There I was pregnant with my first baby, I felt both excited and overwhelmed with the idea of breastfeeding.
I had researched about the many benefits of breastfeeding (immunity for my baby and a lower risk of cancer for me?! Sign me up!) I had also been told that it would be hard…vague much? My thoughts exactly. It left me wondering what to expect and how to overcome the challenges that I would face. So now that I’ve been down the breastfeeding road a couple of times I thought I’d share my experiences with you cute mamas-to-be.
Your milk may not come in right away (especially if you are like me and had a C-section–my body REALLY didn’t get the milk making memo…) Don’t worry though, your body will produce something called colostrum. Colostrum is a thick substance containing plenty to antibodies, carbs and protein to hold your baby over until your milk stars flowing. Use a breast pump often to stimulate your body to start making milk (the hospital will probably have a super powerful one you can use during your hospital stay –just ask).
You’ll want to have a nursing bra handy. When your milk does come in your boobs are going to feel very heavy and a little painful if you don’t have a bra on to support them. I had heard that your bra size might change when your milk comes in so I had put off buying any nursing bras but when my milk came in I regretted it. You’ll at least want to have a few sports bras (or some type of nursing bra) in your hospital bag. I say a few because infants have a track record for dirtying things. Not mention the milk that you now have leaking out of you… you may want to get some nursing pads for that.
It won’t be as natural as you’d think. Both you and baby are new at this so give yourselves a break. Getting your baby to latch correctly isn’t an innate thing but it IS an important thing. A bad latch will cause you pain (oh goodness….so much pain.) The key is to get your baby to put the entire areola into their mouth instead of just the nipple. I don’t tell you this to scare you– I tell you so that you can get help early on before your baby gets into bad habits. A good lactation consultant is a game changer. Many hospitals have lactation consultants on staff. Ask to speak with one right off the bat, continue to ask them for help throughout your hospital stay and then see one outside of the hospital if needed as well. Some nipple tenderness is expected (ask your doctor for Newmans Ointment and some gel pads–you’ll thank me later) but major pain can be a sign of a problem.
You’ll need to keep up on your eating and drinking. GUZZLE water my dears, guzzle it. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining a milk supply. I just invested in a good water bottle and kept it near me all the time. You’ll also want to be sure you are eating enough. You will need an additional 500 healthy calories per day (compared to someone who is not nursing). If you’re not into counting calories that’s okay–just pay attention to your bodies cues and eat when you’re hungry. I always laugh when people say a pregnant woman is eating for two–nursing is when the real eating for two comes into play. No one judges you for stuffing your face when you are preggo but when you do the same while nursing you may get some funny looks…. I feel like shouting, “Come on people, I’m feeding a much larger person now!”
Pump, pump, and pump some more. Many people don’t naturally have a good milk supply (me, me, me!) but the fact of the matter is that milk production is a supply and demand thing. The more that an empty breast is suckled the more milk your body is going to be signaled to make. I recommend pumping after every feeding (even after you stop getting milk) until you are fully satisfied with your milk supply and have a freezer supply built up. This took me months so don’t be discouraged it it doesn’t happen for you quickly. Get yourself a good pump (you can read about my fav pump here) and pump on, mama!
Make up your mind now and get a support system behind you. People weren’t kidding when they told me breast feeding would be hard! Nursing every 2-4 hours around the clock, sore nipples, and other complications may make you want to throw in the towel at times– I know I felt that way. But I am SO glad I didn’t. Nursing has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. When you are no longer in pain or sleep deprived, and your sweet milk-drunk baby is staring up at you, you’ll be so glad you stuck it out!
It won’t be hard forever. When I first starting nursing I thought it would be a straight MIRACLE if I made it to a year. 14 months later I was tearing up as I nursed my baby for the last time. Once your baby gets the hang of it it’s honestly a breeze. No pain, no bottles to wash, just sweet bonding time with your babe that you wouldn’t trade for anything. It gets EVEN EASIER when they start on solids too because you don’t need to nurse quite as often.
Above all, remember that whether you end up nursing, pumping, or formula feeding, you are taking care of your child and that’s all that’s really important.
Have any other breastfeeding questions, comments or concerns? Feel free to comment below.