There is a misconception that breastfeeding is the easiest, most natural thing in the world. And while, many moms become absolute champions at it within a few months, many women struggle in the beginning. Think about all the major changes that come in the beginning. Mom is sleep deprived, filled with hormones and emotions, probably forgetting to eat, and has been given the biggest responsibility of her life. That moment her precious baby is placed on her chest is perfection, and then a new task sets in. She has to learn to use her body to feed her child. Learning to position and latch a baby is foreign. Even with nipple cream and all the great tricks, her nipples usually become extremely sore and sensitive. Having a baby attached to her body at all times can become exhausting.
I have no shame in admitting that breastfeeding my first was extremely overwhelming, and that I to this day wish I had breastfed him the way I fed my second, third, and fourth. There are many things I wish I could go back and change leading up to feeding him, so I want to share some thoughts with you. These are the five things I wish I had been told before my breastfeeding journey began for the first time.
- Research v. Practice: Research is amazing and can help you understand what you are doing better, BUT there is no way to really understand your body and your baby until you are actually breastfeeding. I am a researcher, and I was so upset when I didn’t get the hang of things right away. My son wasn’t good at latching, and part of that was probably because I was nervous and he could sense it. It takes practice, so please have patience with yourself and your baby.
- Ask for Help: Help is everywhere if you need it! And you will need it! I will do a separate post this month with great resources, but never be scared to call your lactation consultant, your OB, your pediatrician, or your amazing best friend with any questions weird or not. There is most likely a solution for whatever you are going through. You are not meant to go on this journey alone.
- The Beginning is Hard: Butterflies and rainbows don’t appear for everyone in the beginning. I imagined a magical experience, and believe me, I found it with each babe as time went on, but the beginning can be rough. No joke, I thought I was going to lose a nipple more than once. Sometimes when I’m painting a beautiful picture for a mom to be, my hubby chimes in with “Remember when you screamed and cried in pain each feeding in the beginning”. I usually give him a crazy look, and then realize I need to be more realistic so mommas know what could be coming.
- It’s ok to Say No to Formula: Unless medically necessary, it is ok to push back when someone tries to give your child formula. I regret that I didn’t push my body harder in the beginning with my first. I had plenty of milk, but it dropped early on. I was scared to pump because I didn’t want an oversupply. An oversupply from pumping with my second and third saved me from needing formula. I trusted my body and my instincts and was able to provide better. Formula was an easy-out option that I was given with my first, and I wish I had known to fight back. You are your child’s biggest advocate! You decide what is best. (Please know there is no judgement if formula is best for you and your baby!)
- It Gets Better: And last, I wish that I really understood how much better it gets with time. The first few months of breastfeeding were hard with each of my babies. But once we got the hang of it together, it became natural. It turned into a bonding experience. Knowing after my first that it would get better made it much easier to get through the beginning with my other babies. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Good luck mommas! Trust your instincts, and believe you know what is best for yourself and your child. Happy Breastfeeding!