Health & Wellness

Five Things No One Tells You About Breastfeeding

Editor’s Note: August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and in honour of this internationally recognized event, I’m pleased to bring you this guest post from Jeanette, the mama and blogger at Mama Banana’s Adventures. Today she’s sharing the benefit of her nursing experience with these five things you might not have known about breastfeeding. ~Olivia

5 things no one tells you about breastfeeding

1. Breastfeeding is Hard

While for some moms breastfeeding comes naturally and easily, for many others it’s work. It’s the most wonderful and loving type of work, but also the kind that makes you wonder, “When did I last shower?” Newborn babies are notorious for nursing very often, needing to be held constantly and breastfeeding for long periods of time. They are transitioning from the comfort of a womb with 24/7 warmth and meals to their new environment.

In addition to frequent nursing and the need to be held, baby may require help latching. Positions like laid back nursing and side-lying (my favorite) to help manage supply and increase comfort, holding your breast in a C position, and changes to your diet can help accommodate that precious little belly. It takes time to get to know baby’s needs and as his belly grows, he will stretch longer between feedings all on his own. You’ll be proud of your breastfeeding work and success and enjoy loving stares from your baby while he nurses.

2. One Breast Loves to Outshine the Other

If you’re a nursing/pumping mom and you’ve noticed a difference between output…you may have a superstar breast. Ever notice that baby prefers one breast over the other at different times? Could be that you have a meal side and a snack side. Baby knows just which breast to use at which time and will let you know! Your superstar breast will shine when baby is very hungry and turn the stage over to the opposite side for less-demanding meals. This queen of let down may pump out 5 ounces and make you wonder why the other side only gives 2…during the same session. Just like people have different personalities, so may your breasts! While staying hydrated, eating well and and oatmeal breakfasts can all contribute to supply, it seems as though our bodies naturally have one side that produces more than the other.

5 things no one tells you about breastfeeding

3. When It’s Time to Eat, It’s Time to Eat!

Breastfed babies nurse on demand. They are not on a fixed schedule and may nurse three hours or fifteen minutes after they last ate. The location is irrelevant to baby. Whether you’re at home, out shopping or visiting friends and relatives: Baby needs to eat. When I first started breastfeeding, I was nervous about nursing in public. I sat in the back of a restaurant with my nursing cover and hoped no one would notice.

With baby number two, I was much more confident and aware of my baby’s need to feed. I will never forget running through Disney Theme Park trying to find a quiet spot to nurse, without luck. I ended up nursing on a giant planter in the middle of a four-way busy intersection. I thought, baby needs to eat now and if you don’t like it, don’t look. Luckily, most states have legislation protecting a baby’s right to breastfeed in public and packing your breasts for trips to the supermarket is one less thing to worry about…because they’re attached!

4. Good Support Can Save a Nursing Relationship

As a mom without an immediate network of breastfeeding women, I found solace in support groups like the La Leche League and online groups and articles. My mom used formula, her mom used formula and we couldn’t think of a woman in the family who breastfed. When I had trouble nursing my first son, I scoured the internet and stumbled across a phone number for a local La Leche League counselor. I was in tears explaining how my baby must be starving because he ate all the time. When she explained how normal that was and how to check for wet/dirty diapers, I felt extremely relieved. I had a healthy baby, who ate often and had a fantastic output. I started worrying less and began using the time to catch up on TV shows and socializing online.

breastfeeding baby

5. Pumping is a Learned Skill and Good Equipment is Key

When I bought my first pump, I prepared it before my son was born. The first dozen or so times I used it and nothing came out, I cried. “I’m not making any milk and my baby is starving!” I thought. Turned out the pump wasn’t for me, the fit wasn’t right and it wasn’t the best machine for my body. I have a much better model now and learned that staying well hydrated, looking at photos of my baby and being distracted help my output greatly. I check my e-mail while wearing a hands-free nursing bra and know that I may not get much out right after baby nurses, but have narrowed down pumping times to target when the freezer gets low. After becoming very skilled, I even learned how to pump breast milk and drive safely to avoid compromising my supply when I’m on the road.

A few weeks ago, I couldn’t get anything out while pumping. I discovered that a nearly invisible tear in the pump membrane made the pump’s suction not function at all. Even as an experienced pumper, this threw me for a loop! Equipment matters when it comes to pumping and having a good, intact machine can make or break your relationship with the pump.

Jeanette is the proud mom to 4 boys, 5 and under. She’s also an Occupational Therapist and the author from Mama Banana’s Adventures: A natural lifestyle and parenting website including cloth diapers, breastfeeding, babywearing and living green. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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  • Great article!! Especially #1. Breastfeeding can be hard. It doesn’t always come naturally. But with the proper support and teaching, it can be wonderful. I worked in OBS for years. The other point I might add is that in baby’s first 24 hours of life, they may not be the intersted in breastfeeding. So lots of skin to skin and time at breast. In the hospital we used to call this time “the gift”. On the second night, baby seems to wake up and wants to feed ALL the time. Cluster feeding. Its normal but can be exhausting for that new mom. So extra support and help is truly appreciated at this time.

  • I agree with number 5, that pumping is a learned skill and good equipment is key. My son was born at 25 weeks and the first week pumping was the hardest. I also had to jump through hoops just to get a hospital grade breast pump…. and I’m still pumping until he gets his breathing tube out and we can try latching together. This is also my first baby so the learning curve has been there. I will say though that a hands-free nursing bra did save my sanity to a certain degree, especially since I decided to return to work until he leaves the NICU. I also agree that skin-to-skin is amazing at helping with let-down, as it is relaxing for both you and baby.