The TRUTH About Breastfeeding
Congratulations! I am guessing if you are reading this, you are thinking of breastfeeding your new baby or are just curious about what the real truth is…
I am going to start this off with this little tidbit: this is NOT a formula vs. breastfeeding article. After my rough experience breastfeeding, I felt there was a dire need for a raw post about the truth. There are numerous articles/books showing you how to breastfeed but there aren’t many that teach you how to survive breastfeeding! Shit gets real and it isn’t always unicorns and rainbows! Looking back, if I had read or heard something like this before having my son, I might have been much better prepared and possibly wouldn’t have struggled so much. I hope some moms that are planning on breastfeeding get some great information here and I hope some of you mommas that have already been through the battlefield get some laughs!
We all know that breastfeeding is amazing for baby and for you! It is proven that it decreases your risk of breast cancer and helps you burn an extra 500ish calories a day! That is equivalent to a lot of burpies..like a lot! As long as you aren’t ravenous like I was, it will help you lose some of that baby weight! Of course, it helps with baby’s immunity and gives them all those amazing health benefits. This was the extent of my breastfeeding knowledge before I had my son. No one ever told me it was going to be hard so I wasn’t really expecting it to be. I was wrong. I was very very VERY wrong!
I was so extremely uneducated about breastfeeding and after talking to many of my new mom friends, I wasn’t the only one! In the baby classes, they prepare you for labour, which they should because owie. But, they should also put a bit more emphasize on the critical need of FEEDING YOUR BABY and what to do when it doesn’t go as planned because parenthood always goes as planned doesn’t it!?
1-Right After Birth
There is a reason that colustrum (the thicker liquid before your milk comes in) has been deemed the name of “Liquid Gold”. It is incredibly nutrient dense and is everything that little baby needs for the first little bit. You may have lots or hardly any. You may have been leaking for awhile before baby. This is all normal! If your baby isn’t latching great or if you are just too exhausted, the nurses will want to hand express so someone can syringe feed your baby. Don’t be alarmed when the nurses help you hand express to get that gold out…just let it goooo! Ha! Hand expressing is an art and they are better at it then you are for now so try your best to pay attention.
2-Those Virgin Nipples!
You may not be a virgin (hence making a baby) but your nipples most definitely are! Your nipples will probably be very tender, swollen and sore. They really just aren’t used to all that attention; and it is a lot of attention in the beginning. Lanolin will be your very best friend. Don’t even try other things, you’re just wasting time! Don’t you worry though! If your baby is latching properly, those puppies will toughen up and will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them…until teeth.
3- Those Nipples Again
Your nipples may also crack, blister or bleed. Usually this means it is a bad latch or something else is going on but sometimes lactation consultants, nurses and doctors all think the latch is fine and don’t see any problems. I know this because it happened to me and also several friends. This is when you may need to continue searching for help. Your nipples may also get very dry from the constant attention and like feet, elbows and hands, they may crack and may start bleeding. Blisters almost always mean a bad latch if you are trying to find the difference. If your nipples are in need of some intense help, make sure to seek support and get on a prescription antibiotic ointment! My girlfriend suggested getting the prescription from a doctor before leaving the hospital just in case so that you can avoid waiting at the clinic with a newborn baby. She is a genius! I liked this article that is all about nipples; feel free to check it out!
You will be breastfeeding ALL THE TIME! It might feel like you’ve given up on showers, cooking food, and brushing your hair for awhile. This is one of the hardest bombs that gets dropped after having your first baby. Everyone tells you it is hard and “to get your rest now” so this is all kind of expected BUT those little buggers eat a lot and sleep deprivation is a real bitch! Know that it can take a good 45-60 minutes a feed and repeat every hour and a bit. Just be prepared my friends. Be prepared.
Prepare yourself for a mental battle. Your brand new baby will need you and ONLY you the majority of the time. Your boobs will, in fact, work miracles BUT it will drain you and it will be exhausting for awhile. Make sure Dads know this too. My husband had a tough time knowing he couldn’t do much in the beginning. It is not their fault that baby loves your boobies so much. Make sure to give them jobs like fetching you food and water and maybe even brushing your hair for you since you are going to be so occupied (see #4)
7-You CAN do this!
In the beginning, you are probably going to want to give up several times a day. It may not feel very natural. You may feel like a failure. Know that it won’t always be like this. It does get better, much better! It is like an uphill climb up a rocky mountainside with a couple landslides thrown in there and then BOOM you’re at the peak and VICTORY! Usually after the first 4-6 weeks, you will start to find your groove. Be patient. It takes time. Cut yourself a break and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Breastfeeding is one of the most wonderfully amazing things I have ever done. It did get easier. It did stop hurting. I did figure it out. It gave us such a special connection and it was absolutely worth all of the meltdowns and pain.
Tried and True Tips
1-Find that Perfect Pillow
Find a comfortable feeding pillow that is the correct height. You will thank me. This will save your neck and back and will help keep you cozy. If you have room, bring that pillow to the hospital. Ask hubby to give you some much needed massages…maybe even tack on a hip massage while you’re at it!
Make sure you study different breastfeeding positions including laying down. Some work better than others for latching properly. Make sure they are comfortable for you because you will most likely become boobie trapped at some point.
You may need to get a lactation consultant to do a home visit. You may need to get a couple different lactation consultants to do a home visit. Just like doctors, some are more knowledgeable in different areas and you might not find the support you need the first time around. Also, talk to friends, other mothers, nurses, doctors or online forums. BUT keep in mind that like motherhood in general, you will need to take what works for you and leave the rest. You get A LOT of advice and most times one thing contradicts another so do what works for you and baby. Follow your gut.
If baby just isn’t latching properly (after getting support) and you are having a lot of troubles feeding, there is no shame in using a nipple shield. I didn’t even know these existed before I was given one and it was the BEST. THING. EVER. The shield might end up being the difference between breastfeeding or not for you.
I was about 30 seconds away from giving up forever. As I sat there crying, over-whelmed and frustrated, the home nurse decided to give me a shield. I went on to breastfeed for two years. The shield was a little annoying to clean and it was sometimes tough to always have one on hand but it was worth it! I also tried to “wean” my son off of the shield but he just wasn’t having it. The nurses at his check-ins kept telling me that they weren’t meant to be used forever. Well excuse me! If it is between a shield and my son not getting breast milk, I choose a shield.
5- Get Baby Checked for Tongue and Lip Ties
These can both impede proper breastfeeding latches and will cause a boat load of grief for you. I found out that my son had a pretty severe lip tie after his first birthday. I was SO mad that after all of my struggles, no one even looked. No wonder he could never latch properly! There are many other health/speech reasons that you may want to get lip or tongue ties fixed so make sure to do some extensive research!
6-Feed On Demand—–> 1 Bottle Feed=1 Pump
For the most part, your body will make the milk that your baby needs. Feeding on demand will keep your supply going. Yes, feeding on demand at night is included in that as well. Do not try to sleep-train your baby right away! There is a reason they tell you to wake baby if he/she is sleepy; one being to establish that supply and the other being that baby has a very small stomach and needs to eat often! If you decide to supplement with formula or even give a bottle of pumped milk, MAKE SURE TO PUMP so that you don’t lose that supply. It is very hard to recoup your supply if it starts to dwindle. I learned that the hard way! Cluster feeds are also normal. This is when baby feeds constantly to increase your supply. As hard as it is, try and just go with the flow! Netflix for the win!
7-If You Need to Increase Your Supply…
For some mamas, as hard as they may try, they just aren’t making enough milk to feed their growing babe. There are many reasons for this including medical/hormonal reasons, having a c-section (may cause a delay in hormones compared to vaginal births), scheduling feeds and often supplementation with formula without pumping. There are many different ways to increase your supply such as extra suckling, extra pumping, diet and nutrition and there are also prescription medications if need be (although I have heard the side effects are not so nice). I really enjoyed this article and found it quite educative! Personally, I pumped for an extra 10ish minutes after a feed and within no time, I was making enough to feed my son and stock up bottle feeds for when I wanted some mommy time away.
^^^Worst part about pumping is cleaning/sanitizing all of those pieces! Hopefully you have someone just as hunky to do this part for you!
8- Don’t Be Afraid to Feed in Public
It may feel a bit odd to whip out a boob in the beginning. I remember being so anxious about feeding in public. Looking back, I question “what was I thinking!?” I made things so much harder for myself by pumping and bringing all the bottle supplies. Like seriously. I got over that pretty quick. If someone gets a peek at some side or top boob, I am not worried anymore! Do invest in a cover that you love, if you want a cover that is.
9-Things Get Messy!
Labour, babies, breastfeeding…it is all SO MESSY! Be prepared for messes everywhere :milk and poo and milk and poo and add-in some spit-up too. My tip would be to keep a large basket of essentials right beside your usual spot. Keep cloths, receiving blankets, extra clothes for baby and maybe a tank top for you, wipes, diapers, breast pads (100% cotton washable ones are the best), lip chap, lanolin, hair elastics, brush, breast pump, water bottle, snack and phone charger in there. Am I forgetting anything?
Phew! If you made it this far, good job! Personally, I would always choose the ugly truth over a pretty lie and I hope this post helps some of you be much better prepared physically and mentally for this amazing and beautiful thing called breastfeeding! It is not a hard journey for everyone so please remember that. I am not trying to scare you into not trying. Just because it was tough for many does not mean it will be tough for all. Also, remember that nourishing your baby can be done in more than one way and that it is okay! A baby will thrive best with a happy and calm mommy and if you feel like breastfeeding is not going to work than that is just fine! I am thankful to live in a time where there are many other options out there!
Good luck on your breastfeeding journey mommas! I am thinking about you!
P.S I am just a mom that had a rough-go at breastfeeding and learned a lot in the process. I am not a doctor. Please, like I mentioned above, take my advice/tips with a grain of salt and do what works for you!