5 Things I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding

breastfeeding help

Item #1Sure breastfeeding is natural, but it isn't always easy
Sometimes breastfeeding is simple.  Baby is born.  Baby snuggles with mom.  Baby bobs around, finds a nipple, attaches with a perfect latch, colostrum and oxytocin letdown begins.  Ahhhh...

But sometimes it's exactly opposite of that.  This was so important to me that I wrote a whole article about it.  If it isn't easy for you, you aren't alone, and you didn't "do anything wrong".  Sometimes nursing is hard.

Item #2 That second night can be the hardest.
Night times in general can be hard, because there are extra hormones in play that want you to be SLEEPING when the little adorable feeding machine in your arms is hungry and still learning, and you can feel very out of synch with this whole thing.  So don't be alarmed if on that second night, after a good bit of your hormonal rush of birth has worn off, and you haven't slept (again), everyone came during the day to see the baby so you got no rest, and your "milk hasn't come in yet"  so the baby is working non-stop to get your milk to switch over from colostrum to what we refer as milk.  This can make for a cranky mom and a cranky baby.

Just keep plugging along. (Unless it hurts, in which case, see below)  Please don't make any choices about whether this whole breastfeeding thing is for you until the sun comes up.

Item #3: Breastfeeding really shouldn't hurt. 
If you are a new mom, and you've never done this before, there might be some tenderness.  It only makes sense, right, that something you've only perhaps used for fun and occasionally is now essentially being worked very hard for the better part of the day.  Its bound to be tender, bruised or maybe a little chapped.  That is normal.  What's NOT normal is pain.  Real, wincing, pain.  Bleeding.  Cracked nipples.  But the first sign that something is off with the lips-to-nipple latch is the pain.  

If it hurts, don't stop asking questions until you get an answer that helps with the pain.  Don't let them tell you that "sometimes its just like that".  Nope.  Its not, and its not going to get better if you "just power through".  There are lactation consultants at your local hospital, breastfeeding councelors you can talk to, and La Leche League leaders you can call to get advice, until you get some answers that work for you.  (Also, we don't need to toughen them up ahead of time by rubbing with a washcloth or anything like that.  Seriously, the things they told our mothers!)

Item #4: Moms who undergo cesarean birth can still breastfeed!
You still had a baby.  You still gave birth.  Just because your baby needed a little extra help coming out of your body doesn't mean your milk will.  Assuming your baby is available to you right after the surgery, your partner, a nurse or your doula can help get the baby latched on while you are still in recovery.  Even if your baby has to spend some time in NICU, pumping to establish supply (and provide your microbiota for the baby) can help set you and your little one up for breastfeeding success.

5) Breastfeeding is a relationship
It takes two people to breastfeed.  I'd actually say AT LEAST two, since mom certainly benefits from a great support team, but you get what I'm saying.  And a relationship is, in essence, an agreement between two people on how you are going to interact.  If your breastfeeding relationship stops working for one of you, then its ok to:

  • Re-negotiate the terms (sometimes nursing, sometimes bottle, sometimes formula, etc)
  • Change something that is holding you back (too many visitors, too much stress, nursing covers that distract the baby, etc)
  • Ask for help! There are lots of skilled people who can help, your postpartum doula being one of them!
  • Be done with it.

Breastfeeding can be an amazing experience, and we hope it is for you.  If its not, you're not alone, and reach out to a professional in your community who might help!

Victoria McCollum

Victoria McCollum is a birth and postpartum doula and owner of Doulas of Fredericksburg, in Fredericksburg, Virgina. She resides there with her husband and three precocious sons.