mom breastfeeding baby while reclining on a couch

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most incredible journeys that a mother can experience with their child. It isn’t always a pleasant experience though, and in some cases, it can also be one of the most overwhelming and difficult things that a woman can do.

There is no denying the long list of benefits that breastfeeding provides a child. However, while many know about the benefits of breastfeeding, the challenges that a new mom might face when breastfeeding are not as well-known.

We want to help you understand and prepare for some of the most common situations that you may face on your breastfeeding journey.

1. It’s A Personal Choice

It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to breastfeed, bottle-feed, or do some combination of both. What matters is that your child is happy, healthy, well-nourished, and fed.

Some women chose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and others may want to breastfeed but cannot produce the amount of breastmilk that they need to. It’s perfectly acceptable not to breastfeed, and it’s OK to quit or switch to formula if it doesn’t work for you.

There is absolutely no shame in not breastfeeding as long as your child is healthy.

2. Know Where You Can Ask for Help

Taking a breastfeeding class before you give birth can be incredibly helpful. These classes provide invaluable information to expectant moms-to-be.

When possible, take your spouse, partner, mother, sister, or best friend with you. By having someone else there with you, the experience will be much more enjoyable, and you’ll also have someone who can remind you of things that you may have forgotten when you first try to breastfeed, and your mind goes blank.

While in the hospital, ask to speak to a lactation consultant. They’ll be able to provide one-on-one advice and demonstrate proper latching techniques, various ways to hold your baby, and more.

Finally, if you have more questions at any time, reach out to the La Leche League. They have offices staffed with accredited volunteers across the country and their website is full of fantastic information.

3. Keep Lanolin By Your Side

Lanolin is breastfeeding’s best-kept secret, and it can be a lifesaver. It’s a waxy substance that is similar in some ways to Vaseline, but it’s thicker and more hydrating. In addition, it’s completely safe for your baby to ingest, so you can use it as often as you need to.

Simply apply it after each feeding session and it can help keep your nipples from cracking and drying out. Some moms report that it even minimized the pain they felt during nursing.

It should also be applied before pumping sessions to reduce the chances of your nipples cracking from the suction of the pump.

4. Let Your Baby Tell You When They’re Hungry or Full

When your baby is a newborn, they’re going to be nursing often. You’re going to feel like you don’t have any free time and that you aren’t sleeping at all, but after two to three weeks, things should start to get a lot easier as you find your rhythm.

Make sure to let your baby nurse as long as they want on one breast before switching them to the other. Some babies may only nurse on one side at a time and that’s perfectly normal, just make sure that you start the next feeding on the opposite breast.

You’ll know your baby is full after they stop actively sucking and they disengage from your nipple by themself.

In the beginning, a newborn may nurse every two to three hours. As they grow, the time between feedings will become longer. Don’t be surprised when they go through a growth spurt and want to feed all day again though!

Mom sitting and holding baby cradle style

5. You’re Going to Be Hungry All the Time

Make sure that you have snacks that you can easily munch on during nursing sessions, as well as a bottle of water to drink. When you’re nursing your body needs, on average, an additional 300 calories a day more than you did while you were pregnant.

When possible, try to make up those calories with healthy whole foods that are nutrient-rich so that you don’t get the energy crash that comes from junk food later.

6. Be Cautious with What Your Eat and Drink

Everything that you eat or drink can be passed on to your baby when you nurse them. Just like when you were pregnant, you still need to be very careful of what you put into your body when you’re breastfeeding.

If you find that your baby sometimes seems fussy after nursing, it may be because they are allergic to something that you ate. Keep track of what you eat and drink in a day and notice when your baby seems to have a reaction. Some common foods that cause babies stomachs to be upset are:

  • Milk
  • Peanut Butter
  • Onions
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Spicy Foods
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Soy products
  • Wheat
  • Corn

In addition to these common allergens that can pass through breast milk, there are also the standard things that you should avoid consuming too much of or at all. These include caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.

Finally, make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated. You lose fluids as you nurse, so it’s extremely important to drink water throughout the day. Not only is it good for you, but it can help make breastfeeding easier.

7. Environment Matters for Some Babies

While some babies are perfectly happy nursing in any environment, most babies are rather picky about where they’re comfortable.

If you notice that your baby seems to have problems latching, feeding, or is being fussier or more distracted than normal even though they are showing hunger cues, look at your surroundings.

Is the TV on at a high volume? Are other kids running around and playing in the same room? Is there a light that may be shining on them? Are they too hot or too cold? Does the way that they are lying look uncomfortable?

It’s important to remember that babies are humans too, and they can be annoyed and upset with things just like adults can. If your baby is having trouble nursing in a busy environment, then try moving to a more quiet or darker area to nurse.

8. Breastfeeding Takes Time to Get the Hang of

Nobody starts breastfeeding and is immediately good at it. It takes a lot of time and effort to figure out what works for you and your baby. Don’t get discouraged if your milk doesn’t come in right away. For some, it can take up to 5 days to fully come in.

Don’t worry if your baby isn’t latching properly right away, or if a certain hold doesn’t feel comfortable. Experiment with different techniques until you find the one that works for you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Here is a list of breastfeeding positions to try if you or your baby aren’t comfortable.

Dad and baby's sister watching mom BF

9. Breastfeeding Can Involve the Rest of the Family

While breastfeeding is often seen as bonding time exclusively for the mother and baby, that doesn’t have to be the case.

When possible, try to include your spouse or partner. Let them sit with you and talk or read to the baby so that the baby can bond with them as well. This is especially important if you are exclusively breastfeeding, and your spouse or partner doesn’t get the chance to bottle-feed.

It can help to let your other children see you breastfeeding as well so that they know that it is natural, and it helps them to feel included. They may want to sit with you or tell you a story while you nurse, and it is important to help them feel loved and involved. This can help prevent siblings from jealously down the road.

10. It’s Possible to Exclusively Pump (and the Pump that you Choose Matters, too!)

Some moms discover that even though they want to breastfeed, they don’t enjoy the process. Or maybe they are extremely busy and find it difficult to nurse as often as the baby wants.

These moms can still provide all the benefits of breastmilk to their babies by exclusively pumping. There are several breast pumps now that allow you to move about and work freely while still pumping, which is perfect for busy moms.

Pumping will also allow spouses and partners to actively participate in feeding the baby by allowing them to bottle-feed, which can help with bonding.

Make sure to get a high-quality pump. Many insurance companies will cover the cost of a breast pump for new mothers, so check with yours to understand your options.

Summary

The most important thing to remember is that breastfeeding has a definite learning curve to it, and that you and your baby will adjust at your own pace. Do what works best for you, and don’t be concerned with what others have to say. Good luck, and happy breastfeeding!