That first year is filled with lots of love and lots of tears. Tears of happiness, but also tears of stress. A year and a half ago I had just spent thirty eight hours in labor, yes… 38. My doctor handed me my brand new little girl, and I was in love. A love I had never felt before. Fast forward to now, and I am still head over heels. My heart melts every time she gives me a kiss or yells “Hi” when I walk into a room. I am so fortunate to make it to the year mark breastfeeding. I swear it built a huge bond for me and my daughter. It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Here are the important things I wish I would have known.
1: Mommy Groups.
Find a breastfeeding group while you are pregnant. Read other people’s questions, and read the comments. This is how you learn. That way when you run into a problem, you are not scrambling for answers. You at least have a general idea on how to get through the problem while you wait for you own answer. Also, by joining a group while your still pregnant you learn so many tips and tricks. You can learn different positions and start making relationships before the baby even gets here. My favorite is on Facebook and it is called Milky Mammas (No affiliate post, they were just incredibly helpful.)
2: Breastfeeding hurts in the beginning.
A lot. When your milk comes in for the first time, you feel engorged and there’s not much you can do about it. Your milk will regulate itself out. but until then it really hurts. Your nipples get sore too. The first few weeks until your nipples start to toughen up, they are very painful. I remember crying in the shower the first few times because the hot water burned. (If the pain is really bad on your nipples, consider seeing a lactation consultant to make sure the baby has a good latch. This could be why it hurts so much.) But get through it mamma. It gets better. Much better. You don’t get engorged anymore, and your nipples toughen up. It becomes second nature. One day you will realize that you have been feeding with ease and no pain at all. You start to appreciate the bond it creates. The pain is gone and all that is left is love for the breastfeeding relationship.
3: You need to feed on cue.
I know that moms like to have a schedule. We like to get stuff done and be productive. But, you are a mom now. You are no longer on your time, you are on baby time. Babies have tiny little tummies. They are hungry a lot, and often. Breast milk is highly digestable so they get hungry more frequently. Babies do not understand the hungry feeling. They just spent nine months in a warm cozy bed with food in their tummies at all times. When they are born they are relying on you to help them. They do not know how to wait for you to finish the dishes.
Babies also don’t understand time. They don’t know that they ate a half hour ago. All they know is that they are hungry and they are upset. They need to eat. So feed the baby. Think of breastfeeding as supply and demand. The more they nurse, the more milk you make. The less you feed the less your body will make, and the harder it will be to build a supply.
4: It takes time for your milk to regulate out.
I remember calling my best friend in tears because my baby is screaming and she won’t nurse. She was three days old. I didn’t have nurses to help me anymore. I was home with my husband and I was paniking. She would latch on and pop off instantly in tears. If this happens, it’s okay. Hold that crying baby. Love the crying baby. Do some skin on skin and give it some time. More milk will come, your baby will nurse and it will be okay. The first few days are the hardest. Your body, your baby, and you are all learning a new task. While nursing is natural and instinct, it needs to work itself out. Take a breath, and maybe even a bath. Stress blocks the production of milk. So just count to ten and realize that it will all work out.
5: It gets boring.
So boring. Breastfeeding, especially in the beginning, takes up over half of your day. The newborn baby will feed for forty-five minutes, break for a half hour, then nurse for another 45 minutes. In the beginning, you are new, you and your baby need to learn how to make it work. You are not going to be able to multi-task when you start. You will end up sitting for hours a day on the couch not able to move because you are afraid to break the latch.
The best thing I did was make a nursing basket. It had my breastfeeding cream, a full glass of water, my phone, my nipple shield (not all moms need the shield, I just had issues at the start), and breast pads. With the basket you never need to get up, but you are all ready to go. (Here is a link to another post where I talk about the basket plus a really cute one that we used! Plus, make sure you get your Amazon prime ready. The first few months I went through like 3 books and a billion more tv series. (We love amazon prime. We have saved more on shipping fees than we spent on the cost of prime!)
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6: It gets lonely.
Whether you decide to be a SAHM or not, you will still have a few weeks to be with your baby alone before real life starts again. Your significant other will need to go back to work at some point. Men typically do not get the leave that we as women get. They go back to work and we are home. All day. Alone. I am a very social person and always had places to go seven days a week so this was a very hard change for me. I welcomed people over every chance I got. I made sure to call my mom regularly, post on social media, and keep up with my mommy groups. Don’t let this be another stressor. Ask for help, or for visitors. Everyone loves a newborn and is more than willing to stop by.
7: The other parent can only help so much.
A man does not have breasts to feed the baby. You are the only one that can feed the baby for weeks. As recommended, you should not pump breast milk for a least six weeks to avoid oversupply. (oversupply sounds like a good thing until you have one. Trust me, read about it and you will know). Your husband cannot grab a bottle and help you out in that way. You will be the only one getting up at night with the baby, you will be constantly interrupted with everything that you do. Eating, showering, napping, cleaning, cooking… everything. Until the baby is six months and can start to have some baby food, you are the one that has to stop and feed the baby.
Your job right now is to figure out breastfeeding. Your man can help with other things. He can help change the baby when there is an explosion of some sort. Something as small as filling your water while you feed is a huge help. Anything that you typically do, ask for help for a while. If he’s smart, he will want to help. Once you get the hang of breastfeeding you can try babywearing and nursing. This will help you move around a bit, and take some pressure off your hubby.
8: Learn the laws that protect you and your breastfeeding relationship.
I wish I would have known there were even such things. I actually learned some of this from Milky Mammas. Yes I have to make sacrifices for being a mother, but never leaving the house is not a sacrifice I am going to make. As I said before we are on baby’s time, not ours. However, at some point you are going to want to leave the house. When you are ready, you may want to get some coffee, wander around target, or even take the baby to a park for some good outside time. You have at least a year of breastfeeding. You have the right to leave the house. You have the legal right to bring your baby almost everywhere you are legally allowed to be. Babies get hungry. Again, there is no schedule. You may be in the middle of target when your baby gets hungry. Don’t be afraid to leave the house. Just be knowledgeable about how and where you are protected.
Just a little breastfeeding in public encouragement!!
You have no reason not to leave the house and don’t let anyone else tell you differently. Whether you want to cover up or not is completely your decision as a mother. It is no one else’s choice but yours. Do not get bullied into leaving a restaurant because someone else is uncomfortable. That is their problem not yours. Also look at which places are openly breastfeeding friendly. I know that target has a strict policy that mothers can feed their babies wherever they please. If a mother doesn’t feel comfortable doing it out in public, employees are told to show them to the dressing room for some privacy. Please whatever you do, do not feed your child in a bathroom stall. You are a person. You have rights, and you have feelings. Don’t let embarrassment about something so natural force you into sitting in a dirty stall. You are doing great!
There you go. All the things I wish I knew before I started to breastfeed. I hope this can help someone out there. Even if it is only one mom, that is one mom that I was able to help.
What are some things you wish you had known. Any advice for adding a second milky baby to the mix?
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A LAWYER. I DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT THE LAW. I ONLY KNOW A FEW BITS ABOUT LAWS BY ME. I ONLY KNOW A FEW OF THE LAWS IN MY AREA, NOT THE WHOLE COUNTRY. IF YOU ARE REALLY WONDERING ABOUT THE BREASTFEEDING LAWS IN YOUR AREA AND CANNOT FIND INFORMATION ONLINE THAT IS CREDIBLE, I STONGLY URGE YOU TO CONTACT YOUR LAWYER OR A LACTATION CONSULTANT IN YOUR AREA THAT IS TRAINED IN THE FIELD.