World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated this month from August 1-7. As a mom of three breastfed babies, (and one of those still nursing strong!) I have experienced, endured and conquered breastfeeding. Although I had some knowledge, nothing quite equipped me for the true adventure until I had my own baby in my arms. Here are some of the things I was surprised to learn as I breastfed.
The most unnatural, natural thing
Because breastfeeding is something that is “natural” I assumed natural equals easy. I envisioned placing my baby to the breast, him suckling away and all would be right in the world. My vision did not line up with my reality. Insert a screaming baby who refuses to latch, engorged (and especially uncomfortable) breasts, and a new mama who’s postpartum hormones are at an all time high. It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t feel natural. It took time, patience (So. Much. Patience) and support to get to the point of breastfeeding feeling natural, for both baby and mama.
Baby will eat. And then want to eat again. And again.
Be prepared to marathon nurse. Those first three nights (and any growth spurt time) are draining. It is not just a nursing session but HOURS of nursing. Eventually, I learned to submit myself to those nights, find a comfy spot on the couch, turn on a good show and nurse on.
Yay! Baby is sleeping! BUT…
Give a new mom eight magnificent hours of uninterrupted sleep and she is a NEW woman. If you are so lucky to have a miracle baby who does sleep through the night at an early age (I envy you), you have figured the secret to all happiness. But guess what doesn’t sleep through the night? BOOBS. No one seems to mention this tiny detail. Even if your baby is snoozing away, you still have to do the 3am zombie walk to your pump and plug away in order to keep your supply up. (With a healthy supply you will eventually be able to stop waking to pump… thank GOODNESS.)
You do You, Mama
Your baby. Your body. Your journey. Maybe you start your newborn off on a feeding schedule as soon as you’re home from the hospital. Maybe you feed on demand. Maybe your baby doesn’t latch and pumping is what works best for both of you. Maybe you went through grueling hours, days, weeks of trying to get your supply up but baby needs more and you have to supplement. Here’s a little secret… there is not a right way to breastfeed. You feed your baby the way you need to feed your baby and that is that. Bye-bye mom guilt.
Support system is key
A support system is vital for breastfeeding success. Postpartum hormones are raging, then add in a mama who is sleep deprived and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Be sure to surround yourself with people who know how to take care of you. Get on the same page with your partner on your breastfeeding plan. Reach out to friends who have breastfed. Make use of the on-call lactation consultants. Surround yourself with positive attitudes toward breastfeeding.
There will be stumbling blocks. Three babies in and I still run into hiccups. Just when you think you know what you are doing, life might throw you a curve ball: clogged milk ducts, allergies/intolerances, low-supply, oversupply, high lipase, milk blisters, mastitis (the WORST). None of these are fun, but most are manageable with the right treatment and help if needed.
Okay… I will admit it. I actually really love it. I am still in awe of my body and how it fuels this tiny, little human into a walking, toddling baby. I never thought I would get so comfortable with it that I would nurse everywhere and anywhere. Or how much I would love to talk about it. It is fascinating. I feel fortunate to be able to have nursed all of my babies because I do know that is not the case for every mother.
So please tell me, what are some things that surprised you about breastfeeding? I would love to hear!