Breastfeeding – What No One Tells You
Babies are born to breastfeed. If placed on his mother’s abdomen immediately after birth baby will search for the breast and use his reflexes to try getting there. Within the first hour, he will latch and feed briefly.
What no one tells you about breastfeeding is that just because babies have these instincts doesn’t mean there’s not some learning both mums and babies might need to do. You may be tired from the birth, or you might be recovering from cesarean surgery. Your baby may be sleepy or have trouble latching. The images you had in mind when you were planning to breastfeed may not match the reality of the experience. Don’t panic if this is you! Or, you might feel empowered by your birthing journey, and your baby attaches right away and nurses beautifully. You won’t know until you’re in the midst of it what will happen for you.
The good news is that there’s help out there for any challenges you face. And the good often outweighs the bad – which is true not only with breastfeeding but with parenting overall!
What no one tells you about the breastfeeding challenges:
It might hurt at first: While nursing shouldn’t be painful or cause broken skin, the first week is sometimes uncomfortable. Getting your baby to open his mouth wide and latch deeply should help. Make sure you are comfortable and your baby is turned toward you. Simple adjustments to positioning and latch often make a world of difference to your comfort. If the pain continues into the second week, getting help from a lactation consultant would be useful.
You may not recognise your breasts anymore: During pregnancy, your breasts may have grown and gotten heavier, they may look like a road map of blood vessels, and your nipple and areola may be darker. After the birth, your milk will “come in” – meaning a sudden increase in volume often accompanied by swelling. This may mean larger breasts – maybe even painfully larger. Engorgement should subside with a couple of days of frequent feedings. An ice pack on the breasts between feedings (such as the BodyICE Woman Breast Pads) and a warm compress right before nursing, may help with comfort.
Having too much milk can be just as difficult as not having enough: While having lots of milk sounds like a boon, it may cause uncomfortable engorgement and a fussy baby. Your milk supply takes about four to six weeks to settle down to match baby’s needs – so you may have some brief fullness between feedings until then. But if you have oversupply or overactive letdown, try frequent feedings with your baby in a more upright position and your body reclining a bit.
It’s time-consuming and it’s all on you: Sometimes the needs of your nursing are overwhelming. Especially in those early days, bubs may want to nurse every hour or two, and you may be left feeling like you barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone catch up on sleep! Two things to remember: 1) Those moments will pass! And 2) Get help! Have close family or friends make meals and tidy the house so you can remain in bed with baby to get some rest is a much better option.
Pumping is not always easy: Using a breast pump seems like it should be a no-brainer – you put the mechanism on your breasts and flip the switch and away you go. But pumping is dependent on eliciting let downs. And your body may not react the same to the hard plastic, whirring machine as it does to the soft, sweet-smelling, cooing baby. Applying heat (with BodyICE Woman Breast Pads, for instance) can help with let down, as can breast massage.
What no one tells you about breastfeeding benefits you might not have considered …
It’s convenient: There’s nothing you need to heat or mix. There are no bottles and teats to wash or sterilize. Breastmilk is immediately available at just the right temperature and in such perfect packaging.
You don’t need to change your diet to breastfeed: Eat what you enjoy when you’re breastfeeding – despite the old wives’ tales, it’s rare for anything you eat to cause your baby digestive distress. Some foods, such as oatmeal, may even help you to keep up a good milk supply. Other substances that can boost your supply include herbs (such as fenugreek and blessed thistle), brewer’s yeast, and flax seed. You can often find these in teas or capsules.
Breastmilk changes depending on your baby’s needs: The milk for a premature baby is different from that made for a full term baby. And your milk will change from day to day based on your baby’s needs. Even during a single feeding the milk changes – from a thirst-quenching foremilk to the fat-rich hindmilk needed for growth. If you’re exposed to any germs, the immunities your body makes to fight the illness will be delivered to your baby through breastmilk, keeping your baby healthy.
Breastmilk has lots of uses beyond infant feeding: Your baby has a diaper rash or cradle cap? Use some breastmilk. Got a cut or scrape? Squirt on a little of your milk. Some cultures use breastmilk to treat pinkeye, sore throats, warts and more. The antimicrobial properties of breastmilk make it the perfect healing agent.
Your hormones! The postpartum period is full of ups and downs when it comes to your emotions. The hormones of breastfeeding itself help you to relax and enhance your mothering instincts.
Breastfeeding has a beautiful bonding effect between mother and child: This short period of your child’s life will soon be past. Breastfeeding affords you the opportunity to snuggle with your baby often, helping your baby to feel comforted and secure.