There are very few things in motherhood that have come more easily for me than others. I feel grateful that one of those things has been nursing. Especially since this happened entirely by accident. When I became a Mom, I had no clue what I was walking into. For some reason, I actually never considered if I was going to breastfeed or not. I didn’t take any of those handy breastfeeding classes the hospital offers. I gave birth, soon after they put my sweet new boy to my chest. He latched like a champ. We figured it out together from there.
Nonetheless, there are a few things I wish I would have known. Here are a few of them.
- Breastfeeding is crazy cool but super weird. Breastmilk is amazing! Out of nowhere your body produces premium nourishment for your baby. Crazy! Even so, breastfeeding for the first time can feel strange. Prior to this your breasts were probably reserved only for sexy time. Then all in one day a wiggly tiny human needs to suck on them. Nursing changes the way you view your body. This once sexy private area transforms into a very functional and necessary body part. Just be warned, it may feel strange. It will likely take some time to adjust to this new use of you. It’s okay, these feelings are totally normal.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone. Every Mom I’ve ever met has a different breastfeeding story. For some nursing comes like second nature but for many it comes with a whole host of challenges! Sometimes your milk comes in late. Sometimes you don’t produce enough milk for your baby. Other times Mom’s need to take medication that make it impossible to nurse. Many babies have allergies to various proteins or food items that come in breastmilk. Babies can be tongue tied. Other babies have suffer from reflux. At times babies struggle to latch properly. Some babies prefer the bottle- meaning you may only pump your milk. Every Mom’s journey is unique. Truly you are not alone if you face bumps in the road or if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you. It’s okay, you’re still a great Mom. Please don’t feel guilty.
- Breastfeeding hurts. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this before I had my firstborn but for some reason it didn’t cross my mind that nursing would be uncomfortable. For me it took about three months to stop having blisters (sorry friends, this will happen). Lanolin helps and they keep coming up with great products for Mom’s all the time. Even so, you are putting your soft, prior to this pretty much always covered skin, through the ringer. I promise it will get better. If you can make it through those first months you can do anything!
- Some breastfed babies don’t like bottles. With my firstborn, a very helpful lactation consultant advised me not to put any other nipples in my son’s mouth for at least two weeks after he was born. This was to ensure he was a champion nurser! I listened dutifully. What I didn’t know was that just as much as I wanted him to be a champion nurser, since I was going back to work I also needed him to be a capable bottle drinker. He was not. Actually, none of my kids have really taken to bottles. My youngest never drank from a bottle. After a few months of my husband driving her to my work on the weekends to I could nurse her mid shift, I recalled that I read someplace to try a regular cup with a breastfed baby that had trouble with the bottle. Luckily that worked and we were able to save a lot of time and gas money. I’m not saying don’t listen to those lovely lactation ladies, I’m just saying especially if you’re a working Momma bottles are as important as boobs and babies need practice with both.
- Your boobs will be seen in public. With my first one I tried hard to be that Mom that snuck away to a secluded corner to nurse. Quickly, I realized that just was not going to work. If I wanted to have a happy baby and not miss out on valuable social interactions I was going to have to be brave and nurse that baby in public. I started out with lots of gear- boppy, cover, water bottle, phone, etc. Once that baby started crawling I had to ditch the cover. Now I do my best to keep the boobs under wraps using the clothes on my body but I’m sure some unsuspecting strangers have seen my rack on more than one occasion at this point. This goes back to point one, boobs ain’t such a big thing anymore. I’d rather have a happy baby and get to join in when socializing, than all my dignity.
Deciding to breastfeed is a great step into the unknown. It’s a wonderful adventure with so many up’s and down’s, just like all the rest of parenting. Be willing to embrace some pain but I promise there is such sweetness to be found in this time. You won’t regret it.
Best of luck, sweet new Momma. You got this.