Even before I had children, I always knew I wanted to try breastfeeding.
There were many factors that went into that decision, but the most pertinent to me was that it seemed the most natural and obvious choice.
Little did I know that something that “should” be so natural does not always come naturally.
Sure, I took a breastfeeding class during pregnancy and read several books and blogs about it before birth, but I can honestly tell you that nothing I learned about breastfeeding prepared me for the actual experience.
Here’s the simple truth: breastfeeding is a lot of work.
If I could share anything with new and expecting mommas, here are five things no one tells you about breastfeeding:
It doesn’t always come naturally.
It turns out, breastfeeding takes a lot of effort. And many mommas run into struggles along the way. They may not produce enough milk, they may produce too much milk, or the baby may have a lip or tongue tie.Many mommas I know have had their issues to work out. And these issues can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, like you should be giving up. Whether you do or you don’t, know that it’s OK.
The best advice I can give you: Don’t make any major decisions the first two weeks postpartum. You will be a hormonal zombie. After those two weeks (or longer or sooner if you need to), make whatever decision you feel is best for your situation. Without guilt. Because every momma and baby are different. And you know what is best for yours.
Breastfeeding takes a lot of time.
I knew my baby would eat frequently, especially as a newborn, but I had no idea just how much of a time investment breastfeeding requires, especially as a working mom. I am currently nursing my second daughter, and she is a good eater. My first was as well, but this little sweetie is eating more frequently and for longer periods at a time. Plus, when you factor in time spent pumping, as well as washing and packing bottles and said pumping items, you are spending several hours each day doing something breastfeeding related.
It takes a lot of patience.
Because breastfeeding can be difficult, especially in the beginning, nursing takes patience. If breastfeeding is something you are passionate about, and you want to make it work, you need to be patient with the process. Help your baby figure it out. Help yourself figure it out. But don’t let Google be your Bible. Talk to other mommas, trust your instincts and not everything you read on the internet. Be patient and know what you are doing for your baby is worth the effort!
Breastfeeding will be different from one day to the next.
Just when you think your baby has established a rather regular feeding schedule, it will get completely thrown out the window. Babies have different needs and appetites on different days, just like you do as a mom.
One thing to be prepared for is cluster feeding, which happens around growth spurts and developmental milestones (side note: check out the Wonder Weeks for more information on this). Your baby may be more fussy in the evenings and will want to nurse more frequently. This is even more likely to happen if/when you return to work.
When baby gets overly fussy or is feeding what seems to be nonstop, you may fall into the trap of thinking that this may have something to do with you as a mom – your eating habits, caffeine intake, milk supply, you name it.
Trust me: You’re not doing anything wrong. It may be heart-wrenching, frustrating, and exhausting, but it’s not because of anything you’re doing right or wrong. (However, if your baby seems distressed more often than happy, you may want to get him or her checked out by the doctor.)
It takes a village.
As strange as it may sound, having a strong support system makes a world of difference if you want to breastfeed long term. For me, that has been having an incredibly supportive spouse, friends with their own experiences to share, and an online community of our local La Leche League chapter.It has been critical for me to have people I can ask for help when I need it, and for questions when I just have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I couldn’t be more thankful for the people around me who have encouraged and supported me.
This second time around, breastfeeding has been much more work than the first, and I’ll be totally honest and say I’m not sure how long I am going to make it this time. But I’m OK with that.
Breastfeeding is a lot more demanding when you have another child to raise. I’m thankful for each day I’m able to have of this experience.
To the mommas who haven’t nursed, whether not at all or not for very long, whether by choice or not, you are sacrificing just as much as every other momma out there to care for your baby. Don’t let anyone (including yourself) make you feel otherwise. We’re all investing our time, efforts, and patience for our babies. And we’re doing a great job.