Breastfeeding. It’s amazing and kind of weird, right? It’s such a natural thing for new moms but at the same time, it isn’t as simple as it first appears. Breastfeeding has its ups and downs. It’s full of struggles, it can be easy and then suddenly incredibly difficult, it’s worth it for some and not for others. In this article, I am going to go over all things breastfeeding for beginners. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, but with each others’ support, we can do some pretty awesome things!
Breastfeeding for Beginners
The Basics of Breastfeeding
Within the first hour of having your new baby, you will likely begin nursing. This can be such an amazing bonding time with your new baby, but it doesn’t always come easy! Getting to know the basics will help you know what to expect.
The Very Beginning of Your Journey
When the nurses or doctors give you your baby to nurse for the first time, don’t worry if you do not know what to do. The staff at the hospital will be there to answer any questions you may have. They may even get a little hands-on to help you out. After what you just went through in delivery, what’s a little boob touching? No modesty here! Many hospitals have lactation consultants on hand to help new mothers navigate breastfeeding. My firstborn knew how to latch immediately, but my second child was a little lost. I spoke to the lactation consultant and she helped me immensely!
This first milk that your body produces is called colostrum. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this first milk is extra thick and full of antibodies, protein, it aids in your baby’s digestion, and much more. Your body is only going to produce a couple of teaspoons of colostrum a day and after a few days, your body will begin to make what is known as “transitional milk” (American Pregnancy Association) as your baby’s stomach grows and is able to take on more milk.
A Few Things You Might Want When You Begin Breastfeeding
Pillows for Comfort
There aren’t many “needs” for breastfeeding, but there are some things that definitely make it easier. Having a nursing pillow like The Boppy Pillow is a big help when it comes to getting in a comfortable nursing position. Comfort is key when it comes to successful breastfeeding. You will likely be sitting down for about 30-45 minutes at a time so you want to make sure that you and the baby are as comfortable as possible.
You will also want some good nursing bras. Nursing bras can be found almost anywhere! You just want some that are comfortable, affordable, have easy to use clips for nursing and can be worn under your everyday clothes. The Motherhood brand and Target both sell some great nursing bras, but you can also find some of our favorites here!
Staying Hydrated and Eating Well
You are also going to need water. Lots and lots of water. In order to produce milk, you need to be sufficiently hydrated. You may not feel thirsty at first, but once your baby starts to eat more, you will likely notice that you are going through half a gallon of water during one feeding. It’s normal! Plus, all of that water is good for your complexion.
Finding the Right Breastpump
This is a super important step for breastfeeding beginners! You may not always be there to breastfeed your baby, or maybe your baby isn’t hungry when your breasts are full. This is when a pump comes in handy. You can check out some of our favorite electric breast pumps here!
Most insurance companies will pay for a breast pump, so be sure to contact them and see what your options are. They may require you to get a prescription for the pump from your doctor and your doctor will gladly do this for you. Getting your pump through insurance can take some time so it’s a good idea to do this a few weeks before the baby is born.
The Expectations of Being a Breastfeeding Beginner
Our loved ones always told us to shoot for the stars, right? When it comes to breastfeeding, maybe shoot for the falling stars. By this I mean you should set your expectations high but don’t feel defeated if you hit some bumps in the road.
Start out setting your expectations high but be prepared to adjust those expectations. You need to have an open mind when it comes to breastfeeding and parenthood in general. It’s not easy and there are always roadblocks preventing you from doing exactly what you planned. Try to keep an open mind and try your best to go with the flow.
The Realities of Being a Breastfeeding Beginner
There are some women out there who have no trouble breastfeeding and are able to solely breastfeed for the baby’s whole first year without ever having to supplement with formula, and to those women, I salute you! However, it is totally normal to supplement, quit, or just not do it at all.
Breastfeeding is hard. It’s hard mentally, physically and emotionally. When you are breastfeeding, you need a good support system! A new baby means new responsibilities and realities. These things can affect you, your baby and can even have an effect on your breastfeeding.
Post-Partum Depression is REAL
Post-partum depression is real and can be very hard to overcome, especially if you try to fight it on your own. If you are feeling depressed, that’s ok and it’s normal. It’s hard being a new parent and dealing with all of those hormones can really wreak havoc on a woman. If you are feeling any form of depression, get help. Talk to your support person and talk to a doctor about how you are feeling. Your depression not only affects you but it also affects your new baby and the bond between both of you. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, just get the help and support you need so that you can be the best mother you can be.
Fed is Best is the Only Motto Breastfeeding Beginners Need
Another reality of breastfeeding is that some women just can’t do it. Period. It could be their hormones, stress, diet, medications or almost anything else. If you are unable to produce breastmilk or not enough to feed your baby, that’s ok. There are so many great formulas out there and many of them now have DHA and ARA. If you still want to give your baby breastmilk, contact your local hospital about how to receive donated breastmilk.
Facing Changes in Supply
Maybe you are a milk machine and doing so great and then one day, totally out of the blue, your supply drops. It’s ok. It happens! If your supply suddenly drops and eventually dries up, don’t panic. There are supplements you can take to help increase your supply and you can also try to do some extra pumping to trick your body into producing more milk. If none of this works, it’s ok. Your body might just be done and can’t produce anymore.
This happened to me and no matter what supplement, diet and no matter how often I pumped, my body just stopped producing milk. I had some milk saved in our freezer so I could slowly ween my baby and switch him to formula, but this was one of those moments where I had to just go with the flow. As much as I tried, I couldn’t make my body do something that it just didn’t want to do anymore.
Many women struggle with keeping up their supply when they go back to work. It’s hard to find the time, let alone a clean space, to pump at work and this too can affect your milk supply. Or, maybe you’ve been breastfeeding for 6 months and you are just tired of breastfeeding and you want to be done. That’s fine too. You are the mom and you did your best. I’ve seen so many women beat themselves up over stopping breastfeeding because the internet moms tell them that “Breast is Best.” While “Breast is Best” might work for some, I prefer the new slogan: “Fed is Best.” As long as you are giving your baby the food, love, and affection they need, you’re doing great.
You Got This Mama!
Breastfeeding is a marathon. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and a good team to make it successful. Make a goal for your self and aim for it. If you don’t meet that goal, just know that it’s ok. Some day you are going to tell your child that you don’t care what they do as long as they do their best. Start practicing that saying and tell yourself every day that you are doing your best. You’re a new mom, you’ve got this!