When I do the math, I’ve been pregnant or nursing for the last 11 years. My routine was to nurse a baby for a year, and then get pregnant. My sister had her first baby about 6 months before I had my first baby, and I took a lot of my cues from her. I didn’t do everything she did (I’ll go for the epidural every time), but it was definitely helpful to watch someone go through everything that I was about to experience.
I’m a firm believer in the theory that having kids makes you an expert on your kids. Having six kids doesn’t make me more of an expert because each of my kids are different, and I was different with each of my kids. The only thing that having six kids means is that I’ve nursed six babies… some more successfully than others!
These are some of the things that I’ve learned along the way. I hope this list helps with questions you might have, but don’t use it in place of your doctor’s advice (or your own instincts):
- Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it comes naturally: You hear it all the time, breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world… except when it isn’t! It can take a while for a baby to get used to nursing and for mom to get used to nursing. Don’t give up if you don’t get it right away, it will get better.
- It also gets worse: I don’t want to scare you away from having more kids, but the first week of nursing gets progressively more painful with each baby. It’s one of those things that you think will never get better, but it does. In the meantime, your doctor probably prescribed you something just for this!
- A little formula won’t kill your milk supply: When I went to the first check up for my first baby, the doctor told me that it was perfectly fine to let someone else give my baby a bottle for the middle of the night feeding. One bottle could save my sanity, and my milk would be fine. That wasn’t something I needed with my first, but I can tell you that when I had the rest of my babies, I let them stay the night in the nursery at the hospital, and I let the nurses give them bottles. I knew that I wouldn’t get sleep when I was home, and I needed one night of sleep to get me ready!
- Nursing pads: You may be that one woman who doesn’t leak milk in the middle of Costco, but just in case, you want to be prepared! This is all stuff you can get delivered from Amazon. Just purchase a box of nursing pads before you have the baby, and stash a couple in your purse (because the one time you really need these babies, it will be the one time you don’t have your diaper bag).
- Watch what you eat: What you eat affects the taste and side effects of your milk. Some babies don’t do well with chocolate, some don’t do well with spicy food. My last baby would not nurse if I ate broccoli! Generally speaking, if food does a number on your digestive system, it probably won’t agree with your baby.
- You will fall asleep: It’s going to happen. You’re going to get your baby for a night feeding with every intention of singing a lullaby, nursing, and then putting the baby back to bed … and then you’ll wake up and hour later, holding your baby wondering what happened. You’re going to feel horrible for a minute, and then you’re going to realize that you just got an hour’s sleep, and you’ll be okay!
- Get a good nursing bra x 3: I’m partial to the Bravado brand, but definitely get three of whichever type works for you. For the first couple of weeks you’re going to want to sleep with one just to help you get comfortable, and there will be leaking, so you’re going to want to have an extra in the rotation.
- You won’t burn that many calories: People say breastfeeding is a great weight tool, and that might be true when you’re 25 and a nursing baby number one, that’s not necessarily the case when you’re 35! Nursing burns calories, but burning all those calories makes you hungry.
- To schedule or not to schedule: When my sister had her baby, she was a big believer in nursing on demand, and not having her baby cry. I was a big believer in a schedule. You have to do what works for you and your family, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about what works for you.
- Mastitis: This is no joke. If you get a fever and are not feeling right, call your midwife or ob-gyn. The quicker that you get it treated, the quicker that you will start feeling better. Don’t tough it out. You want breastfeeding to be a bonding experience, you don’t want to be delirious and in pain!
- The peep show: I never had an issue nursing babies in public. I’ve nursed on airplanes, in restaurants, and at amusement parks. Sometimes people stare, but what can you do? It was always such a hassle to figure out nursing a new baby while maneuvering a blanket. That being said, my favorite spots for nursing are the Nordstrom Women’s Lounge & Disney World!
Let me know what I missed. What are some of the breastfeeding realities that you’ve learned?