As I prepare for baby number two and as I celebrate 2 years of nursing my daughter, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to revisit this post I did when my daughter was born. It’s all about real truths about breastfeeding, how it’s not easy, but how it is so worth it.
Ok, so I have known that I wanted and was going to breastfeed my children. All 5 of the ones we plan on having (one down). And yeah, you hear it’s kind of hard and that women give up, yada yada. But I am here to give you the naked truth. And hopefully help you out a bit too.
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Top 5 things they don’t tell you about breastfeeding
- Women “back in the day” used sand paper on their nipples to prepare for breastfeeding. – Yeah DEFINITELY did not hear this one ahead of time. I probably would have squirmed in my seat and then said “no, that’s unrealistic”. But, I believe it…now. And that’s for babies without teeth.
- Engorgement is not just rock hard boobs… it’s carrying boulders around on your chest (and no they’re not attractive) having a baby that can’t latch because of your new stretched-to-the-max boobs and having a lactation consultant come to your house and squeeze and knead the crap out of your precious boobs thatrivals labor in pain.(You may have heard that your first bowel movement is like a second labor… well ladies… it is. So there is just like a week of discomfort. Plan on it).
- You need 5 hands to accomplish the job with a newborn. One to hold the baby. Another to hold your boob. One more to flip the top lip. Another to ensure the bottom lip is down. And finally a fifth to wipe the sweat off your brow from clenching waiting for baby to chomp down. Oh and maybe a sixth to de-latch baby when the needle-like sensation starts pulsing through your nipple.
- You will spend every waking hour… which is like 23… trying to feed your newborn. They are really hungry.They also have not had to work for their food or at eating before… so no, they are not breastfeeding champs and yes, they need lots of help.My little one likes to scream when she’s hungry and half the time that’s into my nipple like a microphone. Yes, it hears you. That’s why it’s leaking. Now suck, please. And yes, breastfed babies CAN have gas… and LOTS OF IT. Mine did. She rivals frat boys with her farts and burps.
- Breastfeeding is not just hard, it’s REALLY hard. You and baby get slippery like a slip and slide, making it hard for baby to latch. Oh and those baby fingernails? They are like talons into fresh meat when they grab your poor skin. And blood coming out where milk should? That should heal up just fine… in a week… and that seems like years in the breastfeeding world. It’s a small victory when you can switch to the side that “hurts less”. And you really can hurt for like 6 weeks, especially if you are not getting the latch right. (Oh and latch isn’t necessarily the fish face. It’s anything that gets your baby milk and doesn’t hurt you).
10 Helpful Breastfeeding Tips for First Time Moms
- Don’t give yourself the option of anything else. Your mindset is really what is most important. Plus, make sure that you have at least one person to stay with you for a week that is completely on board with you breastfeeding. You REALLY need that support. In fact, a breastfeeding support group is great for long-term as well! In a world of convenience, you may give into the temptation of formula. But really, you know it’s not as good for your baby. (This is said with no judgement or disrespect, and I do know so many women can’t and I am very sorry for that!)
- Have a lactation consultant that is willing to come to your house lined up before birth. Once your milk comes in (typically days 3-5) and that dreaded engorgement takes hold, you should have someone there who has experience. Even if you know all about it, have someone there. A lovely lady named Claire came to our home, kneaded my boobs in hot water to expel some milk, taught me how to use the pump to my advantage, helped bring my baby out of hibernation (this is not a play on words, this is a real thing), and made my life so much better. We spoon-fed, dropper-fed, and syringe-fed until dear daughter could finally latch on. (You can get free syringes and droppers at your local pharmacy if you ask)
- Use an extra pillow under your Boppy or other breastfeeding pillow… they even make them for twins! This allows you to not have to strain. (BTW, you are not supposed to support your baby with these pillows, but your arms to then support your baby).
- Don’t feed your baby by the clock. Really, a newborn needs to eat when their instinct tells them they are hungry, not every 2 or 3 hours. They don’t know how to tell time, but they do know when they need food. Just like you get random hungry pangs, they do too. After a well-established breastfeeding relationship (and loss of sleep 😉 ), if you don’t want to feed on demand, then you can start working on more of a schedule.
- Yes you can eat all the cake and ice cream you want and not gain more weight. But, you actually need to eat it. I know it sounds strange, but you’re not going to be able to successfully breastfeed if you don’t give your body enough calories. So yes, healthy foods with healthy fats are best, but you just gave birth too. So personally, it’s like a reward.
- Use lanolin and/or other nipple cream after breastfeeding and not before. Actually, you don’t really need lanolin. You can just put breast milk on your nipples for healing and soothing. But if you do use it, remember to use it after… you’re already slippery slippery enough. Using it before can just cause baby to slip and slide and not latch right.
- Make sure that you have a heating and cooling source on hand. Kelly mom recommends that you heat or cool no longer than 10 minutes at a time. My LC recommended that while engorged, use cold before and heat after feeding.
- You will hear to not give a baby a pacifier or bottle for at least two weeks. I would probably agree with this. My lactation consultant even said at least 6 weeks because that’s how long it takes to even everything out. I did the two week thing on the pacifier because I had plenty of milk and introducing something wasn’t a huge issue, plus she liked to suck and pick even when she wasn’t eating. I haven’t used the bottle much because I don’t like to, but I have used it 4 times. All out of semi-necessity and also to ensure that if I did NEED to use it and for multiple feedings in a row, then it wasn’t brand new to her. (And in the end, she only used a pacifier for about 3 or 4 weeks and then never touched it again).
- For us, giving baby a little probiotics helped with the gas. Just dip a wet finger into the power form of infant probiotics. Giving a baby this also helps their digestive systems develop, guard against bugs going around, and boost those good bacteria in their stomach.
10. IT DOES GET BETTER. There are always ups and downs in anything in life, but if you can make it through the first two weeks of breastfeeding, you should be able to do it as long as you want!
10 Favorite Breastfeeding products list
Finally, I just wanted to share with you my favorite products to help get me through the journey. Some of them I did have before delivery, some I did not. The ones I didn’t, I really wish I would have had them. AND there were something I had that I haven’t used, but I like to know I have them on hand in case I need them. So… Top ten products for breastfeeding mommas.
- A Breast Pump. Even though I am not working, I cannot imagine my life without it. It helped so much with engorgement. I also use it to just stock up milk. I got a Hygeia EnJoye and I LOVE it. Seriously. It’s not uncomfortable (I tried a hand pump thinking I didn’t need a “real pump” and was miserable and the hospital pump was also not my friend). It has been so worth the investment, the company has great customer service, they recycle as much as possible, and they are the only non-hospital grade pump that can be shared between mothers. I like their business model so much that I couldn’t go with another brand after researching and now after using I haven’t looked back. (with your breast pump, get a bottle brush to clean it!)
- Bamboobies– These are reusable breast pads. They are heart-shaped for daytime wear and work really well. I leak so badly and these are awesome. I use the nighttime ones too and that saves my sheets from huge puddles. Any reusable nursing pads are great though; I don;t like disposable and they are uncomfortable to me.
- Milkies Milk-Saver – Ok so it’s a little odd, but I love it. I leak the most while I am nursing. Whoever said not to cry over spilled milk was not a breastfeeding momma. This goes inside the side you’re not nursing and catches what you leak. I then pour it into my Milk Trays or the bottle I am using to pump with to save it. Just don’t forget about it and bend over… I get mad every time! And when one of the dogs licks it up, it’s like salt in a wound 🙁
- Speaking of Milk Trays… These are great. They make one ounce sticks of milk and you are not wasting a bunch of plastic milk bags. Just pop them out after they are frozen and put them into an airtight container (or bag if you must). They also work well for just water for yourself to make an ice stick. Their shape means they fit nicely through the opening of any bottle. (Also I used these for Popsicles when she got older)
- A Boppy or breastfeeding pillow While I do not use it as much now for breastfeeding, it was really helpful in those first 2-4 weeks. Remember how I said you need a ton of hands? Well you also don’t need to strain with your back and the only two hands you DO have. On top of that, get an extra cover or something because you will leak all over it, or something WILL happen.
- If you do use lanolin, I used Earth Mama Angel Baby and I liked it. I don’t like using the animal by-product in this instance. This worked well when I wasn’t using breast milk and ESPECIALLY before my milk came in and baby was latching for colostrum.
- Booby Tubes– these lovely inventions are so great. They can be heated or cooled and stuffed in your bra. Wise investment. Still use them. Now I even use them to lightly heat and lay on top of her blanket to get her to sleep. Bamboobies also makes some now (didn’t back when my daughter was born). These can also be used when baby gets older and is teething or for small ice packs when older kids get hurt.
- Lansinoh cool pads/Soothies Gel Pads– These are gel stick-on pads that were nice when I was getting that “stinging sensation.
- Nursing friendly clothing including Nursing bras and camis – You should probably have at least 2 camis, 2 bras, and 2 nighttime bras. They get leaked on, spit up on, etc.. I also use really stretchy sports bras. I preferred to feed from the top, so all my clothes pull down.
We just celebrated 2 years of nursing in the above instagram photo!
So, you shouldn’t be afraid of breastfeeding, but also don’t think that it’s going to be the most wonderful and easy thing ever… because it probably won’t. It’s good to have realistic expectations and it’s also good to have a positive, determined attitude!
For more on preparing for a new baby, find all of my resources here.
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!