o I hesitated writing a breastfeeding post for a few reasons. The main reason being that my breastfeeding journey has been pretty easy so far. I have been lucky and was a little worried that people might not find what I have to say very helpful. Then I remembered how strange I thought it was that people only shared their awful birth stories with me when I was pregnant. Where were all the nice, “it was actually really great” experiences? Did they not exist? Maybe misery loves company but I just can’t wrap my head around scaring expectant mothers. Of course there is something to be said about being prepared, but why not prepare for the bad AND the good? So with that being said, I figured it’s the same for breastfeeding! You’ll find many blogs and articles outlining how to correct all the troubles you may encounter, and believe me all that information is extremely necessary. I myself googled it 100 times. But how about some advice from someone who had a nice experience? An experience that instead of worrying you can maybe get you excited?
If you read Leo’s birth story you know that he was 10 days early and considered low birth weight at 5lbs 5oz. For that reason I was encouraged to breastfeed very often in the first few days. It’s expected that newborns will lose some weight, but it was important that he fed often to keep his glucose levels high enough that we could leave the hospital. Luckily for me Leo was a boob monster from the minute he came out! He was born at 10:20pm and from that moment on we were skin to skin and he was on and off the breast all night. The endorphins undoubtedly helped me stay up that long!
Now just because he was latched didn’t mean he was latched properly or was getting a lot of milk. I had no idea what I was doing! I mean my boob was the size of a watermelon and his head the size of a lemon. How was he supposed to get his tiny mouth in position?! But somehow he did and when they weighed him the next morning no one could believe that he hadn’t lost any weight! Seemed like we were off to a good start.
I was feeling pretty good when we were discharged, but when we got home the doubt came out. Was he getting enough milk, was I making enough, should I be supplementing etc etc. We had our home visit from the nurse the day after getting home and she had to weigh Leo twice because she didn’t believe that he had not lost any weight. She reassured me that he must be feeding well and checked my latch. It was helpful, but as any first time Mom, I still worried. I hired a lactation coach who came to assess us and basically said, “just keep doing what your doing”. She showed me a few different positions that could help and was on her way. Looking back I realize I didn’t need to spend all that extra money getting help, I just needed to trust my instinct. Leo was gaining weight and thriving. Why was I so hesitant to trust myself? Honestly I think the main reason is because I expected things to go wrong. Again, i understand the reason behind preparing moms for things to go wrong, but for me all it did was plant doubt in my mind…
Since then I have become confident with breastfeeding and Leo has been thriving. He was EBF until 6 months when we started solids and now at 13 months he eats three meals a day and I nurse on demand. I won’t lie, sometimes I wish his Dad was lactating as well, but then I look as his sweet nursing face and remember, these quiet moments won’t last forever.
So now that you have some backstory, here are a few things I would tell my pre nursing self:
That whole mom’s intuition thing is really a thing. I was convinced Leo wasn’t getting enough milk because he wanted to nurse so damn much. In reality he was just a little guy and was hungry and wanted cuddles. He was having lots of wet diapers and was generally happy. I wish I would have just chilled a bit! Side note: wet diaper count is important and really the only way to know your babe is getting enough milk. The way the letdown feels, the size of your breasts, the amount of nursing sessions etc fluctuate SO MUCH. Especially in the early days when your body is adjusting and your milk is coming in so none of it is a reliable gauge breastfeeding success. Also, just an FYI a breastfed baby can go up to 10 days without pooping and the docs will tell you it’s normal. Leo was like that, and he was always fine!
Don’t spend a lot on bottle or breast pumps right away:
My kid never ended up taking a bottle. For that reason I wish I hadn’t bought the double electric breast pump that is now collecting dust in my closet. Maybe it will come in handy when I go back to work, we’ll see. I did end up spending some dough trying different bottle types, and I don’t regret that because it was worth a shot. But nothing stuck, he just was not down. Honestly I think that’s my biggest breastfeeding regret. Being so scared of “nipple confusion” that I waited too long to introduce a bottle and then it just never stuck. That being said I do suggest having maybe a manual pump and a bottle to try out early on if you want your little to take a bottle, just don’t invest in the big guns until you know it’s a go.
Hire the lactation consultant:
If you are having any doubts at all, book a consultation. Even if she tells you, you’re fine just keep going, (like what happened to me) it’s worth it! The woman I hired was absolutely wonderful and made me feel more confident. The first few weeks are so intense there is no need to have the anxiety of wondering if you’re doing it right if you don’t need to. Whatever you need to give you piece of mind in the early days, just do it.
Drink a ridiculous amount of water and eat well:
If you take absolutely nothing else from this post remember this. You will feel rotten if you don’t hydrate and eat well. It’s true what they say, you will be getting very little sleep. And that cute little bundle of joy will literally be sucking you of everything you have. So eat all the things and have a water bottle with you at all times. I was lucky to have Leo’s Dad at home for the first 5 weeks (yay paternity leave) to cook for me, but even having some trail mix, granola bars and other nursing snacks available was key. I was downing so much water that both my mom and Leo’s Dad were in awe. Making milk is hard work!
If you have pain take care of it ASAP
I’m no lactation consultant but I can tell you that plugged ducts hurt! If you feel a small, or in my case large, lump in your breast tend to it immediately. I know you have like zero time to yourself right now, but believe me you will be so glad you did! What I did was take a super hot shower and massaged the lump, it hurt a bit but also felt good. I was also placing a hot compress on it just before nursing and starting all nursing sessions on that side. I was lucky that with these steps it never upgraded to mastitis! A few friends have had this and they were miserable.
Enjoy the quiet moments
In the beginning it will all be a blur. You will try to hold the moments but it all moves so fast and you’re learning so much, it’s just a freakin whirlwind. But then there will be a moment when you are up in the middle of the night feeding your little. Everyone else is asleep, the house is quiet and instead of the usual exhausted desperation you will feel calm. You’ll look at the squishy human in your arms and think, how did I get so lucky. Don’t get me wrong it might be a fleeting moment in between spit up and colicky cries, but it will be your light in the tunnel and it will be glorious.
So like I said, this has just been a mashup of things off the top of my head. Breastfeeding advice from a rookie if you will. I know a lot of seems like commons sense but when you’re in the thick of it, common sense is not something you’re working with anymore. Honestly though, when all is said and done we all have different experiences and different stories. What’s important, and what I continue to realize more every day is that we’re all winging it. Some parents look like they have it all together, but let’s be real, it’s much too unpredictable of a job to really ever have it all together.
So good luck to you all! In your breastfeeding journey, your bottle feeding journey, your weaning journey and beyond!