I had the hardest time nursing my first baby (you can read about my journey here). I had a really hard labor ending in an emergency C-Section which resulted in a rough first couple of weeks with her. No one really told me how hard it would be to have a newborn and learn to breastfeed. No one told me that it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t natural. No one told me how much work it would take and how many tears would be shed because of it! I wish I would have known all of these things before I had her, but no one can tell you because everyone’s experience is so different. It does come natural for some people, but not everyone. Not everyone loves it. Some people actually loathe it. It all just depends on your experience, your baby…so many factors. So if you you are a new mama, please don’t get discouraged with yourself if you are having a hard time. Please don’t stress out. It will all be okay, whether you choose to move forward with your breastfeeding journey or move on. Breastfeeding can be beautiful, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies all of the time. I’m going to share with you the 11 things I wish I would have known before breastfeeding from the beginning or before I had my babies, and the things that I have learned from nursing my two babies!
I wish I would have known breastfeeding……
- It Freakin’ Hurts
For the first several weeks, the first latches, the first learning experience…it HURTS. My first experience was a bit abnormal because she had a tongue and lip tie, but I had bleeding, cracked and weird shaped nipples until we got it revised. With my second, we revised it at 10 days so I didn’t experience quite the pain. The engorgement hurts. The cramps from nursing in the first week are excruciating. The niplash (i.e. nipple whiplash) you will get from your older baby is painful. The biting that comes with the first tooth hurts like hell. It just hurts. Some of the pain is just part of it, and as bad as the pain is in that second…your baby looks up and smiles mid-suck and instantly makes it all worth it. If you think the pain should be gone, you are going to want to make sure there is a good, deep latch and possibly will want to see a lactation consultant!
- It’s Not Natural
I don’t know if I’m the only one…but breastfeeding did NOT come natural for me. I went to 4 lactation consultants and an IBCLC for help. My mom, husband, sister, mother-in-law, friends, and heck…even my co-worker, had advice for me. Several of the above stood by my side and coached me. Some of them actually even help my boob while one held the baby, one wiped my tears and massaged my shoulders. I mean, it was #groupeffort.
- Everyone Will See Your Boobs and You Won’t Care
Something that comes with becoming a mother is you really do lose all self modesty. I mean, think about all of the doctors and nurses that just helped deliver your baby. Think of everyone who walks in while you’re trying to nurse. I started to realize, every woman has boobs. No one really cares. Just feeeeeed the crying baby!
- There Will Be Problems and Google Becomes your BFF
I don’t know how many times I googled “how to breastfeed your newborn” and “why won’t my newborn latch” in the first 10 days. Yep, it took my first baby 10 days before she latched. We later found out about her ties and why this was happening, but it was so discouraging y’all. I remember the first time she latched, I was standing up and just shoved my boob into her mouth. So then, naturally, I thought that’s the only way she would nurse. I wish someone could have seen me for the first 2 weeks because I’m sure it was hilarious!
- You Will Not Lose Weight Just From Breastfeeding
You may lose some weight in the beginning, but it’s not ONLY because you are breastfeeding. It does burn calories, but not enough to make you a fitness model. I actually am one of those lucky women who gets to hold on to about 5 lbs while I’m nursing. #yay My advice while nursing if you’re wanting to lose weight is add 500 calories and work out. Eat healthy and clean. Don’t eat the whole sleeve of Oreos….or do. Totally up to you. 😉
- You Will ALWAYS Be Hungry
You just thought you ate a lot in pregnancy. Meet breastfeeding: where you eat more than your whole family combined and are hungry an hour later. Nothing is like breastfeeding hunger, just remember…it’s like the one period in life that it’s okay to over eat. #feedingtwo #hungryforfour
- If You Want to Leave the House – Invest in a Pump and Introduce a Bottle
Yep. Just do it. I was lucky that both of my babies would take bottles. I know other moms that had issues with their baby’s not taking a bottle so they didn’t get to leave the house without them for longer than a feeding time. It’s okay if that’s what you want, but I need my mommy alone time. I introduced a bottle around 6 weeks. They are established enough to not cause nipple confusion and that’s about the time you’re needing a nice long break! 🙂
- Set Monthly Goals
I would tell myself and some others in my little support group that I was going to give our breastfeeding journey just one more month. Once I made it to that month, we went one more month. Before I knew it, it was 6 months and my next goal was 12 months. Set small goals and celebrate small victories.
- Know That Everyone Is Different
What worked for your mom might not work for you. Everyone wants to tell you what worked for them, and while it may work for you…it also might not. Try things. Try different positions. Try different foods to produce milk. Try what you think might work for you, and take suggestions with a grain of salt. Be thankful that people care enough to tell you what worked for them, but know that it’s okay if it doesn’t work for you. And please know that not every single breastfeeding relationship will look the same. Mine didn’t.
- You Will Have to Deal with Everyone’s Comments
Everyone has an opinion about everything these days. The way you feed your baby is no different. Close your ears and do whatever it is in your heart that you know is best for the baby. Same goes for weaning; wean whenever it is best for your baby and family. Don’t listen to rude comments.
- Not Everyone Can Breastfeed
I worked way harder at it with my first than I did my second. I struggled with milk with my first and had enough to feed triplets with my second. I supplemented with my first and didn’t with my second. Did they turn out okay? Yes. They are both perfect in different ways, but breastfeeding DID NOT shape who they are. Some mothers don’t get milk in, some babies have latch issues, some babies have ties, some babies prefer the bottle, some mothers prefer bottles, some prefer doing both…and that is OKAY. It’s okay, y’all. Get off your high horse and support everyone, no matter how they feed their baby. It’s not for everyone. Give yourself (and others) some grace.
I’m in the 14th month of breastfeeding my second baby. I nursed my first for 14 months. That’s 28 months of nursing…over 2 years of nursing! It’s been good, bad and ugly. It’s looked different for each child. It’s felt different for each child. We’ve had different problems, and we’ve pushed through finding what works for the first didn’t work for the second. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t beautiful, but it is incredibly rewarding. It’s convenient now. It’s easier now than in the first month. It’s more natural. It changes with each month, looks different with each child and brings forth many different emotions. My one piece of advice after going through 28 months of nursing is this: do what is best for you and your baby. If nursing is that, great. If pumping and bottle feeding is best, do that. If supplementing or formula feeding is best, do that. Through it all, I felt judged no matter what I chose. Breastfeeding is a choice, and it’s a choice you need to make for your family weighing the options and choosing what is best for you. Feeding your baby is best, no matter what that relationship looks like!
Having trouble nursing and really want to stick with it? I have some advice for that, too.
- Surround yourself with people who will help you
- Try different nursing positions
- Join a breastfeeding group on Facebook
- Ask for advice. Don’t let yourself feel alone. You ARE NOT the only one that’s ever had trouble nursing. I PROMISE!
- Join a Le Leche League near you
- Watch YouTube videos (I did this a lot to make sure the latch was deep enough and also for pumping!)
- Find other nursing mothers. I know it sounds weird, but watch them. I remember just feeling like it was me that was the problem and maybe I could just let someone else nurse the baby. Haha! It was such a helpless feeling!
Here are the links to the posts that I feel might be helpful in your breastfeeding journey. Just click the photo of the post you’d like to visit, and if you love it – pin it for reference!
Breastfeeding is hard. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come natural. Breastfeeding hurts, literally. Breastfeeding is NOT easy and is NOT for everyone. Keep your head up mama, you’re doing awesome.
Photography by Bon Bon’s Photography