So You Plan to Breastfeed

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I want new mothers and mothers to be to know that YOU CAN BREASTFEED YOUR BABY. It is not always easy, especially the first month or two, but it does get easier, and you can overcome obstacles if you seek qualified help. Do NOT seek breastfeeding help from a pediatrician or even the nurses at the hospital. Unless they are lactation consultants or have personally breastfed successfully, they won’t be able to truly help you, and may even inadvertently sabotage your efforts by giving you poor advice.

If I had listened to the advice given to me by nurses, pediatricians, and MDs, I would never have reached my breastfeeding goals. When the nurse told me to use a nipple shield, I chucked it in the trash. When the pediatrician told me to supplement with formula, I got another opinion and didn’t give up. When the GI doc told me to wean my baby to take meds she prescribed, I called Infant Risk Center and an IBCLC only to find out the medication was compatible with breastfeeding and I didn’t need to wean.
If you want to succeed at breastfeeding, you need to talk to other mothers who have breastfed successfully. You need to talk to lactation experts.

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it doesn’t usually come very easily, and you will most likely need help. If you’re pregnant and planning to breastfeed, educate yourself about breastfeeding before you are sleep deprived and stressed with a crying baby while recovering from birth. Now is the time to start. EXPECT to need help, and get your resources together. Get the phone numbers for your local IBCLC, your local La Leche League chapter, your experienced breastfeeding friends. When you need help in the middle of the night, you will want this information in an easy to find place. ASK FOR HELP. Breastfeeding is hard, but you can do it. Only 5% of women physically cannot produce enough milk to breastfeed. All the other supply problems come from BAD ADVICE and LACK OF SUPPORT.

Here are some more truth bombs:

💥 Your breast size is irrelevant. I was an A-B before I became a mother, and I have sustained two human lives with my breasts.

💥 You can breastfeed with flat, inverted, or small nipples. The baby doesn’t even need to latch onto the nipple. They latch onto the skin *around* the nipple.

💥 Supplementing with formula can DECREASE your milk supply, making you need to use formula. It’s a trap.

💥 Babies don’t need pacifiers. Pacifiers are artificial nipples meant to replace your breast, which is the most magical thing you can use to comfort your baby. The more you comfort your baby with your breast, the more milk your body makes!

💥 Pumping is a pain in the ass. It’s hard, it’s time consuming, and it’s uncomfortable. Don’t think you’re saving yourself any effort by pumping. It’s way easier to simply stick your baby on your breast. The milk is already the perfect temperature. No dishes to wash.

💥 Breastfeeding “from the tap” has benefits that pumping and bottle feeding cannot match. Your baby’s saliva communicates with your body so that an instant “custom order” is created. Your milk will change to meet baby’s needs. At night, your milk contains more sleep hormones. When baby is sick, it contains more antibodies. When baby is dehydrated, the water content of your milk increases. Cups and bottles can’t do that.

💥 Nipple shields can sabotage you. Don’t use one unless you’re under the guidance of a lactation consultant, and make sure it’s truly necessary before resorting to them.

💥 If you plan to pump and bottle feed, make sure you are using a SLOW flow nipple and doing paced bottle feeding. If your baby gets used to easily and quickly getting milk from a bottle, and if your baby gets used to getting overfed from a bottle, that is a recipe for a baby who will not be satisfied at the breast. This can create supply problems. You can overfeed from a bottle, but you cannot overfeed from the breast. Make bottle feeding mimic the breast as closely as possible for breastfeeding success.

💥 Fathers can bond with babies in a lot of ways. Don’t believe the myth that fathers or siblings, or anyone else needs to feed the baby in order to bond. It’s a lie.

💥 You may think it’s helpful for your partner to feed the baby a bottle so you can have a break, but the truth is, you don’t get a break. If you miss a feeding, you need to pump to make up for it, and remember pumping is more work. Just feed your baby and let them change diapers, rock them to sleep, bathe them, cuddle, read, or sing to them. That is a helpful way for them to bond and for you to have a break without worrying about pumping.

💥 If you follow ecological breastfeeding by putting baby to breast on cue, early and often, day and night, for nourishment and for comfort, you most likely will not need any special supplements, lactation teas, lactation cookies, etc. Really.

💥 Nursing bras and tops are certainly convenient, but they’re not a requirement. You can breastfeed just fine without them. Don’t feel like you have to spend money on them if it’s going to hurt your budget. They’re luxuries, not necessities.

💥Though babies certainly can be sensitive to foods in the mother’s diet (both of mine reacted when I had any dairy), it’s not usually necessary to stop eating or drinking things you enjoy. Don’t believe the hype. Unless your baby reacts to these things, you can drink coffee and breastfeed. You can eat garlic, onions, broccoli, and beans and breastfeed. You can even drink alcoholic beverages and breastfeed (within certain levels). You don’t need to starve yourself or be miserable to feed your baby.

💥 Drink to thirst. There’s no need to stress yourself over the bad information floating around telling women they MUST drink a gallon or whatever of water every day to produce milk. Yeah, stay hydrated. Drink often. Listen to your body. The same as you should be doing anyway. Don’t gorge yourself on water and stress about it.

💥 Interventions and drugs during birth can increase the risk of breastfeeding complications. This doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed if you have a c-section, pain meds, etc. It just means you might not have the easiest time starting out. Keep at it.

💥It can take several days for your milk supply to come in after birth. This is normal and your body isn’t broken. All your baby needs is the tiny bit of colostrum your body makes. Keep at it.

💥 Babies have growth spurts where they fuss at the breast and want to nurse literally nonstop. This is normal and healthy, and does NOT mean you aren’t making enough milk. Keep at it. The more you nurse, the more your body makes. It’s supply and demand.

💥The amount of milk you pump is not a reliable indicator of how much milk you actually make. Pumps are not as efficient as babies when it comes to getting milk out. Some women don’t even respond to pumps at all, but successfully breastfeed.

These are all things I wish I had known before I had my first baby. I hope this information helps someone!