I am going to be completely upfront and say that I was totally unprepared for my breastfeeding journey. I went into my pregnancy saying I was going to “try”, but that if it didn’t work for us I wasn’t going to be devastated. Only later on did I learn that with this mentality, my chances of success were much lower. Looking back, I would 100% agree with this statement Here’s what I didn’t do in the time before our baby was born, but should have.
- Forwent breastfeeding classes.
- I didn’t bring the breast pump with me to the hospital.
- I didn’t get to know my breast pump and all the parts associated with it.
- Although I was part of nursing Facebook groups, I didn’t utilize them.
- I didn’t research HOW to breastfeed (it’s not as easy as one thinks!).
I thoroughly believe that had I done the above, I would have had a more successful and less stressful breastfeeding journey. Only after our baby was born did I do the majority of my research and reading. This is a terrible idea and I strongly discourage against it. As a new mom, your emotions are already through the roof. Do as much reading on breastfeeding before baby is here and I’m positive you’ll be in a much better place than I was. While my breastfeeding journey wasn’t as long as others, I did learn A LOT. Here are the top things about breastfeeding I wish I had known about before our beautiful baby daughter entered the world.
Please note that this post contains affiliate links and any purchase made through these links will award me a small commission (at no extra cost to you). These funds help feed our family and keep this blog up and running.
1. Fed is Best.
I am going to say this right off the bat, that supplementing early on is not generally recommended when breastfeeding. With that said, there are times when supplementing is necessary and needed.
I won’t get too much into this touchy subject, but just know that there are times when supplementing with formula may be needed. Our baby that had left the hospital with no signs of jaundice, had jaundice by her first pediatric appointment.
Jaundice can occur when babies are not getting enough breastmilk or infant formula. This was what happened with us. While jaundice is not the end of the world, it can have lasting effects on baby if the bilirubin levels get too high.
And yes, I felt like a complete failure.
Thankfully, our daughter’s levels were not terribly high. However, it was a stressful time for us. Every few days we had to bring her in to get her foot pricked to test the bilirubin levels. As a new mom, this was not a fun experience.
While breastfeeding is wonderful for babies, infant formula is there to help out if you need it. We needed it and I would not hesitate to use formula again in the future. If you are totally against using infant formula, then there is always the option of using a breast pump to express milk to ensure baby is getting enough. I do have to say that this is not generally advised in such early days of breastfeeding. The biggest thing to remember, however, is that fed truly is the best.
2. Mastitis and Clogged Ducts.
Clogged ducts can occur when the breasts are not emptied after a feeding. A clogged duct can advance to mastitis, which is an infection of the breasts. While I, thankfully, did not experience this, it is important to know that mastitis is very serious and should not be taken lightly.
While not always possible, avoiding clogged ducts and mastitis at all costs would be your best bet. To help prevent clogged ducts and mastitis, it is important that breasts are emptied and that not too much time passes between feedings.
If baby is not emptying at feedings, consider hand expressing milk or using a breast pump to help empty breasts.
3. Breastfeeding around the clock
The first few weeks of breastfeeding were the hardest, especially as a new mom. You expect not to get much sleep once baby arrives, but what nursing mamas may not initially realize is that they are the only ones that are able to feed their baby. It’s not uncommon for babies to wake up every 1 to 1.5 hours for a feeding (or even less in some cases).
This leaves very little sleep for mama. My suggestion is to work out a schedule with hubby, significant other or family member. Maybe they bring baby to you for feeding, take care of diaper changes and putting back to sleep. Don’t get me wrong you will still be tired. But extra hands are better than nothing!
Later on, I also started pumping milk into bottles so that I could get a little shut eye too. This is not commonplace and often not recommended if you will be purely breastfeeding. Lactation consultants may say that bottle feeding too early on will confuse baby. So take this advice with a grain of salt.
We definitely played by our rules. We gave baby bottles, nursed and even gave (gasp) … binkys! ??♀️ Thankfully, our baby took well to all of them. Just do what is best for your baby and family.
4. Breastfeeding Burns Calories … like A LOT
I know that everybody’s body is different, but the statement that breastfeeding helps you lose your baby weight was absolutely correct with me. I dropped a lot of weight within the first few weeks of nursing.
By the time of my checkup, I was nearly down to my pre-baby weight. Just for reference, I had gained 40 pounds during my pregnancy. That is an insane amount of weight to lose in such a short timeframe.
Because breastfeeding burns so many calories, it is important to remember to eat throughout the day and drink lots of water! The water is going to help keep you healthy and hydrated. Many experts also advise increasing caloric intake. Americanpregnancy.org recommends to increase calorie intake by 500. These calories should, of course, come from healthy, good foods.
5. Nursing Can Hurt.
I really wanted this to be number one because this is what really surprised me about breastfeeding. I didn’t want to scare you all away right off the bat so here it is at number five. But, yes breastfeeding was very painful for me, in the beginning. The good news is I feel this pain came from my lack of knowledge.
I am convinced that my daughter did not have the best latch to start off. By the time I had left the hospital, I had cracked skin that turned bloody and then scabbed over. I couldn’t even touch my breast without wincing in pain. The lactation consultant that came in said my daughter had a wonderful latch. All I could think in that moment was, ‘you’ve got to be kidding – this is how I am going to feel all the time?!’.
Thankfully, I can say that the pain I experienced is not the norm.
While it is normal to have tender nipples in the beginning, it is not normal for them to be cracked or bloody. I had always heard that it can be a bit painful in the beginning. Therefore, I just sat through the pain.
What I learned later on is that if the pain does not subside within a minute’s time, to try and reposition baby to get a better latch. If this doesn’t help, baby may have a tongue or lip tie or it could be a number of other reasons. I found this article over at bellybelly very helpful and useful. They go through a list of other things that can be causing the pain.
If you do experience cracked skin, the good news is that there are products out there to help. Lanolin is popular and I’ve heard that many moms use coconut oil. As for the pain, I was provided these wonderful cooling gels at the hospital and they were AH-MAZING. I used those suckers up!
Have you heard of the term letdowns? Well I hadn’t until a couple of weeks into our breastfeeding journey. I can remember the first few times I got a tingly, almost burning sensation in my breasts. I was thinking ‘now, what the heck is this?!’. For those new moms out there, if you get this feeling – you are experiencing a letdown!
If you don’t get this feeling, no worries – some women never get the tingly feeling and still experience letdowns. A letdown is simply when breastmilk is released from the breast. The biggest learning curve I had with letdowns is that the boob that baby is not feeding from can experience a letdown at the same time.
I didn’t want to fuss with nursing bras in the beginning because of the soreness I was experiencing. However, I learned pretty quickly that I couldn’t just be willy nilly with my clothes. I made plenty of messes in plenty of places. Here’s a little tip: for the boob that is not being nursed, try “catching” your milk in a bottle. It may not always be much, but every little bit counts!
7. Nursing pads are a must.
My friend had told me to order some nursing pads, but I didn’t understand at the time how much I would need them. All I have to say is the leaks are real, ya’ll.
You will begin to notice when you have gone too long without a pump or feeding session. Not to mention that your boobs can have a mind of their own and can trigger a letdown out of nowhere. Some women can experience letdowns by hearing another child cry or just by simply thinking of their baby.
Once the letdown starts, there is not much that can be done to stop it. And this is where nursing pads can save the day. They help keep your secrets hidden from the rest of the world. Nobody, but you will know what is going on with your twins ?.
So given all of this, would I nurse again? Heck yes! As I have mentioned, I feel that a lot of my problems arose due to my lack of knowledge. As the old saying goes – I am much older and wiser now. Not really. However, being able to look back and see what I could have done better or different will help me be more successful in the future.
Did you land on this page and are or have nursed in the past? What did you find most surprising about breastfeeding? What are some things you wished you had known beforehand? I’d love to hear them and it may even help some readers out!
Starter Checklist for Breastfeeding and Pumping Journey
Boppy Pillow for Nursing
Lanolin or Nipple Cream
Soothing Warm/Cold Gels
Disposable Nursing Pads (1-2 boxes)
Washable Nursing Pads
Nursing Bras (2-3)
Nursing Cover, if desired
Breastfeeding tracking app
Water (Lots of it)