Things No One Told Us About Breastfeeding

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“I wish I knew about xx sooner” has become my postpartum mantra. Breastfeeding is a magical way to bond with your baby but it is not without challenges. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, here’s what I  wish I knew before I started breastfeeding:

Lean on Your Partner. Until you introduce bottles, your partner may feel as useless as well … male nipples. There are still plenty of ways to pitch in: midnight diaper changes and burps, washing pump parts and bottles, filling and refilling water bottles, prepping meals and snacks, or scaling laundry mountain taking over the corner. 

Positions Matter. We’re not just talking about cradle, football or on your side. “Mother’s Wrist” (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis) is an inflammation of the tendons from the thumb to the wrist. Top culprits? Post-pregnancy hormones and loose ligaments combined with repetitive motions and improper positioning. Pay attention to your posture, hand positioning, how you carry the baby, use your pillow, and stretch often.

Glug, glug. I thought the maternity nurse was joking when she said you need to drink a half gallon of water a day. After headaches on day two, I stocked up on reusable bottles to quench my insatiable thirst. 

Eat up. You thought you were hungry while pregnant, just wait until you breastfeed! Your postpartum body is in recovery mode, so it is important to get the right nourishment (an extra 300-500 nutritious calories per day). You know what you won’t have while nursing? A free hand. Pack your pantry and fridge with protein bars, trail mix, fruit, yogurt, cheese, and smoothies. 

Always on the clock. During those first few whirlwind weeks, it feels like the baby just wants to be on the boob all day. Babies should have eight or more feedings over the course of 24 hours, and each session can last between 20 – 45 minutes. Over the course of one year, you’ll spend 1,800 hours breastfeeding. A full-time job with three weeks of vacation is 1,960 hours. And, that doesn’t include time spent washing bottles and pump parts, packing and unpacking your pump bag, and other breastfeeding tasks. It’s no wonder why you feel like a cow at times! 

Find Time Savers: In the beginning, my daughter ate every two hours, leaving 30-45 minutes for me. At times, I wanted to eat, sleep, and nap at the same time. If I could go back in time, I’d ignore the dishes and use that time to focus on myself. Don’t want to cook? Set up a meal train. Opt for disposables instead of washing dishes. Prep your freezer with meals. Bring in someone to clean the house. 

Registries Aren’t Just Baby: Parenting is one of the few jobs that requires no experience and is a learn-as-you-go kind of job. There are so many fabulous books out there to help you navigate new parenthood. Plus, you will thank us when you’re bored during a 3 am nursing session with only one hand free (thank you Libby, Overdrive, and our local library). Or ask for Netflix, Audible, Spotify, iTunes, or other gift cards to help pass the time. 

Plan Ahead: We went on a family field trip around month two. I figured I would nurse, so I didn’t need to bring bottles, my pump, or Haakaa. My SIL and MIL would have happily fed my daughter if I would have planned better. Before you walk out the door (with or without the babe), make a feeding or pumping plan and bring your surplus of supplies. 

It Can Feel Isolating: It is not always fun to be up at 3 am with a snoring partner next to you or being in a corner at a social event nursing or pumping. That’s where FB groups come in – someone is always up and looking to trade advice, rants, gossip, or stories.

Stretch Those Pecs: My pecs were very happy when I discovered stretches for breastfeeding… around month six. Do yourself a favor, and add these exercises in your daily breastfeeding routine for happy pecs, shoulders, chest, and neck.

Tune Out Outside Pressure: Breastfeeding can feel mentally and physically draining at times. It can be fulfilling and magical. You may want to stop after two days, two months, or two years. At the end of the day, you need to go with your gut. Every parenting journey is different. You have to make choices that fit your family, lifestyle, schedule, baby, and body. At the end of the day, a full baby (from formula or milk) and happy mom are all that really matter. 

Have more breastfeeding questions? Listen to these episodes: