You get a lot of information in the hospital and pre-and post-natal classes about breastfeeding. But sometimes what you need is practical, real-life experience — and support. Here are five tips from experienced mamas about breastfeeding ... and what they wish they would have known when starting out.
August is National Breastfeeding Month.
1. Breastfeeding is crazy cool ... but super weird at first
Breastmilk is amazing! Out of nowhere, your body produces premium nourishment for your baby. Crazy! Even so, breastfeeding for the first time can feel strange.
Prior to this, your breasts were probably reserved only for sexy time. Then all in one day a wiggly tiny human needs to suck on them. Nursing changes the way you view your body. This once sexy private area transforms into a very functional and necessary body part.
Just be warned, it may feel strange to breastfeed at first. It will likely take some time to adjust to this new use of you. It’s okay, these feelings are totally normal.
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2. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone, and that's okay
Every mom we’ve ever met has a different breastfeeding story. For the lucky few, nursing comes like second nature. But for many, it comes with a whole host of challenges!
Sometimes your milk comes in late. Sometimes you don’t produce enough milk for your baby. Other times moms need to take medication that make it impossible to nurse. Some moms have to work and nursing and pumping is difficult. Many babies have allergies to various proteins or food items that come in breastmilk. Babies can be tongue-tied. Other babies suffer from reflux. At times babies struggle to latch properly. Some babies prefer the bottle, meaning you may only pump your milk.
There are so many different reasons why breastfeeding might not be right for you and your baby. Every Mom’s journey is unique. Truly you are not alone if you face bumps in the road or if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you. It's really and truly OK if you can't or choose not to breastfeed!
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3. Breastfeeding hurts
We aren't sure why we didn’t realize this before baby. You are putting your softest skin — which prior to this pretty was much always covered — through the ringer. From sore and cracked nipples to blocked ducts ... breastfeeding can hurt! Lanolin helps sore or cracked nipples, and is harmless to baby. They seem to keep coming up with great products for Moms all the time. There's even nipple shields now! The good news is it will get better as the weeks pass. That being said, if you do have pain — especially excruciating pain — please talk to a doctor or lactation specialist immediately as there are breastfeeding issues that require medical intervention.
4. Introduce a bottle early or risk bottle rejection
Some breastfed babies won't take to bottles. If that happens, it means that as much as your partner might want to help with middle-of-the-night feedings, it might be only you that baby will accept. That can be a lot to handle! One way to get babies to accept a bottle? Start early! Babies as young as two or three months will recognize right away a different feel, texture, and smell. Listen to your doctor or lactation consultant's advice of course, but what worked for us? Introducing a bottle of breast milk at 2 to 4 weeks. See more tips about introducing your baby to a bottle.
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5. Your boobs will be seen in public
When in public, we see new moms trying to sneak away to a corner to nurse so they don't "bother" anyone, or trying to cover their baby up with a coverup — which often just annoys baby. Listen up: You and your baby are NOT a bother! A friend told us best: If I wanted to have a happy baby and not miss out on valuable social interactions, I was going to have to be brave and nurse that baby in public. I started out with lots of gear, but once that baby started crawling, I had to ditch the cover. Now I do my best to keep the boobs under wraps using the clothes on my body, but I’m sure some unsuspecting strangers have seen my rack on more than one occasion at this point.
If you decide to breastfeed or can breastfeed, you'll find it's a great step into the unknown and unlike anything you've ever done before. It’s a wonderful adventure with many ups and downs — just like the rest of parenting!
Best of luck, sweet new Momma. You got this.
A version of this article originally appeared on Macaroni KID Richmond, Va.