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The first time I pictured myself breastfeeding as a new mom was during my third semester of nursing school. This was my maternity/pediatric rotation.
Honestly all I remember about the breastfeeding class was being told over and over again “breast is best.”No info about what happens when you breastfeed your baby, how to breastfeed or even why “breast is best.”
It wasn’t until I became pregnant with #1 that I decided to find out everything I could about breastfeeding. Even then I didn’t truly know what breastfeeding a newborn meant until I tried it for myself.
Things I Wish Someone Would Have Warned Me About Breastfeeding as a New Mom
1. The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom
Yes, you read that right. There are some personal perks for extending the lease on your body after pregnancy. And spoiler alert! Keeping those nice and full, look good in any shirt pregnancy boobs is sadly not one of them…sorry ladies.
Reducing bleeding post delivery: the release of oxytocin stimulates your uterus to contract causing all of those open blood vessels to clam shut. This is one incentive to get started right away breastfeeding as a new mom.
Initiating bonding: I bet you’re thinking, “Where have I heard of oxytocin before?…” Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone and is responsible for initiating maternal behaviors and bonding with baby.
- If you’re looking for an easier way to release some good ol’ oxytocin instead of conceiving, carrying a baby for nearly 10 months, pushing said baby out in one heroic feat and then letting that baby use you as a human pacifier…petting a dog works too
Health Benefits: studies have shown health benefits of breastfeeding for Mom include reduced risk of certain cancers like breast and ovarian as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Myths: some claims to fame for breastfeeding moms include increase in post-partum weight loss, lack of a period while breastfeeding (amennorrhea) and using breastfeeding as an effective for of birth control.
- Your speaking to the one who got her 28 day clockwork cycle back 10 weeks post-partum despite on demand breastfeeding, held onto most all of the baby weight until weaning occurred and got pregnant while breastfeeding my 1 year old.
2. The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
Once I started my research into “breast is best” I found a ton of real studies and anecdotal information supporting this claim.
If I had to guess the #1 reason for choosing to breastfeed your baby, it sure wouldn’t be the endless supply of super sexy nursing bras and drippy nips. I’d have to guess you were in love with all the benefits that breastfeeding had for your new baby.
Antibodies: sIgA is an antibody secreted from breastmilk that has a goal of keeping pathogens, or invaders, out of the gut. If there’s anything modern medicine is finally catching up on it’s that health begins in the gut. Breastfed infants have lower risks of infections/illness as well as office visits/hospital admissions in their first year.
Reduced Risk of Childhood Illness: by setting your babe up on that liquid gold from the start, you’re lowering their risks of things like asthma, allergies and obesity throughout their childhood.
Indescribable Bond: with all that oxytocin in the air it shouldn’t be too hard to find some L-O-V-E…LOVE! Having your baby close to the breast, skin to skin stimulates more oxytocin to be released. This release causes you to fall deeper in love.
And unless you’ve gotten to the acrobat toddler phase of nursing (which is a real thing ladies!) chances are the only set of baby blues you have to glare into are your new little bundle of joys! Its good to limit distractions during these special feeding times.
3. What It Feels Like to Breastfeed your Baby
Now that you know the health benefits of breastfeeding as a new mom, I bet your wondering what it will feels like to have your own little vampire. Breastfeeding can feel different for everyone. It can feel different during the same session or at different ages.
Tugging: the first time you feed your baby you are bound to feel something. Most women describe this sensation as a gentle tugging.
Letdown: here’s where it can get pretty intense. Your milk is released in stages while being stimulated by your baby, these releases are called letdowns. Some can be very strong and feel almost like lightening coming down your breast. Some you won’t even feel but you’ll know it happened due to lots of gulping followed by that milk drunk face your baby gives in satisfaction.
Nothing: if you’re at the point of breastfeeding an older child chances are you’ve experienced almost no sensation while breastfeeding. Don’t be alarmed! This is completely normal and your babe may have mastered their latch.
Pain: here’s where you’ll hear mixed reviews. Is pain while breastfeeding normal? The quick answer in my experience is no. Yes, you’ve never breastfed before and yes your nipples are very new to this game. But if your having pain, cracked and bleeding nipples or any other discomfort it’s time to dig in and find out why.
Milk Coming Out: now, here’s the part of the article that may take you by surprise if no one has warned you. Your milk does not come out of one hole in the center of your nipple! It comes out of many different holes called milk ducts!This is completely normal. So do not be alarmed the first time you pump and see milk spraying from a few different locations. Think less of your hoses “Jet” setting and more along the lines of “Shower.”
4. You Can Use a Side Lying Breastfeeding Position
Now if I had to find the holy grail of advice for new moms breastfeeding it would be learn to use a side lying position while breastfeeding. It may sound simple but if no one has told you this can be done you may just be stuck sitting up calling plays with the usual football holds. There are many perks to this position, it’s one you should keep up your sleeve!
Good Position After a Difficult Birth: if your bottom is sore from a vaginal delivery and you can’t sit for long periods of time. You are recovering from a c-section and the pressure of nursing in a foodball hold is too uncomfortable. Side lying breastfeeding position is a great way to feed successfully without the added discomfort!
Co-sleeping: if you have any interest in co-sleeping, this is the position you want to learn. You won’t have to sit up in the middle of the night or look around for your nursing pillow. Just follow these simple instructions and with a little practice you’ll be great!
Works Well for Larger Breast Size: being blessed with big breasts does come with its fair share of challenges. You’ll learn that breastfeeding is no different.
You have to hold everything in place, avoid loosing your baby under your new massive milk makers and learn tricks of the trade to be successful (my favorite being a lactation consultant who tried to use a rolled up receiving blanket to prop up my boob so I didn’t have to hold it…yea, no lady).
5. The Challenge of Finding Breastfeeding Clothes
I use the word “challenge” because it can be confusing at first. There really are 3 different options in my mind when it comes to finding clothes to breastfeed in. Once you’ve narrowed down what category you want to be in things get a lot more simple.
Buying New Clothes: if you saw an advertisement for a breastfeeding shirt that opens up for easy access and thought “I NEED that!” then this option is for you. From cocktail dresses to tank tops, there are now designers out there making clothes specifically to make a new breastfeeding moms life easier!
Working With What You Have: so it is true that as a breastfeeding mother you need to plan what you’re going to wear based off accessibility. I remember the first social outing I had with #1 was a coworkers wife’s baby shower. I didn’t know anyone and wanted to dress to impress so I picked my white lace summer dress that zipped up the back.
It was going great for about an hour then #1 needed to eat. I found a quiet part of the restaurant in a corner and it wasn’t until he was screaming purple for the milkies that I realized…I can’t reach my freaking zipper! After a lot of sweating and acrobatics I didn’t know were possible I freed the boobies but oh what a lesson learned!
- One major way I learned to combat this using my own closet was with the 2 shirt method. All you need is a tank top and t-shirt and BAM! You have a breastfeeding shirt. It can be a great way to nurse discretely without a nursing cover.
Using a Nursing Cover: when using a cover it doesn’t matter whats underneath as long as you have access to the goods. Wear what you would like and use your nursing cover if privacy is what you are aiming for. If you are comfortable without the nursing cover and don’t need to plan the right outfit to cover up then more power to you! That makes choosing what to wear when breastfeeding in public a lot easier.
6. The Breastfeeding Pump and Pumping Schedule You Need… Just to Give a Bottle
I don’t know what I thought was involved in giving just one bottle to a breastfed baby prior to trying myself. Boy is it a process. Hopefully by now you have sterilized all your equipment for the job and read up on how to use your breastfeeding pump. You have your bottle giver at the ready, eager to introduce their first feeding. Here are some nice to knows.
Don’t Skip a Feeding: lets say you have 20 oz of milk in a nice freezer stash and decide to take the night off so Dad can take over duties. Sorry ladies, it doesn’t work that way. Your milk is a supply and demand system. Every time the baby has a feeding, your boobs need to know. Dad can give that bottle but you need to pump and simulate a feeding.
Efficiency: the best way I found to pump was one time a day in the morning when milk production is at a peak due to high prolactin levels. I would set myself up with baby on one breast and the breastfeeding pump on the other. This allowed me to not have to pump in between feedings. That method risks baby waking up hungry right after you just drained the milk.
Do You Have an Option?: with #1 I pumped and pumped in anticipation of going back to work. We had fun giving Dad a feeding duty here and there to help with bonding. But come #2 I knew I was staying home. I realized I am way too lazy to use a breastfeeding pump! The idea of dirtying all the bottles, taking time to pump on top of feedings when the milk makers were at the ready day and night just didn’t make sense to me.
Now we did pump quite a few bottles just for Dad to have some feedings. But overall, not my cup of tea. I want to add that we don’t have a microwave or dishwasher so sterilizing takes a few extra steps. So to all the mamas our there pumping away like champs…cheers to you ladies! The next rounds on me 😉
If youre looking for a great class on pumping and work, check out Stacey from Milkology’s Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class. Stacey is a lactation consultant who breaks things down making it easy to understand and implement.
7. How Breastfeeding Turns Into Cluster Feeding
Being the first to breastfeed on both sides of our families was hard because I had no elders to ask advice from. It wasn’t until I heard them both repeat the phrase “They need to eat again?!” for the 4,283 time that I realized…hey, there may be some differences here. When you breastfeed, your baby is the demand and their job is to create the supply.
Establishing a Supply: for the first few days/weeks it may feel like you do nothing other than breastfeed as a new mom. This is perfectly normal! Your new baby is working overtime trying to let your body know they need a certain amount of milk. And they want it now!
Growth Spurts & Mental Leaps: these are essentially the same thing. Something in the body is growing and baby needs more fuel to make it happen. Back to back feedings and long sessions of breastfeeding are normal around these times. A great app to chart these mental leaps is called The Wonder Weeks.
Teething: if there was ever a time my baby was crying and I couldn’t find out what was wrong, I popped a boob in and 99% of the time it made it all better. There was no truer time for this than teething. Your baby is hurting, your baby is confused, your baby wants YOU! Find a position where your butt wont go numb and give that little baby the comfort they need.
Illness: not only is your baby going to want physical comfort while sick, they know a little secret. Your milk is MAGIC! Yes you heard that right. Your milk has the ability to make antibodies specifically for whatever is making your little one not feel well. Even more amazing is if your coming down with something, your milk knows even before you do and starts antibody production to keep baby safe before you even show symptoms! See….Magic!
8. The Comments While Breastfeeding in Public
If you’ve ever been a breastfeeding mother than you have rehearsed in your head a response to some hate thrown your way while breastfeeding in public. Especially if you’re trying to breastfeed as a new mom in public for the first few times. You hear it all the time, about a mom being shamed or insulted just for trying to feed her baby. I have never had anyone approach me while breastfeeding in public but I have had my fair share of stare offs just trying to public nurse.
With a Cover: here is where I really don’t understand. How can someone possibly have a problem with you if you’ve covered up?! “I know what’s happening under there!” The first time trying to breastfeed in public with a cover without my husband there for backup was nerve wracking.We were eating at a Mexican restaurant with my sister.
As if the food didn’t have me sweating enough, I had to feed him at the corner street view table with floor to ceiling windows on a main street in a little town. I got looks from people walking by but the worst was a women sitting directly in my line of view. This lady made it her goal put a pause on her meal and stare me down until I was finished.
Without a Cover: here’s the deal, baby has to eat. Whether you’re at home or in public, if you brought a cover or if you don’t even own one because your comfortable breastfeeding in public without a cover. There are so many discreet ways to breastfeed in public without a cover.I have found that with certain ways, like the 2 shirt method we mentioned above, no one can even tell! But if you’ve owned breastfeeding in public without a cover don’t feel pressured to cover up if it’s not for you…here’s why.
Breastfeeding Laws: would you be surprised to learn that in most all states you have legal rights to breastfeed in public and cannot be penalized for doing so? Here’s a link where you can find your state. Educate yourself on your rights as a nursing mother…you have them!
9. The Loneliness Breastfeeding Can Bring
You may be reading this and decided this is the part of the article where I’ve lost my marbles…but stick with me here. Breastfeeding as a new mom is a big adjustment, mainly socially.
You are committing to being the only person able to provide food for your baby. It’s one of the most selfless and beautiful things you could do for your new baby but it can be one of the loneliest at some times.
Limited Adult Interaction: in the beginning your newborn will be nursing a lot and most of these sessions they will be blissfully content with their eyes closed.
I’ve had my fair share of times where i have had to walk away to feed mid conversation with someone or excused myself from a family dinner/event to feed in a less distracting place. I’ve even had to avoid feeding in front of someone who always had a comment just to avoid the argument. How can you feel so alone when you’re constantly sitting with another human?!
Early Bedtime: with both #1 & #2 I took over bedtime routines because it was easier and it turns out they only wanted me. Being at the mercy of baby’s schedule meant a lot of nights went by where I had no alone time with my husband and no adult interaction. You know you’re doing the right thing. You know it is only a small portion of time in your life. You know you’re going to miss some day. But the truth is it can be lonely.
10. The Bond Breastfeeding Will Create
Even stronger than the loneliness that creeps in occasionally is the amazing bond you will create with your breastfed baby. Being the main source of their nutrition, their comfort and their feeling of security sets you up to have a relationship like no other! You will soon realize that all the early bed times and all the missed adult conversations were worth it a million times over.
Interaction: even when baby is small and their eyes are closed there’s a lot you can do to establish bonding. Holding hands has always been a personal favorite as well as rubbing their head or back. This is the perfect time to start a new lullaby or talking to your baby about what’s on the schedule for the day.
Older Children: as your baby ages they will learn to depend on you and learn you bring them comfort on a very primal level. Even now at almost 3 years old #1 will try to place his hands into my shirt when he is upset, tired or being shy. The majority of the time he has no idea hes doing it but every time it brings him comfort.
Breastfeeding as a new mom can be hard and you will face some challenges but hang in there mama! I hope this article shed light on some things you may not have known about breastfeeding and will make you feel more prepared starting your journey! If you’re looking for something to break down the basics and need to knows about breastfeeding, check out Stacey from Milkology’s Ultimate Breastfeeding Class! YOU’VE GOT THIS!