What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Breastfeeding
There's a lot to learn about breastfeeding, and many new moms find out there’s much they don’t know about when they start!
You can learn a lot about breastfeeding from in-person classes, books and blogs, and from nurses and midwives. Medela even offers a collection of online breastfeeding courses and videos called Breastfeeding University to help new and expectant parents achieve their breast milk feeding goals through convenient, self-paced courses. But when you’re preparing for the arrival of a new baby, there are a million things on your mind and you may be more preoccupied with actually giving birth than learning about breastfeeding.
Because of this, it can be surprising for many moms when they find out there’s a lot of things they don’t know about breastfeeding that they eventually learn as they go. In an effort to make it easier on expecting mamas, we’ve put together a list of 12 things you should know before you start breastfeeding.
12 Things You Should Know Before You Start Breastfeeding
It Might Not Be What You Expected
Full disclosure: the first days of breastfeeding may not feel magical. If you're a first-time mom, you’re learning how to do something with your body that you’ve never done before. At the same time, your baby is learning how to latch – a skill he or she isn’t born with. Add to that the fact that your breasts and nipples are sensitive areas that aren’t used to a tiny infant’s frequent sucking, and your first few days of breastfeeding may be overwhelming. But there’s good news!
It Gets Better
Within a few days, you’ll learn what you’re doing, your little one will figure out how to latch in most cases, and your nipples will get used to being used frequently. Once you’re over the learning stage, you can begin to enjoy those special breastfeeding moments. In the meantime, try soothing your sore nipples with cooling hydrogel pads or lanolin. If you are currently or planning to also pump, breast shields play a critical role in comfortable, efficient pumping.
With our PersonalFit Flex™ breast shield, you can easily adapt the way your breast shield fits to help you find the pumping positions that work best for you – even as your breast shape changes. These breast shields also remove 11.8% more milk per minute and can help you pump more milk than pumping with traditional 90-degree angle breast shields, which is a major plus for maximizing the efficiency of each session.
Lactation Consultants Can Help
We all learn along the way, and a Lactation Consultant can be a big help with that process. They can explain the importance of a proper latch and provide you with tips for making breastfeeding easier. Working with a Lactation Consultant right away can help you learn the basics quickly, help you find the proper breast shield size, and give you the best start possible. You can use our online tool to find lactation professionals near you.
You Might Get Cramps
In the days immediately after giving birth, you may experience menstrual-like cramps while nursing. That’s because during breastfeeding, your brain releases the hormone, oxytocin, which helps your uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy shape and size.
Pumping Isn’t Just for Working Moms
Whether you’re planning to stay home with baby or head back to work, most breastfeeding moms can benefit from a breast pump. A pump gives you the flexibility to express breast milk while you’re away from baby for whatever reason, offers some relief from baby’s suckling when your breasts are feeling exceptionally sore, and can help you build your supply whether you’re trying to increase output or build a stash.
In addition to having a personal use pump for home, work, and on the go, you can also rent our Symphony PLUS® breast pump! As the #1 breast pump brand used in hospitals*, moms have the option to have our hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump delivered to their doorstep to help build and maintain breast milk supply for as long as she may need it. Visit www.RentMedela.com for more information or to place a rental order today.
You May Feel Like All You Do is Breastfeed
During the first few months of your baby’s life, it can feel like you are constantly breastfeeding. And, you kind of are. To reduce engorgement, nourish and help your baby develop, and establish a good milk supply, you should be nursing or pumping between 8 and 12 times every day in those first months. But don’t worry, this doesn’t last forever! As your milk supply increases and your baby gets older, the breaks between feedings will naturally become longer.
You’ll Be Hungry and Thirsty
Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy, which burns calories and depletes hydration. In the first 3 to 12 months postpartum, your body burns between 300-500 calories a day producing breast milk, so it’s no wonder you’re hungry and thirsty.
You Can Eat (Almost) Anything You Want
After roughly 9 months of having to avoid many types of food, it’s freeing to know that there are far fewer restrictions when breastfeeding. You should still try to continue to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to ensure you and your little one are getting all of the nutrients you need.
But, you can chow down on all the sushi, lunch meat, and soft cheeses you want. Just be sure to watch for any fussiness or gas from your baby, as some babies can be sensitive to your breast milk after you eat certain foods.
It Can Be a Team Effort
The actual act of nursing or pumping is something only you can do, but there are many ways your partner can help out. Have them burp the baby after a nursing session or ask them to get you a glass of water or a snack while you're pumping on the couch. It can also be helpful to have your partner sit in on meetings with lactation consultants so they can support you if you’re struggling.
Uneven Supply is Normal
No person is perfectly symmetrical, so it’s no surprise that many breastfeeding moms report uneven milk supply. This is very common, and if you and your baby are comfortable, there’s no reason to try to change it. In fact, there may not be anything you can do about an uneven supply. However, there are ways to try to even things out if you want to make feeding more effective, or just to relieve some discomfort.
It’s Okay to Stop
Every single drop of breast milk you provide for your baby is amazing. If you need to stop for any reason, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Wherever you are at in your breastfeeding journey, if there is a reason you need to stop, you can make that decision. And that’s okay!
It’s Also Okay to Keep Going!
Our culture has a tendency to view breastfeeding beyond a year as taboo. However, if you and your baby want to continue breastfeeding, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or unnatural doing so. You know your body and your baby best, and the decision to breastfeed - for however long - is yours to make.
Still, sometimes it can be especially helpful to hear tips, advice, and other breastfeeding stories from your own peers – parents just like you, who have been there before! We asked our moms what they wish they had known before beginning their breastfeeding journeys and are excited to share their honest, genuine feedback with you. Here is what some of our moms had to say when asked what they wish they knew before starting breastfeeding:
- “I wish I had my pump before my baby was born. I would have used it to save colostrum.”
- “Even though we, as mothers, are meant to be able to breastfeed, it doesn’t always come naturally or easily.”
- “They cluster feed in the beginning, so it may seem like they are always hungry.”
- “Breast shields help with small, flat nipples. My nipples wouldn’t have been cracked.”
- “You need support.”
- “It doesn’t always happen at the breast – Exclusive pumping counts too!”
- “That it doesn’t always work out.”
- “How much sitting it would require – I have a hard time sitting still!”
- “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
- “My baby wasn’t going to latch, and that it’s okay to pump early on. Pumping is breastfeeding.”
- “To ignore the advice of some people.”
- “How the milk flowed! It doesn’t just ‘come right out’. There’s a let-down!”
- “Get a 64-ounce bottle of water.”
- “Preterm babies might have a more difficult time.”
- “The ages when they have growth spurts. I thought I wasn’t producing enough.”
- “See an LC in the hospital if you can! She was free and we met 3 times before discharge. Valuable start.”
- “That as wonderful as it is, it can feel so all-consuming.”
- “Every mom won’t be an over-supplier. Every drop counts. You’re wonderful, mama!”
- “That it’s not something my body would automatically know how to do. It’s something you learn.”
- “To not introduce formula at all, unless absolutely needed. Get help from a lactation consultant first.”
- “I wish I knew how much I was going to leak. Especially in those first weeks and months.”
- “That it can be painful and difficult and nothing is wrong with you or your body!”
- “How time-consuming it can be!”
- “How to increase and maintain my supply.”
- “That after the first 2 weeks, it gets so much easier! Just stick with it, nurse often, and use lots of lanolin!”
- “That I should invest in a good quality pump.”
- “OMG – Babies need to eat every 2 – 3 hours! I have twins and it was a shock!”
- “That it is initially painful, but it will change and turn into the best thing there is.”
*Medela Tracker Study 2018, Wave 7.