Breastfeeding can be intimidating. We all have heard time and again it is the best choice for babies. Everyone has their own list of reasons about why you should breastfeed.
As you consider breastfeeding, or maybe just want to know other people’s thoughts about it, here are some breastfeeding tips I wish I had known from the start. I hope these will help you, as you make the best choices for your family. I knew before my first son was born that I wanted to breastfeed. I was positive that it was the best choice for me and for him.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of things I did not know until after I started. Some of these things took me more than one baby to figure out!
1. Everyone is an “Expert”
“He’s not getting enough,” “you should only nurse on one side per feeding,” “Never eat onions.” The list goes on and on. Everyone has advice about what you should do and how you should breastfeed your baby.
The truth is there are a lot of theories about the “best” ways to breastfeed. It might be best for you to keep your baby on a very regimented schedule, but it might not. Your baby might react to certain foods, but they might not. You will learn to be an expert at meeting your baby’s needs as you practice breastfeeding and observe your baby’s and your body’s reactions to different things you try. You might even have two babies that react very differently and need different care when nursing.
2. Breastfeeding is Not Hard
I was horrified one day at a baby shower when several young moms were giving advice to a friend who was getting ready to have a baby. Many of them focussed on how difficult breastfeeding is, and that it is okay to give up after a few weeks. It is not hard, however. God made women with bodies designed for feeding babies. We were made to nourish our little ones, and once we have some practice it is very easy to do.
3. Breastfeeding IS Hard
Okay, it is hard, too. Sometimes you have to wake up in the middle of the night to nurse a baby. Sometimes she is fussy and we cannot figure out why. Sometimes it takes getting used to. Sometimes babies grow teeth…ouch. Breastfeeding can be hard.
4. Sometimes it Hurts
I had no idea what thrush was when I started nursing Manasseh (my firstborn). I could not figure out for a few weeks, why I was having so much pain and why I suddenly was bleeding. I learned quickly that thrush (a yeast infection that sometimes passes between mama and baby) hurts. I also learned that there is medicine to help when your body gets sore. There are warm and cold compresses to help when your milk comes in and your breasts get swollen and tender. You will make it through the pain.
This is the most important things I learned when I had baby number two. Your local WIC office or La Leche League can point you in the right direction when you have problems or questions. If you don’t have access to either of those, call the lactation consultant at your local hospital.
I struggled with my first son. We both got sick his first winter. By 7 months old, he was losing weight, I was not producing enough and could not figure out how to reverse that problem. I did not know there was help available, so at 7 months old, I felt I had to quit nursing my baby. There is help when you have problems, look for it and do not be embarrassed.
6. Some People are Extra Sensitive
Nipples are made to be sensitive. I think God had a sense of humor when he made them that way. For some people, when they start nursing a baby, they feel a little bit of sexual arousal. This is not something to be ashamed of—it is normal. This sensitivity will lessen over time.
7. Breastfeeding is Extremely Convenient
When you exclusively breastfeed, there is no need to measure formula, find the right kind of water, carry a huge diaper bag, or carry special equipment. You always have dinner with you, anywhere you go! You can nurse anywhere! Breastfeeding is certainly the most convenient way for a mama to care for her infant.
8. There is No Need to be Ashamed
My little cousin had a hard time figuring out how to breastfeed her first baby in public. She felt like she needed to have him covered just right, and hold him in just the right way. She excused herself to another room to nurse.
God made our bodies so amazingly. He gave us this incredible ability. There is no reason to be ashamed of nursing babies. Some women even nurse without a cover. (I am in awe of them because I am not quite able to convince myself to be that free and open.) There is no need to hide when nourishing your little one.
9. No One is a Pro
Like I said before, everyone is an expert at breastfeeding. One of the best things I learned, is that no one has all of the answers. A lot of what the “experts” do is educated guessing and trying different ideas to figure out what works best to help you and your baby. You will learn to be an expert with your own baby. When you have another baby, you will learn all over again!
10. You Need More Water
I wish I had realized how much water I would need to help me stay hydrated when I started breastfeeding. It really would have helped me to prepare. I would have started increasing my water intake long before baby came. Nursing a baby can be dehydrating. Extra water helps give you energy and keep your body in balance.
11. It Can be Exhausting
Breastfeeding can wear you out. You have to wake up in the night, newborns require a lot more help to nurse than older babies. You are at baby’s beck and call, he may need you every 2-3 hours! Nursing is physically demanding. It really takes a lot out of you. You will get that energy back in a few months, take the time to rest when you get the chance.
12. It is Incredibly Rewarding
You are giving your baby a great start by breastfeeding. You can be proud of yourself to doing the right thing for him. You might choose to nurse for a few months or a few years. Regardless of how long you breastfeed your baby, you will gain a special bond with your child as a result of the closeness that comes from nursing.
The rewards outweigh the troubles. Whatever struggles or joys you find in breastfeeding, others have been there as well. Look for friends who have breastfed and can commiserate with you. Find someone you respect, who has nursed her child, and ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to call “the experts” for some breastfeeding tips. There are answers, you are not alone.
If you’ve breastfed, what do you wish you had known about breastfeeding?
If you haven’t breastfed, what are you most nervous about?
Be sure to check out all of the posts in the Breastfeeding & Beyond series!
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Jenn is the wife to an amazing man; mama to 3 sweet boys and works seasonally as a program director at a fantastic church camp. She is a breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering weirdo. Her family is on an adventure toward health and wholeness together as they seek to honor God with their every day choices concerning their whole bodies. Jennifer blogs at Kid of God. You can also follow Jennifer on Pinterest.