Looking back on my years as a mother, I’ve gotten a lot smarter over the years. My younger children have reaped the benefit of my experience. If I had known even half of what I know now, I would have been a much better mother to Abigail.
One of the steepest learning curves as a new mother is breastfeeding. Over the summer, my friend Kathryn stopped in to share her best breastfeeding tips for new mothers.
Today, I’ll share the things I’ve learned about breastfeeding along the way that would have saved me a lot of stress as a new mother.
1. It’s ‘natural’ but not always easy
Looking back, I seriously had no idea how to nurse a baby. Being a naive 20 year old, I just assumed that everyone nursed, and that everyone knew how to do it. Like walking or breathing.
Boy, was I wrong.
No one told me about my milk coming in (when I thought somehow, Pamela Anderson had taken over my body).
No one showed me different latches, or what to do about cracked nipples.
Looking back, it’s a wonder I even attempted nursing again.
2. You will be busy, at least initially
Breastfed babies eat a lot … sometimes every hour. Ever experienced cluster feeding? You’ll be camped out on the couch or in the bed for 2 to 3 hours at a time, usually in the early evening.
It’s just what breastfed babies do. Nothing is wrong with them, or with your milk. They need the nursing and the comfort.
3. You need a good support team
When my oldest daughter was a baby, I only knew a handful of women who nursed their babies. Even smaller were the number of mothers who pumped at work.
Abigail’s father wasn’t unhelpful, but like most dads in that time period, he had no idea what he needed to do to help support a breastfeeding relationship.
I attribute much of my breastfeeding success nowadays to my husband. He’s kept me fed and hydrated, changed many more diapers than I do, and cheers me on when I’m ready to throw in the towel.
4. It can hurt
Initially, breastfeeding can be uncomfortable until you get your latch under control. If you have a baby with a shallow latch, they’re not taking enough of the areola in, and your nipples can get red and raw.
If you’re having baby number 2, (or 5, in my case), nursing a newborn brings on after pains. Perfectly normal way your body shrinks your uterus back down to size, but ooh boy! It hurts.
5. You CAN go back to work and nurse
With my oldest daughter, I really didn’t have a clue about going back to work and nursing. It never occurred to me that I could do that, so I weaned her at about 6 weeks.
When Rachel was born, I was determined I was going to nurse her longer, despite working full time. At that time, I was working for a busy cardiology practice. I pumped on breaks, taking phone calls, answering pages, and doing paperwork. Lunches were spent pumping as well. It was a sacrifice I was happy to make for my sweet baby girl.
Now, I’m an Emergency Room nurse, and still pump for the baby. It can be a challenge to squeeze in pumping sessions, but it can be done.
My best tip? Set up an area where you can leave your equipment out – this saves loads of time.
6. You will stop leaking … seriously
Leaking is one of my least favorite things about nursing.
It’s no fun being in church or at work, then realizing you forgot breast pads. Argh! Hearing a baby cry or even thinking about your little one can trigger a letdown and a wet shirt.
Slowly but surely, your body starts to acclimate and figure out how much milk to produce. It’s amazing.
7. You can nurse in public
Just a few days after Maeve was born, we attended Good Friday services with my in-laws. Of course, she needed to eat.
My first nursing in public experience was in a glass church, set up in the round. No quiet dark corners here. We sailed through with flying colors, and there’s not many places in the area where I haven’t nursed a baby. We’ve visited restaurants, parks, the zoo, churches, pools and water parks without missing a beat.
I don’t use a cover, but there are an array of beautiful styles available.
8.There are health benefits for mom
You’ll often hear about health benefits for babies from breastfeeding, but moms benefit too.
For myself, post baby weight seems to come off faster. (maybe not so much now that I’m older.) Research points to a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers who breastfeed.
From a psychological standpoint, nursing is wonderful for my state of mind. A nursing baby ensures that I’m taking time to sit down, rest, and snuggle with my sweet baby.
9.You can nurse a baby for 6 months, a year, even longer. You can even nurse twins!
In my experience, the first 3 months of nursing a baby is the hardest. After that, you’re in a groove. I tend to hit a rough patch around 5 to 6 months with keeping up with pumping and my milk stash, but that’s because I tend to get lazy about pumping.
I don’t have a time frame in my head about weaning. I nursed Rachel until she was 22 months old, and the boys nursed even longer — 27 months. Based on that history, I suspect Maeve will be nursing until she’s 2 or older.
Nursing twins is a huge challenge, but it’s an accomplishment in my life of which I’m the most proud.
10. It’s OK if it doesn’t work for you
Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone.
Give it a solid try — even if you can’t hang in for the long haul, a few weeks of nursing is better for your baby than none of all.
As an experienced and savvy mom, I’ve learned to juggle multiple things at once, and do it well!
More About Pregnancy and Childbirth
Things I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding
Surviving Your First Trimester
Things You Should NEVER Say to a Pregnant Woman
Things to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Getting Your Groove Back After a New Baby
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Comforts For Baby. The opinions and text are all mine.