Like any other first-time mom-to-be, I was enamored with researching my baby’s progress and development as well as labor and birthing options and stories. But, what I failed to give a lot of time and attention to prior to birth was breastfeeding. I researched the benefits of breastfeeding vs formula feeding, but that was the extent of my research before my daughter was born. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and though I’d heard women talk about how hard it was, I still assumed I’d be able to pop my lil’ one on and away we’d go. I was utterly wrong! Many women and couples take breastfeeding classes; and I soooo wish I had done that. Here are the five things I wish I would have known about breastfeeding before my daughter was born.
1. Latch Is Everything: A baby’s latch can make or break the establishment of your milk supply (as well as your nipples—see # 2). If a baby has a deep latch, he/she is able to efficiently draw milk out and drain your breast which then prompts your body to make more milk. If a baby’s latch is too shallow, this can not only potentially cause other issues such as poor weight gain and sore nipples, but it can also have a negative effect on your milk supply. Before your baby is born, research what a good latch looks like: look at pictures, watch videos on YouTube, talk to friends—this will make a huge POSITIVE difference on your breastfeeding journey in the first few weeks.
2. If It Hurts, Something Is Wrong: Ask any lactation consultant around, if breastfeeding is painful, if your nipples are sore, something is wrong! My first latch was incredibly painful—as were all subsequent latches until, after a week and a half, I went to visit a lactation consultant. I kept telling my husband that our daughter had the sucking strength of a Dyson Vaccuum cleaner, which makes for sooooorrree nipples if a baby isn’t latched on correctly. My toes would curl, tears would trickle down the corners of my eyes, and I wanted to quit breastfeeding EVERY TIME I fed my daughter. The lactation consultant helped me correct my latch and after we got the hang of it, it was not painful AT ALL!
3. Support Really is Crucial: After a particularly painful breastfeeding session during my first week postpartum, I cried as I declared to myself, “I want to quit.” During my birthing classes, our instructor had told us that breastfeeding support would be crucial, but I didn’t know how much so! I quickly got on Facebook and messaged a few of my friends whom I knew had great success breastfeeding. It was basically one long SOS message where I vented and asked for advice. The advice I received was great, but the encouragement and support to keep going was crucial! I still keep in touch with a couple of them on a weekly basis about all topics breastfeeding. Along with the Le Leche League, there are also a number of breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. Those groups have been my LIFELINE; and along with getting answers to my questions, I get wonderful advice from others’ comments and questions as well!
4. Lactation Consultants Are Your Best Friends: A lactation consultant can be invaluable if you’re having trouble. They can be incredibly expensive, and if you’re penny-pinching like I was after just having my baby, you often have to do a bit more research and calling for pricing. In my area, lactation consultants ranged from $70-$140 per hour per visit. I found a great alternative at my local hospital for just $25 for an hour consult. Many local hospitals offer a weekly latch clinic or breastfeeding support group run by lactation consultants; and these are often times waaaay cheaper or even free. The lactation consultants at the hospital latch clinic were both professional and personal; and I don’t think I could have gotten any better service from a private consultant.
5. It May Take Time For You to Feel The Gushy, Lovey Emotions: My first two weeks of breastfeeding were so painful, I dreaded each feed. I didn’t feel like it was a serene bonding time between myself and my baby like I had read. Even though the “feel good” hormone was being released, all I experienced was pain, anxiety, and insecurity. Hang in there! By week four, I would look down at my daughter and sigh deeply as we bonded and I felt the rush of lovey hormones and gushy feelings for my beautiful baby. Each week, it got stronger and stronger until it became a really enjoyable experience that I looked forward to.
At times, when you’re knee deep in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, it can seem like it’s just not worth it. It can seem like the endless effort is too much. In those moments, it’s important to revisit why you chose to breastfeed in the first place. Remember, breast milk is hands down the absolute best thing you can give to your little one; and the bonding you will soon experience, if you’re not already, cannot be matched!
By Holly M.