If you’re pregnant and about to start breastfeeding or a new mom who has just begun, you may be all gung-ho about it.
Then, reality sets in and you may end up having a really rough start and you start asking yourself why you’re doing it.
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. DON’T GIVE UP.
I meet so many moms who gave up on breastfeeding because sadly they didn’t have a midwife they could call to ask questions at any time of day, or other women to support them through one of the toughest hurdles I think new moms face.
Not only is it tough to go through but it’s tough to understand because it just doesn’t happen quite like the books say. It’s different for everyone.
How I ended up breastfeeding for years is beyond me because I’ll tell you, it would be an understatement to say that the first few weeks were ROUGH. Having said that, it was completely and utterly WORTH IT.
If you understand the value of breastfeeding, I’m here to explain to you what I went through and encourage you to HANG IN THERE. Because the benefits your kids will get from breastfeeding far outweigh any other formula created in the world. (And no, I’m not putting down women who are completely unable to breastfeed and must turn to alternative means. I’m talking to those of you who can breastfeed and are considering giving up.)
Here is the reality of breastfeeding and the promise it will get better.
1. I wish someone told me you may not get milk for a couple of days.
When my eldest was born, she latched on within minutes. I was really confused about why nothing was coming out.
I mean, I read the books but I didn’t fully understand the concept of colostrum when I was actually going through it, nor did I understand why SO LITTLE was coming out of my nipples.
Colostrum contains antibodies to protect newborns against disease. In general, protein concentration in colostrum is substantially higher than in milk. Despite being so little in volume, colostrum is chock-full of important things your baby will need in the first few days of life.
You may think your baby is starving but the reality is, they’re born with a stomach the size of a pea and a little colostrum is enough to fill their little tummies.
My midwife explained it to me this way. The first few days, it’s like your baby is putting in their order. You need to let them latch on as much as they need to. This will help your body determine how often your baby feeds and how much milk you need to produce.
Trust me. For the vast majority if you, your milk will come in. Just be patient.
2. I wish someone had told me that the first few days — hell, the first few weeks — will feel like torture.
Because I was new to breastfeeding, I felt like I was doing it ALL THE TIME.
With my first baby, I felt like I was breastfeeding her once an hour, for about 40 minutes per session. If you do the math, I felt like I was tied down for the majority of the day and night.
But this didn’t last.
What lasted longer than trying to understand feeding times, etc. was the pain.
My soft new mommy nipples were not expecting the pain that constant sucking would bring.
Not only did it bring pain, but my nipples dried out, sores appeared and I bled.
And every time my youngest latched on, I had to hold in screams because it hurt so badly.
I asked my midwife what to do because I was worried my baby was sucking blood from my wounds. And she told me that as long as there was no infection, this would be okay. (PS — Did you know breastmilk is just blood without red blood cells? Kinda gross to think about but yeah…)
Imagine you were just learning the guitar. It can be a very painful ordeal for your fingers. But once your hands become accustomed, your skin gets thicker and you usually don’t ever have this problem again.
That’s kind of what happened. I really almost thought I was going to give up. The pain was that bad.
The cuts, the sores, the pain — they stuck around a good two weeks. Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, they healed!
And after three kids (I’m still breastfeeding five years later) I’VE NEVER HAD THEM AGAIN.
3. I wish someone told me you will get engorged all the time and… IT WILL HURT.
Pain. Pain. More pain.
Every morning for the first few weeks, I woke up completely engorged. Sometimes, it would happen in the middle of the night.
We all know how precious sleep is when you’re a parent. So, to be woken up by painful full breasts, is so beyond disappointing.
When my breasts were hard and full, I was in such pain.
My midwife encouraged me to express some milk to relieve the pain but I always felt it was such a waste. I was also concerned that if I was expressing milk all the time, my supply would go up and I would get engorged even more. When I was engorged, I would usually just feed.
Again, this improved. Once my body had a better idea of how often my baby fed, my breasts were engorged less and less.
Six years later, I can’t remember the last time I was engorged. It rarely happens these days — if ever.
4. I wish someone had told me that you will leak at the most inconvenient times.
It took me weeks before I realized there were such things as breast pads (for breastfeeding moms).
Once I discovered them, I had boxes and boxes of disposable breast pads because I couldn’t wash the reusable ones quick enough (and they irritated me for some reason).
I was leaking all the time. Even when I had thick breast pads in, I would still leak through my shirt.
And I would leak when I was at the bank, when I was at a restaurant, when I was doing groceries — you name any public event, I was probably spotted leaking breast milk all over my shirt.
The worst was (and you experienced moms will get this) is leaking milk every time you heard a baby cry, even if that baby wasn’t yours.
My body wanted to care for any crying baby in any direction.
Even if I was out at Costco picking something up without my child but some other kid starts crying — my let-down would kick in and it would just start flowing out.
Again, this gets better. I breastfeed in tandem these days (two kids at a time) and I no longer have a leaking problem despite producing a lot of milk.
Thank god because diapers are expensive enough. I hated having to spend even more money on breast pads.
5. I wish someone told me how likely it was I would get an infection and that yes… IT WILL HURT.
I was very careful because breastfeeding was so important to me but I did get an infection at one point.
My breast hardened despite not being engorged and it was very painful to feed. It only lasted a few days. I think I may have had mild mastitis but lucky for me, it went as quickly as it came, and didn’t affect my ability to breastfeed for a long time.
The other problem that was more common in the beginning (but wasn’t really an infection) was plugged ducts. I got plugged ducts more often as a new mom — but again, after a few months they stopped. And now, after years of breastfeeding, it doesn’t seem to happen anymore.
6. I wish someone told me that once you become a potential mommy, companies will go after you hardcore because you are considered a gold-mine in the marketing world.
The lasts thing that I will say isn’t necessarily a problem for everyone, but it is for me.
I realized early on that some formula companies were everywhere you turned, as soon as they hear the possibility that you were going to birth another human.
Once you become a mom, everywhere you go, you get offered free samples, coupons, free backpacks, free diaper bags — it was insane.
Free stuff is cool, but not when they’re trying to get your private info in order to market to you all the time.
I made the mistake of giving my info to one company and I still get samples to this day. I get marketed to all the time — and it’s not just formula or baby products. New mothers are prime marketing targets because a lot of us do the groceries.
To me, it’s a little invasive.
They can be very clever about it too.
Thyme Maternity — one of my favourite and probably one of the only maternity stores around — always asks new moms if they want to sign up for “free stuff.” Well, they’re actually collecting your info for Nestle and it’s Nestle who sends you the stuff. And they’ll send you more stuff. And more stuff.
Next thing you know, P&G is sending you stuff.
And it just goes on and on.
Some moms love the free stuff but I use alternative products so, to me, I really regret giving out my info that one time.
Hospitals do the same thing, as do many stores.
Despite promoting breastfeeding, your faced with these companies cleverly marketing to you to go to formula.
Again, if you have to go to formula because you’re unable to breastfeed, I understand that. But, as someone who was and is a big advocate of breastfeeding as the first option, I found it really disturbing how hard Nestle, in particular, tried to market to me. (FYI, I did buy formula as an emergency back up if my husband ever needed it and I wasn’t around. We didn’t end up using it but needless to say, I didn’t buy the usual brand. I believe there are better options out there. You just have to try harder to find them because they’re not IN YOUR FACE like some other companies.)
Don’t let the clever marketing fool you.
You’re better off breastfeeding if that’s an option available to you.
Hang in there, you’re not alone
You may think breastfeeding isn’t an option available to you but maybe after you read some of the challenges you may go through in the first few months, you’ll push through. Because breastfeeding is not only rewarding for your baby, but rewarding for you, too.
Trust me. I’m dreading the day my youngest baby will not want to breastfeed anymore.
I’ve been doing it so long, through three pregnancies, it kind of makes me sad that I’m doing it less and less.
But, I will never regret my decision to breastfeed and I would encourage every mom who is able, to give it a good honest try.
If you don’t have a midwife (I wish every woman had one but that’s entirely your choice), join a support group — whether online or offline. Breast Feeding Mama Talk is a good one. If you don’t want to be subscribed to a newsletter or have to peruse blogs, you can just add their page to Facebook. The admins will give you a daily dose of laughter and encouragement, and advocate for you if you need it. They’ll also point you to the right support groups for your specific needs.
With that said. You can do it!! Hang in there!
P.S.– I know the bottom video is marketed as entertainment but, I think it’s worth a watch because these things are actually factually true. *SIGH*