It’s safe to say that by now you’ve noticed everyone has some sort of advice or snippet of wisdom to share with new moms. From the moment you announced your pregnancy, your friends and loved ones have been sharing advice and if your bump is showing you’ve probably got strangers in grocery stores who just can’t wait to share.
But what about the things that no one tells you?
You know the nitty-gritty stuff that you really need to know to not just survive motherhood but thrive.
Below are the ten things no one tells you about breastfeeding.
1. NATURAL DOESN’T MEAN EASY.
For as wonderful as breastfeeding is, as natural as it is for your body to start making milk for your little after birth, it doesn’t start out as the smiles and adoring looks seen in almost every breastfeeding picture ever, and it’s not this biological second nature that you just DO.
Lactation may be natural, but breastfeeding is learned. Both you and your babe are working to figure out how to do this amazing thing while working out the mechanics of your newfound roles – your little as an oxygen breathing, hunger feeling, temperature regulating tiny human for the first time ever and you caring for the tiny human that just exited your body while healing from birth with a hormone shift that can leave you feeling like anything but yourself while and sticking extra-sensitive parts into the mouth of said tiny human in hopes that they’re transferring enough milk to satisfy their grape-sized belly. Trust me, we all feel this way.
2. YOU DON’T NEED ALL THE STUFF.
Once our son’s ties were released I personally was SO grateful to not be toting around my pump, hands-free nursing bra, bottles for storage, cooler for the milk, syringe for feeding, SNS and nipple shield for attempting to breastfeed, bib for the mess and the “I’m a New Mom” overstuffed diaper bag on top of the wiggly squish who would undoubtedly be hungry five minutes down the road. I was so grateful to be walking out the door with just me and my babe, only worried if I’d be able to find a comfy place to nurse wherever we were going.
In those early weeks where we struggled to get the milk from my breast to his belly, it made me realize that the pillows, creams, pads, covers, and chairs on the market are all grand but they’re not truly necessary to actually feed babe.
So if it’s possible for you, borrow someone’s until you’re sure what you do or do not need and don’t be afraid to use it how it works best for you! I turned the boppy sideways and propped it up on my pillow so I had good head and shoulder support for middle of the night feedings – it’s not what it’s marketed for at all but hey it worked for me!
And out of all the things marketed as necessities for breastfeeding-it’s the only thing we used!
3. YOU WILL DOUBT YOUR MILK SUPPLY, OVER AND OVER.
aaaand over and over again (anyone else singing a Tim&Nelly duet now?) Babe will go through growth spurts, cluster feeding and nursing strikes- all of which will make you wonder if you’re making enough milk for babe and if your milk is filling them up-short answer IT IS.
It’s oh so rare that Mamas can not make enough to feed babe. As long as you’re eating and drinking enough breastfeeding is supply and demand.
If baby is putting out enough wet and dirty diapers for their age and back at birth weight when they are showing more hunger cues and signs of needing to be at the breast, then let them.
They’ll eat as often as they need while also telling your body exactly how much to make for them.
Some days you’ll spend the entire day curled up nursing, IT’S OKAY the days are long but the years are oh so short. Your day spent on the couch or in bed was exactly what your little needed from you today, the laundry and dishes will be there tomorrow.
4. YOU CAN’T OVERFEED A BREAST-FED BABY.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back, YOU CAN NOT OVERFEED A BREASTFED BABY at the breast.
Babies will nurse as often as they need and the cues their saliva gives your body will make your breast compose milk with the exact right vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies their little body needs.
So when a well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) passerby or visitor says “they’re eating again!?!” The urge to roll your eyes may be great and the doubt may begin to creep in, but if the baby is showing the proper output of wet and dirty diapers, growing on track and generally a happy baby-you can smile sweetly and confidently say “yep! Babies are so in tune with their bodies and listening to exactly what it needs! Their body even tells mine how I can meet those needs perfectly – isn’t that amazing?” say it with a smile Mama because you got this.
5. YOU’LL REACH A LEVEL OF COMFORT WITH YOUR BOOBS YOU WOULDN’T DREAM OF.
Seriously y’all talking about your breasts, feeling them to see how full they are and which side it’s time to feed from, talking about pump output and engorgement and whipping them out in a crowded room like a ninja to soothe a hungry baby.
It’s amazing how quickly we adapt and how big the blinders are when our focus is nurturing our child. It was truly something I personally wasn’t expecting but was pleasantly surprised by having always been shy and uncomfortable.
6. YOUR BOOBS WILL BE DIFFERENT SIZES.
Fun fact your breasts are already different sizes, but they also have a different amount of milk ducts which means they will produce at different speeds meaning one will be a great producer and the other you will lovingly refer to as your “slacker” boob.
In our house, we frequently reference the old kitchen trash bag commercial and called one boob “hefty, hefty, hefty” and the other “wimpy. wimpy. wimpy.” hey I warned you, parenthood makes you weird-or in our case even weirder.
7. HAVING A CHEERLEADER, SOUNDING BOARD AND PLACE TO GO FOR HELP IS VITAL.
Having a support person ups your chances of successfully breastfeeding, oftentimes surpassing how long you imagined you would be.
Your cheerleader can be a friend, sibling, partner, your mother-just somebody who is willing to listen when you want to give up, to hold your hand when it’s hard (whether physically or virtually) and to celebrate the milestones & victories.
Don’t worry if your partner isn’t on board now, you’d be amazed how quickly they come to the defense of the mother of their child and your amazing ability to nourish your child.
Having a support system is vital so if your biggest cheerleader isn’t your partner (yet) seek out other Mamas in your area via Mom Groups, your local La Leche League chapter for when it’s just too hard to get out of the house or it’s socially unacceptable to call someone crying at 3 am. I highly recommend joining their associated Facebook groups to help you through the tough moments. We’ve ALL been there Mama, the ability to span the world means someone is almost always awake to talk to you.
8. YOU WILL EAT AND EAT AND EAT-PREGNANCY CRAVINGS HAVE NOTHING ON BREASTFEEDING CRAVINGS.
When you sit down to feed a baby, you’ll suddenly be ravenous yourself. You need extra calories and liquids- keep snacks and a full large water bottle near your favorite nursing stations.
If your partner needs a task those first few weeks while you’re healing and all about establishing your supply this is a great way for them to be involved and to help nurture you while you nurture your baby.
I personally had this deep need for Klaassen pickles, salt and vinegar chips and turkey avocado sandwiches- things I didn’t crave while pregnant but now suddenly couldn’t go a day without! My guy has a milk protein allergy and amazingly the grilled cheese, quesadillas and pizza I craved while pregnant all sounded terrible now (our bodies are so cool!)
***If you find yourself in the fourth trimester and suddenly battling a suspected milk allergy or intolerance like I was, check out some great dairy-free snacks and meal options here to help ease your transition into dairy-free life & welcome to the club Mama! Feel free to reach out with any questions or if you need a shoulder to cry on! ***
9. IT IS TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY NORMAL FOR BABE TO WAKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.
For some reason, sleeping through the night seems to define “good baby” for most people.
You run into them at the grocery store and they want to know how everything is going and if your little is a ‘good baby’ it’s almost always immediately followed up with “are they sleeping through the night?” My favorite response to this eye roll provoking transaction is always, “He sleeps like a baby should and I don’t sleep through the night, so I’m not expecting him to.“
I honestly don’t know why this correlation came to exist and if this exchange hasn’t happened yet give it time-I promise it will and when it does I want you to know that babies aren’t meant to sleep through the night.
In fact, it is a developmental, physiological protection to ensure their safety-so don’t believe the babe “needs solids, your milk isn’t enough, they should be sleeping through the night” stories…your milk is so perfectly tailored to babe’s needs their body uses every bit of it, isn’t that neat? and middle of the night nursing sessions are about more than just calories.
Some more sleep facts from Dr. Sears to help your tired mama heart:
Medically, a 5 hr stretch is sleeping through the night, so is stirring for milk and going back to sleep immediately or dream feeding.
In fact, not sleeping is defined by wanting to party in the middle of the night or have stretches of awake time in the evening.
Baby needs to be fully asleep before you put them down or try to move them, they fall into “light sleep” for about 20 min before being deeply asleep. Look for eye movement to stop, limbs to relax and go limp and breathing to regulate and become more shallow. Keep their head higher than their body to avoid triggering their Moro Reflex (they’ll think they’re falling).
A baby has shorter sleep cycles than an adult, while an adult sleep cycle is typically 90mins, where we go from light to deep back to light sleep. A baby’s sleep cycle is typically 50min of deep sleep before they’re back in light “active” sleep; meaning they have more opportunities for night waking. A simple comfort of your hand, some Mama milk or just being close can help them get through without waking completely or going back down quickly.
Parents often exaggerate how long their baby is sleeping (or even awake), and every child is different. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
10. IT GOES BY SO QUICKLY, SO SOAK IT ALL UP, BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND GIVE YOURSELF GRACE.
You get it figured out then suddenly they’re in a growth spurt, cutting a tooth, experiencing a sleep regression, on a nursing strike or cluster feeding all night just to keep you on your toes.
It’s totally normal and okay to go from feeling like you’ve got it all together finally then a few days later feel like you’re clueless as to what baby needs because their cues have changed or they only want to nurse in the most awkward position, heck a few feedings later.
Just know that old cliché is so true, the days are long but the years are short.
You’ll look down and wonder how your sleeping tiny squish is this babbling chunky crawler, that crawler is suddenly cruising along furniture with laughter and just how they grew so much when you blinked.
So be in the moment Mama, whether that moment is curled up with babe on the couch or down on the floor doing tummy time together – the laundry and dishes can wait.
It’s okay to love being a Mom but not love every moment being a Mom, ask for help when you need it, give yourself grace and remember doing so doesn’t make you any less of the amazing Mama that you are, in fact it proves that you are making the right decision for your family (and it is absolutely okay to include yourself in that equation).
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