Breastfeeding 101

Let’s take some time today to talk about breastfeeding. We’ve all heard that it’s the best for baby. It’s all natural, and there’s no worry about a recall happening.

But many new moms aren’t sure about breastfeeding, and have lots and lots of questions. That’s ok! I’ve been there, and it’s ok for you to ask for help.

I have breastfed 4 of my 5 babies, 2 of them exclusively past the 1 year mark, and will breastfeed this new baby as well. I have lots to say on the topic, and I hope that I can help you. If at any time you have any questions about breastfeeding, need encouragement, or just want someone to talk to that’s “been there, done that”, don’t ever hesitate to contact me. Use the contact link at the top and put “breastfeeding” as the subject. I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.

Now, let’s get on to some tips and some questions you may have about breastfeeding.

Who can I talk to about breastfeeding? First of all, hospitals should have a lactation consultant available. Most likely, one will come visit you after you give birth. She is the perfect person to field your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask her questions, either. I’m sure she’s heard them all. She is there to help you in any way that she can, so take advantage of her while she’s in the room. If your hospital doesn’t provide a lactation consultant, or you are unable to speak with her, the La Leche League has plenty of resources and ways for you to find a leader in your local area.

Is it going to hurt? I won’t lie, it does hurt at first. Until your milk comes in, you may feel some sharp pains through your breasts. These will not last forever. I promise. Soon, breastfeeding becomes second nature and you’ll forget all about those pains. For the first few weeks, I suggest you stock up on the cool gel pads you can purchase in the breastfeeding section of most stores. They will definitely help soothe the pain.

My boobs are too small (or too big) to breastfeed. Not true. A woman’s body is designed to produce milk for her baby, and it really doesn’t matter what size your breasts are. With baby #2, I had a 34A cup, and I barely fit into that. He nursed exclusively for 14 months. With my last baby, I was at a 38DD, and he nursed exclusively for 18+ months.

Will I produce enough milk? Probably. Most moms don’t have an issue with milk production. Personally, I’ve always produced an abundance of milk. Sometimes, though, moms don’t produce enough milk. Does it make her a bad mom? NOT AT ALL. Our bodies all work differently, and you should never get down on yourself because you are unable to produce the milk necessary. Talk to your doctor about supplementing some feedings with formula. Still nurse when you can, because nursing can actually help produce more milk, but don’t be afraid to supplement when necessary.

What if baby won’t latch on properly? When you speak to your lactation consultant, she will show you different holds to place the baby in. Some babies do fine cradled to your chest, while other babies need the football hold.  If you produce too much milk, it may be best for you to lie on your back and have baby latch on while on top of you. Try different positions and see which one works best for you.

What if I can’t breastfeed? There are times when mom just can’t breastfeed. She may be on a medication that would be passed to the baby through her milk. There are many reasons why moms can’t breastfeed, and it’s ok. Really. We don’t live in a perfect world, and things happen. Doesn’t make you any less of a mom. Talk to your pediatrician and find the formula that’s right for your baby. I actually had to stop breastfeeding my 3rd child because he was so allergic to my milk that it almost killed him. We had to find a very special formula that he could drink. It was scary, yes, but once we figured out that my milk was the problem, I had to stop breastfeeding. It happens.

What if I just don’t want to breastfeed? Then that is absolutely your choice. I decided not to breastfeed my first child. I was very young, didn’t understand the benefits, and had no desire to “share my boobs” with my baby. Foolish? Maybe. But, it was my choice. To this day, my daughter is healthy and happy, and spending the first year on formula didn’t harm her in any way. Breastfeeding may make you uncomfortable, and it may not be right for you. Talk to your pediatrician about finding the right formula for your baby instead.

I also want to say something about breastfeeding. It is NOT the miracle weight loss option that so many make it out to be, and I am so tired of hearing that. You may lose weight while breastfeeding, you may not. No one can tell you for sure. While breastfeeding does help you burn between 300 – 500 calories per day, it can also make you hungry all the time. Your body may not be able to handle burning those extra calories, so it may need you to take in more food to help produce the milk. Only time will tell if you will lose weight while breastfeeding or not. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t lose the weight while breastfeeding. Just remember that it will all be worth it in the end, and someday you can focus on the weight loss. It doesn’t have to be right this minute.

Also, breastfeeding is NOT birth control. My son, Zander, was breastfed exclusively, (no bottles at all!), and when he was 4 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. I hadn’t started my period back or anything. Talk about a shock. But, it happens. Talk to your doctor about birth control options while breastfeeding… unless, of course, you want another baby right away. 🙂

What has your experience been like with breastfeeding? Are you considering breastfeeding for the first time? Do you have concerns? Are you a breastfeeding expert who has done this for years and have some tips you want to share?

If you have any questions or advice for breastfeeding moms, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or send them to me via the contact form. Let’s encourage the breastfeeding moms out there!