I wish I could go back in time and tell myself these little nuggets of wisdom. Here are seven truths about breastfeeding that took me completely by surprise. Some will reveal my ignorance — sorry! — but maybe there’s one or two that you didn’t know either.
1. Babies need to eat so many times a day. It has been well documented that I thought babies only needed to eat about 3 times a day like the rest of us. Nope. Not true. They eat about every three hours counting from the start of each marathon feeding session to the start of the next. My babes nursed about every 90 minutes to 2 hours.
2. Ouch, this hurts. It hurt when I was doing it right; it hurt when I was doing it wrong. It hurt before my milk-makers “toughened up” and also when I had plugged ducts, mastitis, and thrush.
Pro tip: Whenever there is pain, check in with a lactation expert, professional or experienced nursing mom, to figure out if there’s a problem with latch or anything more serious going on. Unfortunately, the problems can cause a domino effect of pain.
3. Nursing makes me SO hungry. My appetites and cravings were odd enough during pregnancy, but if I forgot to have my snack handy during those early breastfeeding days, LOOK OUT!
Pro tip: Don’t get HANGRY, be proactive about keeping healthy snacks nearby. I’m talking high-protein, fruits, veggies, everything!
4. Skipping a session means pumping. When I’m away from baby for more than 2 hours and he’s getting a bottle, I’ll need to pump. This is true whether I’m at the movies, the mall, a work meeting, or if someone’s bottle-feeding at 3AM. Otherwise, I’ll be in pain, leaking, or both.
Pro tip: If you’re away from baby, have a pump and a plan to use it. I pumped every night before bed to make my overnights more restful. My friend Crystal doubles her effectiveness by pumping and nursing at the same time.
5. It gets better. I promise. I survived some rough days, people, only to get to that sweet cuddly phase where we both knew what we were doing and it was actually pleasant. People like it because it gets way easier. During my extremely difficult newborn phase when I constantly worried that my little one would not regain his birthweight, I nearly made an “IT GETSBETTER” video but I didn’t because I was so freaking pathetic (and not completely convinced it would improve).
Pro tip: Stick with it, get support and you will almost definitely get to better days. Probably.
6. Each boob is different. Breasts on the same body produce different amounts from each other. Whoa. I’m a righty; is that a factor? Plus the baby has preferences. Which leads me to…
7. Each baby is different. Breastfeeding is a relationship between the parent and child. This means that I might have all the skillz, but he may still need help. I nursed two babies without much incident (except all the mastitis, plugged ducts, nipple shields) but my third one required many visits to the lactation consultant, odd positions, and supplementation with formula despite my best efforts. Agh. The F word. I figured that it was better for us to supplement one bottle a day but keep our nursing relationship going for longer than to give up entirely (but that decision was painful and tear-stained).
Pro tip: The final word is don’t beat yourself up. Tell your partner and friends how you need to be supported to make the best decisions for your baby and then do it. Maybe for you guys it’s Formula or exclusively pumping. Maybe it’s extended breastfeeding. Your call, mama!
How breastfeeding manages to be so mysterious is a mystery to me. When I first joined the club, my best friend was a nursing mom. I shoulda been prepared, I saw her nearly every day (frequently with her shirt up!). Not only did I have a role model, but my former roommate also gave me the BEST book AND I took a class. Wow. By the time I had my third baby, I thought I had seen it all, but I still had more lessons to learn!
Did any breastfeeding truths catch you by surprise?
All opinions and experiences are our own, like that breastfeeding for 35 months? That really happened!