This post has been rolling around in my head for a few weeks since I had lunch with a work friend of mine who is now in those first amazing days of motherhood. So excited for her! Motherhood is amazing. It’s hard and crazy, but amazing. When we had lunch, she was still pregnant and had recently been to a breastfeeding class. She was excited about that new part of her life, too.
“I don’t know,” she said with a questioning look in her eye, “It seems kind of simple and straightforward…”
I cocked my head to the side and inhaled. I wanted to tell her the truth, you know, the capital-T Truth that isn’t in the books.
“It is… and it isn’t…” is all I managed to get out before we were distracted by chips and salsa arriving at our table.
Some background: My sweet daughter is 11-months-old, and we are (somewhat ambivalently) still breastfeeding 3 times a day with one sippy cup at lunch. I count it a blessing that we’ve been able to continue this long, but I am also looking forward to the day we are done. Overall, we haven’t had too hard of a time with it, but it hasn’t all been smooth either. It has been simple and straightforward… and it hasn’t.
For you soon-to-be mommies out there, let me share a few things I didn’t know before we started.
- First off, remember that if you are a first time mommy (or at first time breastfeeder) neither you nor your baby have ever done this before. It is somewhat instinctual, God designed us to get this done, but it is also somewhat learned. Get all the help you can in the hospital, even if things are going pretty well. Have the nurses check over your shoulder, ask to see a lactation consultant, take advantage of the resources at your disposal before you go home.
- You might bleed. It’s okay. Use lanolin, get those gel-pad thingies, and rest assured that breasts heal rather quickly. It might be a little uncomfortable, but it is not the end of your breastfeeding.
- You will read that if you are nursing correctly, it will not hurt. Lies. It kind of hurts at first.
- You will also read that your baby having a sensitivity to something you eat is unlikely. Anecdotally, I have found that is not true. My baby had a dairy sensitivity, and I can count several friends of mine whose babies had varying degrees of food sensitivities — mostly dairy related — which caused Mom to need to alter her diet. It may not happen to you and yours, but if you feel like something is just not right, I would explore this further.
- I was told that the first few months are the hardest, and that if I can get through that, things will be golden. That was totally NOT the case for me. The first few months were comparatively easy. Yes, you nurse frequently and for long periods of time at the beginning, but for us, that was the easy part. The back half of the year has been where our challenges have been… which brings me to number 6…
- Here are some terms I’d never even considered typing into my Google search bar until I became a breastfeeding mother: milk protein sensitivity, milk blister, how to work out a clogged milk duct, baby distracted while nursing, baby biting while nursing, milk supply issues and menstrual cycle, milk supply issues and Claritin
- If lack of sleep, trying to balance work and home, and just the general condition of new motherhood hasn’t driven you to new levels of madness, cleaning all of the parts of your pump over and over and over again certainly will.
- Breastfeeding is a special, beautiful season of life. For me, even in my current ambivalence, it has been worth the struggles. I would do it again in a heartbeat. But I believe the struggles will come — whether in the first days or in the last. When you are facing those struggles, take a deep breath and pray. As with many things in life, it takes discernment to know when to push through and when to let go. It’s easy to get stubborn about it. Don’t let the “gold star” of meeting your original goal become more important to you than your overall well-being. A happy, healthy mommy means a happy, healthy baby whether breastfed or formula-fed.
What about you other nursing mommies out there? What surprised you about breastfeeding?