Looking back on those few months before I gave birth for the first time, I can’t believe how wide-eyed and innocent I was about breastfeeding. While I had scoured the internet for all of the research regarding the benefits for my newborn, I didn’t take enough time to read other moms first-hand experiences. Some of my friends tried to warn me that it was not as easy as it looks. But in my mind, I was fixated on an idealistic vision of me gazing into my newborn’s eyes as I nourished her to sleep during those late night feedings.
Those beautiful bonding moments did occur but usually nested between extended periods of frustration and disappointment. Fortunately, I received tons of encouragement from friends, family and lactation professionals who were all full of tips to help me through. Now, I hope to help you start your breasteeding relationship off on the right foot. These are five unexpected struggles that you might encounter along your journey and some strategies I learned for overcoming them.
1. Nipple Care Is Serious
Before my baby was born, I breezed through life with nary a care about my nipples. However, those first few weeks of breastfeeding pull nipple care to the front and center of your mind. Sadly, ignoring your nipples while nursing can cause them to crack and bleed, and many women have ended their breastfeeding relationship due to the pain.
Don’t let this happen to you by making sure that your baby latches on correctly every time. Then, allow your breasts to air-dry after nursing, and use nipple creams to add moisture back to your delicate skin.
2. You’re Going to Be Super Hungry
If you thought those pregnancy cravings were crazy, then get ready! Breastfeeding burns tons of calories since it takes energy to make that lovely milk. I was quite surprised at how ravenous I got while I was actually in the middle of feeding. I even found that my stomach growling took my attention away from the beautiful moment I was sharing.
So my best advice is to make sure you have some healthy snacks handy before you sit down to nurse. Those fruit and veggie trays people keep bringing are an excellent thing for one-handed late night snacking.
3. It’s All About The Hold
Before breastfeeding, I thought that all there was to holding a newborn was supporting their head. However, there are tons of different ways to hold a baby while you are nursing, and finding the right one helps to improve their latch. You might also find that you change holds even in the middle of nursing to stimulate your baby to eat when they are very sleepy.
Whether you choose the cradle hold or prefer to recline, you’ll find that nursing pillows help you keep baby right where you want them while also supporting your arms.
4. Pumping Is Harder Than It Looks
Although breast is best, pumping gives you freedom to go back to work or even get a short break while someone else feeds your babe. You will find that breast pumps can vary just as much as each new mom’s breastfeeding style. Explore the different types of pumps that are available to figure out if manual or electric works best for your needs.
Most moms also find that using a double pump reduces the amount of time they spend pumping, which is of particular importance if you are pumping at work or school. You should also know that pumping takes practice, just like breastfeeding. At first, your body may need a little help with let down since it doesn’t have the cues your little one sends. Bringing along a picture of your baby or sniffing their sweet scent from a blanket can help stimulate the production of oxytocin so that your milk lets down.
5. You’ll Need a New Wardrobe
That go-to little black dress may need to be temporarily retired. This is because nursing is much easier when you choose breastfeeding-friendly clothing. Nursing tops abound, and they come in much trendier styles today that make them look like regular clothing. Or you can choose cute button downs and v-necks that you can wear after your breastfeeding days have come to an end.
Either way, make sure to carry an extra shirt in your diaper bag for you, just in case of an unexpected letdown or spill. Plus, you’ll be happy to have a change of clothes if your baby spits up. Now that you know all of the tips I learned through trial and error, you can look forward to your nursing relationship while knowing that you have the inside info and gear to make it go the distance.