Breastfeeding is all sorts of things, including an awesome source of food for you baby, an amazing way to connect, and convenient when you’re out and about.
It’s also demanding, exhausting, and it can sometimes be downright difficult.
While I have luckily been able to successfully feed both of my children (after some initial issues), it definitely doesn’t work for every mom. Along with the difficulties that can arise, support for breastfeeding moms can be hard to come by. We live in an age now where most of us haven’t grown up watching family members breastfeed, and many women (myself included) have never really seen a proper latch before our own babies come into this world.
All that aside, once you get the hang of breastfeeding, it really is an amazing bond and wonderful way to feed your babe. These seven things are what I wish every single woman knew before beginning her breastfeeding journey. I know it would have made my initial struggles and experience SO much easier.
7 Things Moms Should Know Before Breastfeeding
It can be tough. Really tough
I know some moms who had no issues whatsoever – their newborn latched on well right away and it was smooth sailing from the get-go. But I know many more women who dealt with one issue or another, ranging from minor to more major trials and tribulations. Breastfeeding was the one thing I expected would come naturally and easy. Whereas I did all my research and homework on pregnancy, birth, cloth-diapering, baby essentials, and creating an eco nursery, I spent little time reading up on or watching videos about breastfeeding. Note to new moms: Invest some time in watching videos and looking at images to try to learn the basics of breastfeeding beforehand. Dr. Jack Newman and Kelly Mom are both amazing sources of information. Since breastfeeding seems like a natural part of life, I mistakenly assumed that my baby would latch on immediately, know exactly what to do, and we’d be a happy nursing team right away. Boy, was I wrong. We got off to a very slow start with my son not even latching on until hours later. We couldn’t get the latch figured out and as a result, I ended up with a clogged duct and a brutal case of mastitis when my baby was not even one week old. I also know of moms who have dealt with everything from a low milk supply, to tongue tie, to a severe abscess. So while breastfeeding is awesome and CAN come very easy to some women, it is totally normal and even more common to have a learning curve. Because of this, I am a HUGE proponent of breastfeeding support….
You Should Call a Lactation Counsellor At the First Sign of Trouble
The second you think something might be off, or you’re having problems, or it hurts, pick up the phone and call for support. I went through almost a week of excruciatingly painful feeding sessions and eventual mastitis until I finally called in a lactation counselor. Within minutes of her arriving at our home, the latch was corrected, my baby was happily nursing away, and I realized that breastfeeding should never be incredibly painful like that. We’re fortunate to have so many resources when it comes to breastfeeding support, whether it’s your local La Leche league, a specialized breastfeeding support center or clinic, or a doula trained in lactation assistance. I can’t highly stress enough how important it is to contact someone knowledgeable right away before things get worse.
It’s Not Normal to Cry in Pain
I was under the (wrong) assumption that it was normal for me to cry tears of pain whenever my son latched on. That first week was awful. And while the initial stages can make your breasts and nipples sore (that IS normal), it should never be so incredibly painful that you’re constantly crying. And cracked and bleeding nipples are definitely NOT good. Again, call in lactation help.
Nursing Will Suck You Dry
Literally. Those first few months when your baby is nursing on-demand and often every hour or two, you’ll get worn out in no time. Prepare ahead of time with energy snacks and bars and try to keep a stash of easy, healthy snacks. Make sure you’re also constantly drinking water. Breastfeeding takes a lot of calories out of you so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough for you and the baby, as well as lots of liquids. Eat, drink, nurse, repeat.
Breastfeeding Is Your Job for the First Few Months
And pretty much your only job. I remember asking my husband if he thought I’d ever be able to leave the house again, as my son used to nurse almost every hour at first. During those first few months, a new mom’s role really consists of just feeding her baby and getting to know each other. Even if you’ve done it before, there can still be a learning curve; every baby is different. Feeding your baby will be the main priority for those first weeks, so make sure you have a comfortable place to do so.
A Good Nursing Bra is a Must. And Don’t Forget the Nipple Cream.
A decent bra for nursing is in worth its weight in gold. I mistakenly didn’t make this a priority the first time, but was more prepared my second time around with good quality nursing bras. If you’re going to be out with your nursing babe (which is pretty much a given), having an easily accessible bra is key. These bras also offer specialized support for your breasts, which is so important. And don’t forget nipple cream! Make sure you have this on hand BEFORE you give birth. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes my absolute favourite cream that protects, isn’t sticky like other creams, and works wonders.
All the Trials and Tribulations Are Worth It
Even with all the late night, middle of the night, and all day feed-a-thons, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Those quiet late night feedings allowed me to enjoy the peaceful moments with my sweet babies, and it felt pretty amazing knowing that my body alone was providing my children with everything they needed. Not to mention, it truly is the ultimate convenience. I found it so easy to be able to feed my hungry baby whenever and wherever. So mamas, if you’re just starting out, wondering if it will get ever better, if it will ever get easier, trust me: it will. Those first few months are a tough process of learning and constant feeding, but from then on in, it’s pretty much smooth sailing.
Is there anything you wish you knew before beginning your breastfeeding journey? Please share!