If you listen to Hello Baby, then you know this week Matt and I covered our breastfeeding journey. Because this was such a highly requested topic, I thought I’d write a post about all the things I wish I’d known before breastfeeding. I just want to share all the things that surprised me about nursing for my mamas-to-be.
Don’t miss this podcast episode, because you get to hear not only my account of the experience, but also a man’s perspective on the topic.
21 Things I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding classes will come in handy. I took a breastfeeding class that was a part of my childbirth course and we learned so much. It was taught by a lactation consultant and she gave us so many tips and great real-life advice that came in handy these past few months.
- It hurts. Sure, I’ve heard women say that their nipples hurt. Still, I didn’t realize how raw my nipples would be those early days.
- You’ll bleed. Maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, but by day two with our new bundle of joy, my poor nips were cracked and bleeding. I only really bled that one day, thanks to my nurse giving me gel soothies.
- The pain doesn’t last forever. Those first few days of pain are just that, only a few days. Once your skin gets used to this new thing your body is doing, the pain dissipates.
- Nipple cream didn’t work for me. I know that many mothers swear by lanolin cream, but I’m not one of those moms. I tried multiple brands and found them all to be underwhelming. Gel soothies to the rescue! I stored mine in the refrigerator to keep them cold which was so soothing.
- There are different positions. We all know the cradle hold, but there are other ways to hold your baby while nursing that may be more comfortable for you.
- Nursing-friendly clothes make life so much easier. I was a naive pregnant girl who thought that nursing would be easy in regular tops. Wrong. When you’re out in public, nursing-friendly tops make nursing while still being modest so much easier. And those middle of the night feedings? Such a nightmare if you’re wearing a nightshirt that doesn’t open easily. I remember waking up to feed her on a chilly night and realizing that I had to take my nightgown off completely because there was no easy access. So I sat there, nursing her and freezing my butt off, too tired to get up and look for a robe. My Kindred Bravely nursing nightgown makes life so much easier. I can easily nurse while still feeling pretty in this feminine, lacy gown. It’s perfect for summertime and the fabric is super soft.
- Nursing bras are the only bra option. I tried one time to go out in public with MacKenlee while wearing a regular bra. That one time, I ended up completely topless in the backseat of my car nursing with baby blankets draped over the windows in a very public parking lot. I knew my days of normal bras had come to a screeching halt until further notice. I quickly realized that nursing bras are not only more convenient, but very comfortable. This full coverage bra has soft cups, a seamless design and wears so nicely under tops.
- Regular tops/bras vs. nursing tops/bras? I honestly didn’t know what the difference was until I went shopping for my first nursing bra and saw that the cups snapped on. You can easily snap them down or up when nursing. The snaps aren’t bulky so there’s no way to know that you’re wearing a nursing bra under your clothes.
- Nursing pads are necessary. Even six months in, I’m still wearing pads around the clock. You can use disposable or reusable, depending on what you prefer. But you will definitely need them, especially in those first few months of breastfeeding.
- A Boppy pillow will become your breast friend. See what I did there?! LOL. No, but really, a nursing pillow is the easiest way to support your baby and give your arms and upper back a break. My pillow was in my hospital bag and it’s a must-pack in my opinion. I still use it every feeding at home.
- Use an app. There are so many great apps out there for babies. Finding the right app makes tracking things like nursing times and which side you last nursed on so much easier.
- Your supply will fluctuate. Some days I have way more milk than others. At first, it would freak me out when I saw my supply drop on a given day. Now I know that this is normal for me. So many factors go into your breastmilk production. For me, if I’m not drinking enough water or my calorie or carb intake is low, my supply drops. Once I recognize what the problem is, I can fix it and my milk will be back normal usually the very next day.
- There are things you can do to increase your milk supply. There are plenty of natural supplements out there that will help boost your supply. I prefer to increase my water intake and eat things like steel cut oats and lactation cookies. These are my favorite lactation cookies, but stick with the salted caramel flavor, they’re by far the best!
- Build up your breastmilk supply. I have a full supply of breastmilk in the freezer. I’ve gotten into a good pumping routine to consistently keep breastmilk available for a bottle for bedtime. I also always have a bottle on hand in case she gets hungry while I’m running an errand.
- Pump after your first feeding of the day. Your milk supply is at it’s highest first thing in the morning, so try pumping immediately after your first nursing session to fully empty your breasts and have some extra milk. Leave a comment below if you’d like me to write a blog post about all of my pumping tips and tricks.
- Watch what you eat. Not for your weight, but for baby. Sometimes baby fussiness is from a food intolerance coming from mama’s diet. For my baby girl, when I eat curry, it really hurts her little belly. I know a common intolerance is dairy, so keep track of what you eat on those days when baby is super irritable.
- Cluster feeding is a real thing. There will be times when your baby just wants to nurse constantly, welcome to the wonderful world of cluster feedings. Cluster feeding is essentially when a newborn lumps several nursing sessions into a short amount of time. Just know, this is just a phase and it won’t last forever.
- It’s tough. Listen, breastfeeding doesn’t come natural to every woman. There will be bumps along the way, but if you stick with it, you will be so glad you did. Of course, there are women that can’t breastfeed, and that’s OK! They are no less of a good mom than one who can or chooses to breastfeed. Whichever category you fall into, just know that a fed baby is best.
- There is no magic number. I’m six months in, and I intend to continue breastfeeding until either baby girl or I decide it’s time to stop. I have friends who have nursed for two years and friends who nursed for two weeks. Every baby is different. Every mother is different. And every situation is different. Don’t feel pressured to pick a cut-off date, instead, just enjoy the season that you’re in.
- Your period may come back. Again with the naiveté… I thought that as long as I was breastfeeding, I wouldn’t have a period. WRONG. Baby girl has been sleeping through the night since she was 6 weeks old, so I pump in the evenings and at my bedtime to empty my breasts. Once solids were introduced, my period came back, even though she was still nursing regularly throughout the day. Talk about disappointment. Some of my girlfriends started theirs way earlier than I did, and others went much longer without it. Hopefully you’ll fall into that second category. I think it’s really unfair to be lactating AND have your stupid period, lol.
If you’re a pregnant mama, I really encourage you to give breastfeeding a try. I have found it to be an incredible bonding experience and I wouldn’t trade those sweet moments for the world.
Mamas, what do you wish you’d known before breastfeeding? Leave a comment below and let me know!