6 Things I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding Before Giving Birth

6 Things I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding Before Giving Birth

6 Things I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding Before Giving Birth

How Hard Can it Be?

Before having a baby, you kinda can't think about how hard it can be. You have boobs, a baby is supposed to know what to do, and the entire hospital staff is there, along with lactation consultants (LC's) to make sure you get it right! You've also gone to the breastfeeding class at your hospital so you've got this one IN THE BAG. Right? Wrong. At least it was for me. So here's what I wish I knew ahead of time.

1. It is not easy or automatic. (for me at least)

Some women I think are blessed with the perfect sized nipples and wide-mouth-opening babies and everything just works like clockwork. Well, not for me.

Right after having our little angel baby, they hand you this precious little thing and put it on your chest. "Skin-to-skin" as it's called, and its amazing. The first glance of your little miracle and if you're like me, you instantly tear up and start crying tears of joy. Then people start cleaning up and doing stuff and I looked at the nurse and I was like, "Am I supposed to breastfeed her now?" because I was kinda thinking they would tell me when the time was right. (Cause even though you just birthed a baby, wtf do you know about what to do with this thing. Someone should be telling you what on earth you're doing and how to be responsible for this little gremlin on top of you! Right? Oh boy...)

"Yes, if you want!" she replied, and then I promptly sat up in bed and blacked out completely. No joke. I told the nurse I was getting very sleepy and told her to take the baby and a few seconds later I woke up with an oxygen mask on me and everyone freaking out because I had gone unconscious front he blood rush of sitting up.

While I hope that's not the start of your breastfeeding story--cause its kind of a scary one-- it was mine and it was a nice little jolt into the chaos of our insane journey to learn how the heck to get 'a good latch' from the start.

2. Know your nip size

It's a very strange thing to think about, but going into this whole thing I had no idea that I had "small nipples". I quickly was told by the nurse and the lactation consultants. "You'll be fine though, it will work just fine" they said. Then after attending a breastfeeding support group shortly after, I realized that some women have some mondo-sized nipples, while others have completely inverted nipples. Everyone is totally and wildly different, and each present some unique challenges to getting that miracle 'latch' the first few days.

As a flat/short nippled mom, I was recommended to use a nipple shield at first and then later found a pretty interesting tool called "latch assist". These tools helped me early-on to get going with baby, but it also took a while to figure out how to use them, where to buy them, and how to get going. Ahead of time, I'd love to have brought these to the hospital with me and known that nipple size has a big affect on your ability to breastfeed easily.

And if I had inverted nipples, I certainly would like to know there are a ton of products out there to make it easier, so just a heads up before you get blindsided in the hospital room by people telling you things you've never heard before.

Also, when you learn how to pump, you'll need to choose which size flange to use. There are different sizes for each nipple size, but most of the pumps only come with 1-2 standard sizes so if you're bigger or smaller than average, you'll want to buy some special sized flanges ahead of time.

3. It's going to hurt

This one was a bit of a surprise. In all of the classes and articles I read to prepare for breastfeeding, they all said that "If you have a good latch, it shouldn't hurt". They ALL SAY IT.

We'll I'm calling bullsh*t on that one. It does hurt. A LOT. (Again, unless you've been blessed with perfect nipples and an angel-baby, most women I talk to agree that its quite painful in the beginning)

It's true, now that I have things down that it doesn't hurt me at all to breastfeed with a great latch, but believe me.. in the beginning is bad. So just prepare for it, and also bring some stuff to help you manage the main and promote healing while you're in the hospital.

3. It's a strangely forceful process in the beginning

When you think about breastfeeding and watch videos on YouTube, its always babies that are older (not newborns) and have a wide-mouth and a perfect latch figured out. It's quite frustrating to watch these videos with a newborn, because the baby is still learning too, and squirming all over the place.

One thing I learned from a number of visits with lactation consultants is that you really gotta shove them on the breast. If I was an innocent bystander seeing this for the first time, it might look like I was trying to choke the baby by shoving so much breast in his face, but in reality this is what you gotta do to get 'a good latch'. (You now have permission to drink every time I say "latch" but there's no other word!)

You'll see what I mean when you work with a LC after you leave the hospital. Don't be shy! Book someone to come help you that first week and you'll be very thankful and it's money well spent!

4. Patience pays off

One of the biggest struggles that I had was with getting baby's mouth to open wide. When their mouth doesn't open wide, it is quite painful and is an awful latch and hurts like a mother (no pun intended). But you gotta just wait till they open it wide.

They will also be super hungry and scream at you which causes anxiety and sometimes you just cave because you want to give them the food and then you sacrifice a bad latch. But then you SUPER regret doing that because your bad latch causes you inflammation, pain, sore and cracked nips that makes everything later on MUCH harder. So trust me, just be patient and wait for that mouth to open WIDE.. and SHOVE! LOL.

5. You don't have to do it every single time

This was one thing that the LC in the hospital told me that was very freeing, was that its okay to pump and give your nips a break and a chance to recover. If you're in pain, just stop and pump for a feed (or in my case for like a week straight) and then get back to it when you're ready. The baby will still get what he/she needs with your breastmilk, and it doesn't really matter how he/she gets it. So give yourself a break and learn how to pump, because it actually does NOT hurt, and it gives you a little break from the soreness.

6. Eventually it stops hurting and becomes easy

This was the one thing that kept me going throughout the whole thing. I'd say that baby and I didn't MASTER breastfeeding until about 8-10 weeks , which, at week 1 seems like ETERNITY. Sure, we had some medical issues that stopped me from trying for a few weeks here and there w/ food allergies, but all in all, it took a heck of a long time for us to really get it good. I kept believing that it would one day just magically get better. And it really does, but just not overnight.

Honestly, I think part of the journey is figuring out how to do it, and the other part is just numbing your nips to the point where it doesn't hurt anymore. I guess that's an advantage moms that were really into BDSM have is that their nips are probably already conditioned to taking this kinda treatment and it's probably a breeze. Kidding, but kinda not :)

Get some support!

If you need some hope and some enthusiasm, just get out your phone and read some of the forums (You've already been on there I know) and hear from folks that are struggling and how the community just rallies to keep you hopeful and motivated.

It does really make things easier in the long-run if you keep at it. It took us months to get it right, and everyone told me we might have a tongue-tie, and we had a recessed chin, and blah blah blah. Time really does help everything get better, and also baby gets a bit bigger and those tiny little mouths grow bigger and open wider. And that makes it much easier too :)

So good luck mamma! You've got this!

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