I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my babies. What I didn’t know was that the choice came with some surprises. After nursing three very different babies, consulting with 3 different lactation consultants and utilizing tons of other resources, I realized that breastfeeding education and promotion is missing some very important information. I feel like it’s my duty to share some of the unspoken truths about breastfeeding in the hopes that women will be more prepared, and less likely to freak out and throw in the towel.
Look at this confident, happy and relaxed mom nursing her baby. For some women, this is what breastfeeding looks like. This image is NOT what breastfeeding is like for most women but this is what society tells us it should be. No wonder so many mom’s give it up or don’t try it at all.
They say it won’t hurt unless you have a bad latch.
This is a lie. It hurts at first no matter how you do it and it just hurts less if your baby has a great latch. All I will say is, for the first few weeks and especially for the initial latch, brace yourself. You’ll see what I mean. Getting through the first month is the hardest part. After that, it gets SO much more comfortable.
Brand new baby = tiny mouth = tiny latch = ouch
Even a wide open newborn mouth is small. Most don’t open big enough for a good latch and you will find that adjusting a latch is less painful than starting over. My oldest son had the cutest little tucked chin and dimple…which made breastfeeding very painful. He never really latched properly but I managed to “fix” it enough so it was a little less torturous. I ended up breastfeeding him for 6 months and finding a nice balance between breastfeeding and supplementing.
Jaundice is very common in breastfed newborns for two reasons. One, it takes a few days for milk to come in and feeding is what flushes the bilirubin out of the newborn's system. Two, breast milk has a component that makes the elimination of bilirubin happen more slowly. Most of the time, Jaundice clears up on its own once milk comes in with no medical intervention needed. In the meantime, you might be encouraged to supplement with formula or give your baby photo therapy (non-invasive light therapy for jaundice). Supplementing does not mean the end of breastfeeding so don’t let it discourage you. All women who plan to breastfeed should prepare to deal with Jaundice, even in a full term infant.
All babies lose about 7% of their birth weight in the first few days of life. The American Pediatric Association standard is that babies should return to their birth weight by 2 weeks. This is very possible for formula fed babies but breastfed babies usually gain their weight back a little more slowly. Babies are not robots and they are all different. Full fledged breast milk takes a few days to come in which is ok; babies just need colostrum in those first 72 hours or so. Colostrum is magical stuff but it doesn’t do much for putting weight on a baby! If you are going to breastfeed exclusively, be prepared to go in for weight checks frequently during the first few weeks. Even a doctor who advocates breastfeeding will want to make sure that the baby is gaining weight, even if it’s not at the formulated rate. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and your body. There are very few cases where a mother doesn’t make enough milk for their baby. It took me having 3 kids to really believe this!
What were some things that surprised you about breastfeeding?