Last week at my La Leche League meeting there were four mothers there who were expecting. We spent most of our time discussing what we all wish someone would have told about breastfeeding before we started. Since not everyone goes to La Leche Meetings (and they should) I thought this would be a good topic to share. Please note this is my personal opinion and I have been exclusively breastfeeding my daughter for the past 5.5 months and plan on letting her wean herself when she is ready.
10. La Leche League is not just for people who already have kids.
I seriously wish someone would have told me to go to a La Leche League meeting WHILE I WAS PREGNANT. I had a bit of a bumpy start because I was completely ignorant and freaked out by breastfeeding.
9. When your milk comes in, it will hurt, and it is perfectly normal.
I wish I would have known that engorgement while my milk was coming in was perfectly normal and it too shall pass. I was under the impression that breastfeeding was not going to feel any different than my breast did pre-baby. When your milk comes in it will hurt. This is by no means a reason not to breastfeed it is just an FYI. I had no idea what the heck engorgement meant until my milk came in. Matt could not be in the same room as us when I was breastfeeding because he could not watch me be in that much pain and listen to me cry. I had no idea what was wrong with my body and everyone kept telling me it is this beautiful thing and it is never going to hurt. After the third day of engorgement I was scared, in pain, and if I was allowed to drive (I had a c-section and was forbidden from driving for two weeks post operation) I would have gotten formula.
It was only then that I looked up my local La Leche League group and called the leader on call. After some tears she told me what I was going through was perfectly natural and yes it was going to hurt until my milk came in. She told me to put some green cabbage leaves in the freeze. Put the frozen cabbage leaves on my breasts for 10-20 minutes. Then try a nice warm shower followed by some nipple air dry time and some Lanolin. She suggested trying breastfeeding for another 24 hours and call her back. We did this for about a week where I would call her every 24 hours to check in, and low and behold it got better.
8. Ask for help BEFORE you are ready to quit
This is a great segway from number 7. If I would have asked for help before I was past the point of a meltdown I would have saved myself a lot of tears and frustration.
7. Come up with a support system.
This includes family, friends, La Leche League, online breastfeeding forums, and even finding places outside of the home where you will be comfortable breastfeeding.
Matt went above and beyond the call of duty by writing me daily notes of encouragement and placing them in the spots I usually breastfed. He would even cut up my food and feed me during some of our 45 minute newborn nursing sessions. My water glass was always filled and he always told me how proud of me he was and that I was doing great. Unfortunately, not every significant other is as supportive as Matt and that is ok. You have to go out and find other people in your life that will be that supportive. There is a wonderful online community that gushes support, and there are plenty of other women going through the same things as you are that can be your shoulder to lean or cry on!
Monterey Bay Aquarium Open Ocean
If you are anything like me you will need to get out of the house. By the time baby was 6 weeks old I knew every comfortable breastfeeding spot in our town. My favorite was the Open Ocean exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There is a quiet little bench right by the pump room in the back of the exhibit. A nice quiet hum, dark lighting, and beautiful sea creatures to watch while nursing my daughter to sleep, what more could a girl ask for! I also found out that my local shopping mall had a breastfeeding friendly family room next to the food court, complete with nursing “stalls” which had comfy chairs, and a curtain if you wanted to be discreet.
6. You will become a boobie slave.
That is right your newborn will want to nurse almost every hour until they hit about 10-12 pounds. Guess what, that is ok and perfectly natural! That is not a sign that you are not producing enough milk, it is a sign that everything is going swimmingly! Your newborn’s stomach is the size of a walnut and cannot hold much milk therefore he or she is going to need to feed often. Formula is not naturally occurring and takes longer for a newborn to digest thus formula fed babies tend to eat less often than breastfed babies.
5. Do not compare your breastfed baby’s growth and development to a formula fed baby’s.
Formula fed babies are going to develop at a different rate than breastfed babies. Again this is perfectly normal. It is expecting the growth rates of children who are raised in New York and children who are raised in Columbia. No offense to anyone from New York or Columbia but the diets are completely different and thus children develop differently. I am not saying either is wrong or incorrect it is just different.
The CDC growth chart is based more on children who are forumla fed. This is because most children in the United States are formula fed. The World Health Organization growth chart is based on children who are breastfed, because most of the children in the world are breast fed. If your pediatrican or family is worried that your little one is not fattening up fast enough make sure you ask what scale they are basing it off of and then politely tell them to bugger off.
4. Do not knock it until you have tried it for at least three months.
Much like your newborn every other day your routine will change. The first three months after having your baby are like a mini boot camp. You are going to be under extreme amounts of physical and emotional stress. It is not fair to you or to your newborn to give up breastfeeding until you have tried it for at least three months. Your body is going through a hormonal roller coaster and right around the three month marker it finally begins to even out.
Yes it is true that some women cannot physically make enough breast milk, and there are scientific tests that I imagine are like an ultrasound for your boobs. Do not feel like you are not producing enough just because your mother-in-law feels like you are feeding the child too often or because your baby is not gaining enough weight. Make sure you insist on getting tested to see if you have enough mammary glands before you throw in the towel.
This should really be number 4.5 but mastitis and thrush may feel like the end of the world and great reason to quit but they do clear up and get better. I was scared to death of those two words and I still am to this day. During the first three months of my breastfeeding career I would massage my breasts every time I fed the baby to makes sure my ducts never got clogs. I also took and still take an acidophilus supplement to help ward off any thrush. From the other women that I know who had had both double mastitis and thrush I can honestly tell you they all survived and it did go away.
3. Know the laws and what you are entitled to.
Introducing Bailey the kitty Lactation Consultant!
Do not pay out of pocket for that new breast bump or for a lactation consultant. Thanks to Obama Care insurance companies are now required to cover both for each pregnancy. If you are going back to work I highly recommend taking some time before the baby arrives to research what laws your state has in place to protect a nursing mother and allow adequate space and time for pumping. If you are going to have split custody again I highly recommend you look into your state’s laws regarding custody and a nursing mother. If you live in the state of California you are exempt from jury duty until your child is weaned off of the breast. Again research the laws of your state regarding nursing in public, jury duty, visitation rights, etc. It is very vital that you are prepared before baby comes rather than be caught blindsided when the situation arise!
2. The baby does not come out with a natural ability to breastfeed.
For the love of everything that is good in the world breastfeeding is natural but it must be learned by BOTH the baby and the nursing mother. I was completely dumbfounded when my daughter came out and had no idea how to nurse. She knew to open her mouth and attach to anything that looked like a nipple but it was very rough and I got a bunch of blisters from bad latching. I was under the impression all I had to do was hold her up to my nipple and nature would take over. After a couple of visits with a lactation consultant we were both on the right track.
1. It is by far the most beautiful memory you will have of your newborn.
Before I had my daughter I was completely grossed and freaked out by breastfeeding. Seeing a woman breastfeed in public made me uncomfortable and I always felt that they should be more discreet. Now that I am a nursing mother myself I still do not whip out my boobs in front of a large public gathering, but not because I am embarrassed or grossed out. Rather I do not want anyone else to interrupt or share in the intense bonding moment that is going on between my daughter and I. Watching her little jaw move like an adorable hamster is a mental memory I will have for the rest of my life. When she wraps both arms around me and holds me close is another moment that still causes me to feel more love and closeness than anything else in my life.
Nothing makes me happier in my current life than seeing that little 15 pounds of joy smile every time I take my shirt off!