy in the beginning. It was painful, looking back now, probably from her being latched wrong. I have seen moms go through a lot of breastfeeding and come out on top and very thankful they stuck through it.
Get help when you need it
There are lactation consultants that are trained in helping mothers with breastfeeding. Your hospital should have information on LC that can help you. There are also lactation consultants that have private practices you can usually search online for to find in your area. Some lactation consultants will even come to your home and help you one on one.
If you have family and friends who have breastfed then I would definitely reach out. Even if they can’t help with your exact need it’s nice to have the support of people who understand.
Words you should know
Engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis – learn them, know them. It is completely normal to get them and you are not alone. 100% pineapple juice and Epsom salt baths were my best friend.
- Engorged breast is when your breasts are full of milk and they can become huge, tender and hard. This happens in the beginning and usually lasts a couple days or even a couple weeks. Then your body will adjust to the right amount of milk your baby is needing. Think of it as your body over supplies to make sure your baby gets enough until your body learns what your baby needs.
- Clogged ducts are when your nipple pore (where the milk flows from) is blocked. Hot compressions and massaging the area will help. I also drank 100% pineapple juice to help avoid this. Pineapples contain bromelain which helps reduce inflammation.
- Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands inside the breasts. This often happens when you have a clogged milk duct. Most of the time it only affects one breast. Some of the symptoms include red and swollen breast, painful to touch, chills and fever. With my first baby, I had mastitis and I quickly called my OBGYN and she prescribed me medicine to knock it out. When I had my second baby and my breasts became engorged I would take a hot bath with Epsom salts and massage and express milk out for relief.
Water is important!!!
It can also be easy to forget to drink water when you have a new baby. Or even an older baby or when you have a toddler and a new baby. You’re busy. You’re tired.
Find a cup you love. My water bottle is 32 ounces and has a straw. I aim to drink 3 or 4 bottles a day. You have to find what works for you whether it’s setting a reminder or setting a daily goal. Some breastfeeding moms make sure to drink 8oz every time they sit down to feed their baby.
Having a cup I love to use is what helps me get my water in!
Snack on snacks on snacks
Breastfeeding will make you so hungry. I can eat all the meals and snacks and still be hungry.
But you are also sleep deprived and also very busy so forgetting to eat happens. Fill your nightstand with good healthy easy snacks. My favorites are Larabars and almonds. Have snacks in your car. Diaper bag. Eat all you want and if someone looks at you crazy.. eat them too. But really what saves me is making sure I have snacks ready to go.
Dairy can bother your baby’s tummy
I’m lactose intolerant so I thought if whatever I was eating or drinking was lactose-free it would be fine.
Nope, it’s the protein in the milk that is hard on babies tummy (I didn’t learn this until a couple months into breastfeeding baby number two). Some babies can not tolerate any dairy, soy, gluten and other foods that can be passed through mamas milk. You may just need to eliminate these things for a little while.
Cluster feeding does not mean your baby is starving
Cluster feeding is when your baby wants to eat a lot closer together. Your baby is usually going through a growth spurt.
A lot of moms feel like they aren’t producing enough and their baby is starving. No, your body will catch up and the best thing to do is let your baby latch on and eat as much as needed during these times.
People will make comments
People always have something to say. They will give you weird looks when they hear that your baby is breastfed or will be breastfed past a year. People are not always educated on the wonderful benefits of babies being breastfed past a year. It’s ok. In life, people don’t always understand why we do what we do especially as mothers.
Clothes are better when you can pull a boob out
You will notice most all of your clothes are not boob accessible in some way. Just like when it’s winter you feel like you have nothing to wear and the same thing when summer comes around. This is the same for getting dressed to go out of the house when you are a breastfeeding mama.
Most likely when you get dressed now you will ask yourself “Can I pull a boob out of this and feed baby easily?” and this will determine your outfits. It becomes second nature. I stocked up on a lot of the Target v-neck t-shirts. Some moms do the two shirt method. You will find what works for you and your babe.
Breast pads are a must
Buy breast pads before your baby comes. Pack some in your hospital bag and if you’re anything like me you’ll use a few boxes on your journey.
I didn’t realize milk would just pour out of your boobs whenever they wanted to. Yes, this slows down when your body gets accustomed to your babies breastfeeding needs. I just assumed that milk came out when your baby was latched then stopped when they were done.
(sidenote: You may even need nipple cream for the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Nipples can become chapped and cracked at the beginning. Putting breast milk on your nipple and letting it air dry is actually good for that too. You’ll learn that breast milk has a lot of great uses.)
Have Your Tribe
Join breastfeeding mom groups on Facebook and have supportive friends. Everyone’s journey is different. What works for Susie will not always work for you and your baby but there is so much to learn. Being in breastfeeding support groups are great for learning and having support. Knowing you are not alone because sometimes it can feel that way.
Seeing what other moms are going through may open your eyes to problems you could be going through with breastfeeding.
You will miss it
The saying “the days are long but the years are short” is so true. Breastfeeding can be tiring, motherhood, in general, is tiring. But it is such a beautiful messy blessing that we will all miss. Okay, I can’t speak for everyone. I do know once I quit breastfeeding my oldest I quickly started to miss it. Sure, I was glad in a way she was weaned but I also never wanted our journey to end.
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Breastfeeding has its challenges but it is also an amazing ability we are able to do.
And there will be days when you want to give up but never make that decision on a bad day. Those days are normal. Get through the day and then make you decision.
Breastfeeding is something that we should talk about more. The more we learn and the more we help each other out the better off we will be. Motherhood takes a village.
What do you wish you would have known before you started breastfeeding?