Breastfeeding is down right incredible. I mean, you’re giving your child the best nutrition possible-and you’re MAKING the milk within your breasts! As if creating life within your womb and nourishing them for 9(ish) months wasn’t astonishing enough, if you decide to breastfeed you’re continuing to be their sole source of nutrition for the first year or however long you breastfeed, and that’s mind blowing to me. The female human body continues to amaze me.
When I was pregnant, I would say that I “plan on trying to breastfeed”. I worded it that way because all I had been told was how hard it is, how common complications are, and how a lot of women just “can’t”. I wish I would’ve been encouraged, it would have been a lot nicer to hear “you can do it! your body was made to produce milk for your baby. just don’t give up!” because that’s the truth. I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT, YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS, DON’T GIVE UP!
- I won’t lie, for most women (myself included) it’s not only NOT easy in the beginning, it’s tough. Some babies don’t latch easily, some have tongue ties..(both situations you can get help with, and if you experience complications that doesn’t mean you can’t nurse, it just means you may have to work extra hard at it and seek guidance and help from a lactation consultant) Personally, my baby latched immediately and we never had a problem in that area- but man oh man, it HURT. I mean, think about it.. your nipples are sore, they’re not used to being sucked on. Mine were cracked and bleeding, and it hurt SO BAD. I didn’t give up though, and I’m so thankful I pushed through the hard times. In the beginning I was told “the first three months are the hardest, after that it’s easy” and that’s the truth. It gets easier, I promise. Set your mind to it, don’t give up. If you’re having a bad day tell yourself “I won’t quit today. Tomorrow will be better” and just take it one day at a time.
- Support is HUGE. So important! I don’t know if I would’ve made it without my fiances loving support and words of encouragement. If you don’t have support from your significant other or family, find a support group. If you’re on WIC (in my area at least), you will be assigned a personal breastfeeding peer counselor whom you can call 7 days a week and ask any questions, they’re there to support and help you along your breastfeeding journey. Those women are awesome 🙂 I also suggest becoming a member of a breastfeeding support group on facebook, “Dairy Queens” is one I am a part of and it has been a huge help to me! Whether I have questions, or just encouragement, the ladies in that group have never failed me. They get it, they have been in your shoes. Another awesome option is to reach out to your local LLL leaders and attend a meeting.
- If you like books, I highly suggest “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. You can snag it on Amazon for like $10. It was a huge help to me in the beginning and I continue to pick it up whenever I want to learn more. I will especially be reading it (and reaching out to an online support group) when we decide to wean.
- Breastfed, newborn babies eat A LOT. Like, they nurse more often than not, and when they’re not nursing, they’re sleeping. This too, shall pass. While in the midst of it, it is exhausting and you feel like you will never get anything done other than nursing, but I promise that’s not the case. One day you will miss those peaceful feedings, because they are over before you know it and then you have an almost 9 month old who nurses while standing and moving around and hitting you in the face. lol. Keep in mind that it’s not just food, it’s comfort for them. They just spent 9 months growing inside you and now you expect to be able to put them down? 😉 they just want their momma. Your scent and your milk comforts them, and I think that’s pretty awesome. **also** because newborns nurse so frequently, this causes a lot of new moms to think they are not producing enough (which is usually not the case) because baby just wants to eat back to back and it causes momma to think baby isn’t getting full. Like I said, this usually isn’t the case, it’s very rare that a woman is unable to produce enough to satisfy their baby. If you want to be sure, you can go to your babys dr office or even the health department, and do a weighed feeding so you know exactly how much baby is getting at each feeding. Even if you arent producing enough, there is hope. There are lots of foods you can eat and supplements you can take to increase your milk supply. Fennel essential oil is also supposed to be wonderful for increasing milk supply (I’ve never personally tried it because I don’t have a low supply, but I have friends who have and have seen great results).
- Plenty of wet diapers and weight gain are indicators of whether or not baby is getting enough milk, not the time spent nursing or how frequent baby is nursing. If baby is fussy at the breast don’t assume automatically that you’re not producing enough, remember baby may be gassy or fussy in general. Refer to #4 for ways to figure out how much baby is getting at each feeding.
- There are going to be people that doubt you, and that’s okay. Have faith in your body. You can do this. People may say “are you sure he’s gettig enough out of those small things? He/she sure does nurse often, are you sure he’s getting enough” reply with “he’s gaining weight and has plenty of diapers, my body was made to do this. He gets plenty.” 🙂
- There are going to be people that are uncomfortable with you nursing in front of them. This is usually because it’s not the “norm” to them. You can nurse discreetly, I suggest using the two shirt method, it’s always worked well for us. I’ve never used a cover, I was afraid of my baby being hot and uncomfortable when he was little and now there is no way he would let me use a cover, he’d pull it right off. Do what works for you. Cover, no cover, two shirt method, whatever. It’s sad that in the society we live in it is acceptable to wear low cut shirts & string bikinis, but when you use your breasts to feed your baby like nature intended people get in a tissy. Be the change you want to see in the world, normalize breastfeeding. Here in Oklahoma (and in many other states) the law is on your side, you have the right to nurse where ever you have the right to be. In public, at home, in your car, where ever. Feed that baby. Let peoples rude remarks and stares bounce off you like glue 😉 You’re providing the best nutrition possible for your baby, it doesn’t matter what people think. I know nursing in public can be awkward and scary at first, but I promise after the first few times, you won’t hesitate. It’s natural, it’s NOT something to be ashamed of.
- This should really be higher on the list, but I’m not really going in any specific order, I’m just typing as things come to mind. DRINK LOTS OF WATER. I mean like A LOT, more than ever before. Keep a water jug with you at all times, because the more water you drink the more milk you will produce and I promise you, you’ll be thirsty.
- The amount you pump is NOT a correct indicator of the amount you produce. Babies are much more efficient at emptying the breast than pumps are.
- They say breastfeeding helps moms lose the baby weight faster. While this may be true for some, it has not been true for me. Breastfeeding makes me hungry, it takes an extra 500 calories a day to produce milk. While that’s awesome because you burn those 500 calories by producing milk, like I said, you’ll be hungry. I’ve decided to focus on getting to the one year mark of breastfeeding before I worry about dieting because I don’t want to risk losing my supply. Don’t think you can’t diet and exercise while you nurse, because you can, and as long as you talk to an LC or counselor about it and ease in to it, you should be fine.
The most important advice I can give you is to believe in yourself, trust your body, and don’t give up. Breastfeeding creates the sweetest bond, and the benefits from breast milk last a life time. It’s okay and normal to be frustrated and sometimes discouraged, but don’t let the tough times get you down. They won’t last forever. 🙂
If you have any questions or anything to add to this list, feel free to comment or send me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org -I’d love to hear from you!