We’ve all seen the pictures. You know the one with the new mother smiling while she breastfeeds her wonderful little child. The baby — to his or her credit — is latched perfectly and appears to be eating without a care in the world. They make it look so easy, don’t they?
Well, what if your baby won’t latch? Or, does latch but doesn’t transfer milk well? What if it’s 1:30 in the morning and you’re up for what feels like the millionth time trying to feed your baby and they just won’t cooperate?
That scenario is more reflective of what really goes on in the wee hours of the night when trying to feed your newborn, but that’s surprisingly not shared with new moms. Instead, you worry about your child eating enough or constantly wonder if you’re making enough milk. What’s worse is there will be tons of women — doctors, nurses, twigs and berry types —telling you that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and the best thing you can do for your baby. So when you’re faced with challenges like mastitis or a low milk supply and things don’t go like you’ve been told, you feel like a failure.
If you’re reading this, you already know breastfeeding is hard AF. Hell, this is my second go round and I ran into different problems than I had with my first baby! But never fear — we will get through this!!!
Here are three things I wish I would have known before starting to breastfeed. Think of this as a little public service announcements for new moms and the OGs:
Not all latches are created equal
When my son was born…he wouldn’t latch on for the first month. I ended up pumping 8-10 times a day which was miserable. By the time my daughter was born, she latched perfectly. I spent 45 minutes feeling good about myself only to learn she only transferred half of the milk available to her. So I still ended up pumping 8-10 times a day. Do yourself a favor and get help early with breastfeeding challenges. The earlier you seek help, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Milk production is as fickle as the weather — it’s always changing
You’ve been exclusively breastfeeding your baby and then the time comes to break out the good ol’ pump for the first time. Surprisingly, you put out much less milk than you anticipated. This will make you question everything. Is my baby eating enough? Is my milk supply dwindling? Unfortunately, that’s life. One day you’re making too much. The next day, not enough. The reason could be as simple as needing to stay hydrated to something more complicated like an illness. It will literally drive you crazy. But the good news is there are plenty of places in the DMV where you can drop in and have your baby weighed to see if your little one is eating enough. The best news…it’s free!!!
It’s inconvenient AF
This should really be at the top of the list, but most women decide to breastfeed before realizing this simple fact. If you feed your baby every 2 to 3 hours, you’ll need to pump every 2 to 3 hours if you’re not with them. That means you can hardly go anywhere and if you do, it requires a lot of planning. By planning, I mean having to pump in your car or a public bathroom. If you decide to breastfeed after returning to work, you’ll have to plan your pump schedule around meetings and your commute. It literally consumes your life!
The best way to combat this is to stick to your pump schedule at work. This may seem impossible, but talk to your boss because skipping a pump session can easily make you look like a contestant into a wet t-shirt contest and that’s not a good look for the office. Also try to only go places that have safe and clean facilities to pump. I know this may be hard, but I’ve found going shopping at any mall with a Nordstrom is the key to my being able to shop without feeling stressed about pumping. Nordstrom has an amazing lounge for women and pumping in there has made my life soooo much easier.
Alas, you have the cold hard truths about breastfeeding. I’m going to be real with you…I only just scratched the surface. If you take anything away from this, I hope it’s that you realize that just because something is “natural,” doesn’t mean it’s easy, and breastfeeding is no exception. Stick with it, get help early (whether that’s a lactation consultant or support group), and share your experiences. The only way we are going to make it to the magical one-year mark of breastfeeding is if we stick together.
Featured image: Global News