By Megan Powell
Breastfeeding was the one thing I expected would come naturally and easy. With my first baby, I did all my research and homework on pregnancy, birth, cloth-diapering and baby care, but I spent little time learning about breastfeeding.
This time round, I know better. Here's what new moms need to remember about breastfeeding:
1. It can be really tough.
I know some moms whose newborn latched on right away and it was smooth sailing from the get-go. But I know many more women who dealt with one issue or another, ranging from minor to more major trials and tribulations.
Note to new moms: Invest some time in watching videos (Dr. Jack Newman has a wealth of info) and looking at images to try to learn the basics of breastfeeding beforehand.
I mistakenly assumed that my baby would latch on immediately and know exactly what to do, and we’d be a happy nursing team right away.
Boy, was I wrong.
We got off to a very slow start, with my son not even nursing until hours his birth.
When he did finally latch on, he barely stayed on and it hurt like heck! We couldn’t get the whole latch thing figured out and my poor nipples were a mess.
Babies are born knowing how to suck, but not necessarily how to latch. Between the poor latch and my over-abundance of milk supply, I ended up with a clogged duct and a brutal case of mastitis when my baby was not even a week old. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick.
Fortunately, this early episode of a terrible breast infection prepared me to be on the lookout for clogged ducts from then on. I also know of moms who have dealt with everything from a low milk supply, to tongue tie, to a severe abscess.
So while breastfeeding is awesome and natural and can come very easy to some women, it is totally normal and even more common to have a learning curve. Because of this, I am a HUGE proponent of breastfeeding support.
2. You Should Call a Lactation Consultant At the First Sign of Trouble
The second you think something might be off, or you’re having problems, or it hurts a lot, pick up the phone.
As much as my midwife attempted to guide the latch and my awkward breastfeeding hold, it just wasn’t meshing for me. I went through almost a week of excruciatingly painful feeding sessions, cracked nipples and eventual mastitis until I finally called in a lactation consultant.
Within minutes of her arrival, our latch was corrected, my baby was happily nursing, and I realized that breastfeeding should never be incredibly painful like that.
We’re fortunate to have so many resources when it comes to breastfeeding support, whether it’s your local La Leche league, a specialized breastfeeding support centre or clinic, or a doula trained in lactation assistance.
I can’t highly stress enough how important it is to contact someone knowledgeable right away before things get worse.
While the initial stages can make your breasts and nipples sore, it should never be so incredibly painful that you need to cry. And cracked or bleeding nipples are definitely not a good sign.
3. It Will Take a Lot out of You
Literally. Those first few months when baby is nursing on-demand and often every hour or two, it will wear you out in no time. I wish I had been more prepared with healthy snacks to grab in between nursing, changing and nap sessions. This time around, I hope to freeze some trays of energy bites and bars beforehand for quick and easy snacks during and after nursing. I will also make it a point to always have jugs of iced water ready, and hope to make up some freezer pack smoothie bags beforehand to get in quick and easy nutrients and protein.
Breastfeeding takes a lot of calories out of you so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough for you and the baby, as well as lots of liquids.
4. Breastfeeding Is My Job For The First Few Months
And pretty much my only job. I remember asking my husband if he thought I’d ever be able to leave the house again, as my son used to nurse almost every hour at first; it got to the point where I barely wore a shirt around the house anymore.
The first time I attempted to leave the house when he was a few weeks old (to get a good nursing bra), I ended up leaking like crazy within 20 minutes of getting out of the house.
This time around, I know that during those first few months, my role really consists of just feeding my baby and getting to know each other.
It’s also been quite a while since I’ve breastfed so I expect a bit of a learning curve.
Feeding your baby will be the main priority for those first weeks, so make sure you have a comfortable place to do it.
5. You Need a Good Nursing Bra
I thought I could get away with regular bras. Nope. Then I thought I could cheap out on cheap underwire “nursing bras.” Definitely not.
This time around, I’ve learned my lesson and have already invested in one good daytime bra and one good nighttime bra—I’ll buy another daytime bra once the baby comes.
I went without a good nighttime bra the first time around, which was a mistake. Think leaky puddles on the bed every morning. Good quality nursing bras exist for a reason.
6. Once you get it Figured Out, It’s Awesome
All the trials and tribulations are completely worth it. The connection I formed with my nursing baby was unimaginable. Even with all the late night, middle of the night, and all day feed-a-thons, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Those quiet late night feedings allowed me to enjoy the peaceful moments with my sweet baby, and as he grew into a more rambunctious baby boy, our times of nursing let him relax and slow down.
Plus, knowing that my body alone was providing him with everything he needed is amazing.
Not to mention, it truly is the ultimate convenience. I found it so easy to be able to feed my hungry baby whenever and wherever.
Once I got past those first few months of learning and constant feeding, it was smooth sailing from then on in, until the bittersweet time when he weaned himself.
Follow along as Megan Powell prepares for her second baby—due in just a few weeks—while chasing her energetic 3-year-old and trying to squeeze in bathroom breaks and naps. Megan also blogs at henfamily.com