Monday, March 14, 2011

The truth about breastfeeding

I recently received the following email, and although I did reply to the sender personally, I thought that the info may be helpful to others as well, so I decided to share my reply here for anyone else who may be interested.

The email said:
"Hey Megan, how have you been? So I am one week away from delivery and besides freaking out about everything I need some mommy advice about breast feeding. You would think I would be worrying about many other things regarding bringing a newborn home but for some reason the thing that scares me the most is breast feeding and pumping! I have a clinical rotation 8 weeks after the baby is born so I know I will have to begin pumping soon and I just have no clue any nursing basics. I have been reading and reading but please enlighten me will I ever be able to go to the store again with out having to find somewhere to feed or pump :) I don't know if you still breastfeed but I was thinking you had talked about breastfeeding before in your blogs. I hope this isnt too personal, I just know youre a mommy pro and may have some good advice. Thanks,{name removed to protect the innocent}"

My reply:

Oh, sweetie, I'm an open book and I have nothing that's too personal to ask about.
First, GOOD FOR YOU, for wanting to breastfeed! I truly do believe (as all the studies show) that it's best for baby. And on top of that, for a selfish reason for mommy's, it really does help you lose the baby weight. Double bonus.

Brand new baby Isabelle

As for breastfeeding, here's the truth:
Usually it starts out fine. Babies are somehow born knowing how to breastfeed, but if yours does have any problems with latching on or anything like that, the hospital will have lactation consultants to chat with. If you have any concerns, ASK! Don't be embarrassed! They have seen and heard it all, and are there to help.

Be prepared to spend a LOT of time breastfeeding. Some babies can eat for 30 minutes, while others are done in 10. YOU will have to meet baby's schedule, not the other way around. Breastmilk is quickly digested, so babies need fed often.
For the first month or so, there were times when my little one would want to eat almost every hour!! There's nothing you can do but feed them when they want to eat.
Try to enjoy this time with your little one. Even though I love baby cuddles, I know there were times that I would stress about the laundry that needed done or the living room that needed picked up while I was sitting there nursing for what felt like the 100th time that day.
You'll have a much better outlook if you decide to see it as a special time you get with baby, because soon enough that little baby will be way too active to sit and snuggle with mama.
being a mama AND a baby is exhausting!

Next, anywhere from a day to 3-4 days after you give birth, your milk will come in BIG TIME. Your boobs will be SO FULL and yes, it does hurt. Not like, painful, but achey. You can pump between feedings to lessen the pressure if you're feeling too full. There will still be enough milk for your little one. (and if anything it will increase your milk supply...your body adjusts how much milk it makes to how much is demanded of it)
Also, when the milk "lets down" it's such an odd feeling. Kinda...tingly and weird. You'll see! I really can't explain it.
Oh yes, invest in nursing pads. I guess everyones milk supply differs and apparently some people never leak, but I must have super milk makers, cause in the first few months I leaked A LOT. My favorites are the lansinoh nursing pads. I also use their milk storage bags, by the way.

At this point, hopefully everything is going smoothly and you're thinking BFing is a breeze, and then all of a sudden, your nipples will start to hurt!! This is natural, it happened with both my babies, and from what I can tell, happens to all moms. It's just something you don't always hear about. Anyway, I'm telling you this so that you can be prepared for it and know that it's expected. It's an actual hurt, not just uncomfortable, and usually you just feel it when you first start a feeding, and then you adjust to the pain and it's not a big deal. Just push through and I promise your nipples will get tougher and it won't hurt anymore.
Within about a month, max, things should be pretty normal. You shouldn't have any pain and you and your baby should both be a natural at it.

As for pumping, I'm not the best resource for that. I never had to do a TON of pumping, so I always just used a manual pump. I have the madela harmony and it works great. however, if you're going to be away from baby for like 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I'd probably consider an electric pump. For pumping, you just pump at whatever schedule baby usually eats. So if you're away a few hours, don't worry about it. Anything over 3 though, you should probably pump, both for your comfort (the girls will get full!) and to keep your milk supply constant.

As for feeding in public, that's totally a personal issue. If baby gets hungry, I will whip it out where ever and have no shame. However, I can totally understand, especially with your first baby, feeling unsure about it. I would get a nursing cover, if I were you. It really does keep the goods out of view, but is still easy to nurse baby. I have a hooter hider brand one, and have been happy with it. In addition to nursing bras, I actually prefer nursing tank tops. I wear a nursing tank top underneath every single shirt every single day, that way I'm not stuck with wearing nursing shirts (not the most flattering!) but instead I can wear what I want, and if I lift that top layer to feed baby, everything is still covered by the nursing tank top. (if that makes sense).

So, after ALLLLLLLL that I wrote (haha sorry!) I don't think you'll need to pump while you're out running errands or going to the store, unless you're doing like a day full of errands. And while the "average" is that babies will want to nurse every 3 hours, that isn't necessarily the schedule yours will follow. And just when you think your baby has made their own little schedule and you've got it all figured out, it'll probably change! :)

Oh, last thing. EAT. A LOT. Your body uses more calories to make milk then it does to grow a baby. If you don't eat enough, your body will not make enough milk. I've known a few people who were soooo worried about losing baby weight that they tried to diet hardcore after baby and just couldn't make milk and had to give up breastfeeding. To me, getting to breastfeed my baby was (and is) more important than losing 5 lbs. Also, drink lots and lots and lots of water.

In closing, I'm all for breastfeeding. While there are a few unpleasant moments and it's not blissful perfection every single time, overall, it is great. It's a special time to snuggle up with baby, and I have to admit, it feels pretty amazing to know that you are the source of all food for your baby. Pretty impressive, eh?"

So there's my two cents and then some on breastfeeding. I know every woman's situation is unique, and what applies for me may not apply for you, but I'm all for encouraging all mamas to at least give breastfeeding a try!


  1. Megan, this is awesome. I couldn't have written in any better myself.

    I breastfed all three of my children (and was even pregnant with my 3rd and nursing my 7 month old at the same time for 3 months! That was tough.)

    I was literally pregnant and/or breastfeeding for 5 years straight...and looking back, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

    I wish I had been more confident in public back then nursing my first baby as I was when I HAD to be by the time my 2nd and 3rd came (which all 3 happened all very fast and close together.)

    I actually design a "Discreet 'n Chic" nursing cover for my boutique. Can I make a shameless a plug? Haha! ;) The Pea Closet - a personalized, trendy, handmade boutique

    How I wish I had one about 6 years ago. The only ones around that I knew of were very, very ugly! Haha. Times have changed!

    I think it's great you shared this info. I loved breastfeeding. Nothing can compare with the bond you create with your baby. :)

    Sophisticated Steps

  2. I love this post. I actually pumped exclusively for 3 months, so I can offer pumping advice, but not breastfeeding advice :)

  3. I am just freaked out to have kids. What a huge responsibility! ahh!

    This post confirmed that for me! hah!!

  4. this is such great info! i'm not a mom yet, but i hope to be one day soon and i can't wait to breastfeed :)

  5. Tell her to spend the money on a GOOD electric pump. I went back to work when my son was 7 weeks old and had The First Years double electric pump. It was under $100 and worked fine for a while but if I had it to do over again, I would have invested in a much better one.

    I was also too modest about nursing in public in the beginning. I got over it after a while and would nurse him anywhere. I never used a nursing cover - just one of those flannel receiving blankets.

    Tell her to ask the hospital for a tube of lanolin to use to help prevent cracked nipples.

    Glad you posted this!

  6. What a great post! Thanks for all the honesty and information! I hope to be able to breastfeed when I have babies!

  7. You rock! and I totally agree with a TON of this! <3 I worked at WIC back in Florida before the move and was blessed enough to work daily with all the breastfeeding counselors! plus im a breastfed baby! so I want to try for sure! I'll be hitting ya up for more info someday ;)

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  8. This post is awesome - great job, momma!!! I just posted my story about this same topic today and I know you had mentioned in a sweet comment to me yesterday that you had blogged about this too!! I used the same medical sign pic for my post too as everything else looked like a clip from one of the videos in class - too funny!!!


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