Now, before I get going – I think it’s important to note that I read ALLLLL the books on breastfeeding and totally support the pre-learning phase in preparing to be a breastfeeding mama. There are a plethora of things I learned that I didn’t know beforehand. Those things saved me a lot of time and stress when it came time to nurse Baby K. If you want to learn more about our top recommended resources, be sure to take a look at our post – 10 Things You Need In Order To THRIVE In Your First Year of Breastfeeding.
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HOWEVER, nothing replaces good old experience and you are bound to encounter some things that other mamas haven’t and even those that the most comprehensive resources seem to leave out. Which is why we must put our heads together, share our experiences and start mom blogs! But seriously … check out 5 Reasons This Generation Needs Your Voice if you think I’m kidding.
So without further adieu, here are the 6 Things I Didn’t Expect About Breastfeeding (Even After Reading All The Books):
1. The super quick initial latch after birth turned into a struggle to latch in the subsequent feeds.
After birth, I was on cloud nine (as most people are). I just gave birth to Baby K naturally in under 30 minutes, I could sleep on my stomach again, I was holding my precious boy in my arms and most of all – HE LATCHED IMMEDIATELY AFTER BIRTH. Now, a lot of the resources I read said that this can be difficult. Baby doesn’t consciously know how to latch yet but it is somewhere wired into their brains. This seemed to be an exception for Baby K. He was a pro from the get-go. And thennn round 2 came after nap. It was as if everything he knew to do SO NATURALLY out of the womb disappeared without a trace. We tried every position, strategy, tactic, you name it, with the help of the hospital lactation consultant and Baby K was not having it. But apparently this is normal? While that explanation is comforting on some level, it’s painfully frustrating on another. Give me a legit reason why, so we can analyze and fix it. “It just takes time and practice.” Lovely. Another response I hate. But my God-sent lactivist was right. The hidden, yet ingrained ability to feed in nature’s most natural way came back around to Baby K (& mom) eventually. And this leads me into point #2 …
2. A position that worked for us one day, wouldn’t work the next.
Baby K and I would get to a point where I felt like we were in a groove – I KNEW his favorite position and that it would work for every feeding session for the full duration of our breastfeeding experience. Oh but it was NOT SO! Not even close. Some positions that he loved for 3 or 4 feeds, aka half a day, would all of a sudden seem like torture to him just as I felt like we were really getting good at it. This happened with every single one – the football hold, the cradle hold, laying on my side, everything! Then I read in Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding that what seemed “natural” may be the best way to go when all else fails. And what was clearly natural was whatever he did that first morning at the hospital after he was born. Which was him basically just laying on my belly (me on my back) face on boob. And sure enough, he caught right back on. For 3 days. So we rotated them, gave up on finding the holy grail of breastfeeding positions and I did my best to not cry hysterically in unison with him when he was crying and seemed to be suffering from short-term memory loss in the latching process.
3. Not having a breastfeeding station set up meant one sore back for mama.
I learned very quickly that having a breastfeeding station or at least a chair set up was going to be extremely important especially in the early weeks where it took a good amount of time just to get Baby K to latch. Doing whatever I could to get Baby K feeding meant a lot of leaning forward, hunching over and the occasional pretzel formation – kidding, sort of. So if there’s one thing I could recommend to you mamas it would be the “My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow.” Which truly did become my best friend, or more like an extra appendage. It offers so much more support and stability than the Boppy and you can even use it to partially support baby while walking to get that glass of wine water you forgot in the kitchen because it clips behind you and creates a rigid table around your middle like some kind of cartoon serving doll.
4. Clogged ducts were way more normal than expected.
The books I read talked about clogged ducts like a one-off kind of problem. You might have 2 or 3 stints at most but BE SURE to take care of them immediately otherwise you’ll get mastitis and die. Or WORSE – you won’t be able to breastfeed. NOT TRUE. REALITY: (or should I say, my reality) – I experienced and successfully got rid of a clogged duct somewhere around once a week for the first few months. Some of them lasted 4-5 days and were extremely painful – but I didn’t die and was still able to breastfeed for over a year. I found out later that one of the contributing factors to this was my baby not always getting a full feed. But I just want all you mamas to know – it’s way more normal than they make it seem. And some of the best solutions are as follows:
- A full latch by a hungry baby is by far the best way to unclog the duct and using different positions (which I was so blessed as to not have an option to do anyway – see step #2) can help stimulate flow and increase suction to the problem area.
- Massaging your breast with a warm washcloth or in the shower immediately preceding a feed can help stimulate flow before feeding as well
- Fully emptying your breasts via a breast pump after feeding can help
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach or wearing tight-fitting nursing bras
- Don’t skip scheduled feedings – either feed or pump always
5. My baby wouldn’t stay latched for a full feed no matter how hard I tried.
Nothing I read said that having a “forceful let-down reflex” was a thing. Yes, I knew some women had an oversupply, but I didn’t know that my strong-spraying milk could be drowning my child. Okay, so the word “drowning” may be a bit extreme, but basically I couldn’t get him to latch for a full feed (10-15 minutes on each breast) because my forceful let-down tired him out – we couldn’t get past 7 minutes most of the time. So I ended up having to pump 3-5 minutes before each feed when my forceful spray turned to a slower dribble to ensure Baby K was getting the calorie-dense hind-milk and not just getting exhausted by my geyser-style fore-milk. For more on this check out: My Baby Wouldn’t Stay Latched For A Full Feed Until I Tried This.
Also – be sure to check out our other resources on Breastfeeding and Babywise below:
- My Baby Wouldn’t Stay Latched For A Full Feed Until I Tried This.
- 10 Things You Need in Order to Thrive in Your First Year of Breastfeeding
- 3-Step Routine That Tripled My Milk Supply
- 5 Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply (Without Going Crazy)
- 10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms (So It Doesn’t Suck)
- The Best Lactation Cookies Ever
What questions do you have about starting your breastfeeding journey? What other problems have you run into that you didn’t know about beforehand?
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