Full disclosure: this post might be a little too real for some people. If the thought of breastfeeding grosses you out, then turn back now. I won’t be offended.
But if you are a mom who has breastfed, or a pregnant woman considering breastfeeding, then this post is for you.
1. Until your baby is born, you don’t truly know if you are going to be able to breastfeed or not.
Some babies latch like a champ. Others, regardless of how many lactation consultants you see, refuse to latch correctly, and simply prefer the bottle to the breast.
It is fine to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby is born, and to prepare yourself, but do not consider yourself a failure if breastfeeding does not work out. Fed is best.
2. Breastfeeding may not save you much money over formula-feeding.
If your primary motivation for breastfeeding is to save money, you should consider the cost of a breast pump (should be free for anyone in the US via insurance), pump accessories, hands free pumping bra, bottles for the pump, breastmilk storage bags, breast pads for milk leakage, nursing bras, nursing tanks, nursing covers, lactation cookies or lactation tea for low supply, etc.
3. Breastfeeding can help you lose the baby weight faster (to an extent).
Most sources state that a breastfeeding mom will burn an extra 500 calories a day. But, to maintain your milk supply, a breastfeeding mother needs to eat extra calories everyday too, like when she was pregnant. (Also, an exclusively breastfeeding mother will most likely be hungry all the time, “hangry” as I call it, akin to when she was 9 months pregnant.)
As a breastfeeding mother of a 7-month old, I am 10 pounds from my goal weight, without attempting to diet or exercise, though one could argue taking care of 2 under 2 every day is its own form of exercise. I do not believe I will lose those final 10 pounds until I stop breastfeeding, as your body needs some fat stores for milk production.
4. An exclusively or primarily breastfeeding mother may not have a period for quite a while.
The average return of your period is anywhere from 6 months to 1 year if you are primarily breastfeeding. Consider it a breastfeeding bonus, after dealing with 6 straight weeks of bleeding after childbirth.
For me, it’s 7 months and counting with my daughter…
If you don’t breastfeed, you can expect your period to return around 6-8 weeks postpartum. I was unable to breastfeed my son, and my period returned 2 months postpartum. At 2 ½ months postpartum, I got pregnant with my daughter. Hence, the Irish twins. So yes, the adage holds true, after childbirth, you are very fertile.
5. Your milk supply will regulate a few months after childbirth.
During those first few months, you probably will be leaking all the time, and breast pads will become a necessity. But eventually, your supply will level off, and your baby will become a more efficient feeder. You will no longer experience the dramatic “letdown sensation” that you did in the early months of breastfeeding.
At 7 months postpartum, I no longer need to wear breast pads, unless I know I am going to be away from home for 5+ hours and might not be able to breastfeed while away.
6. Your baby may nurse from only one side per feeding (and that is perfectly fine).
My daughter has nursed from one side per feeding since she was a few weeks old. I try to offer both, but she typically falls asleep after nursing from one side only.
Consequently, you may find yourself groping yourself throughout the day, trying to recall what side your baby should nurse from at the next feeding. (FYI, the fuller, more firm and uncomfortable side is the side that needs nursed from next.)
7. If your baby is using the boob as a pacifier, give your child a pacifier.
Trust me. Your sore boobs deserve a break. I know most breastfeeding advocates will discourage the use of the pacifier, but in my experience that is ridiculous.
My daughter first used a pacifier when she was a day old, and I even supplemented with bottles in the hospital, to help her get rid of her jaundice faster. Despite the disapproval of the lactation consultants, my daughter never had a problem breastfeeding.
Moms, trust your instincts. If you need a break from breastfeeding in those first few days of recovery, take it. Give your baby that pacifier or that ready-made bottle, and feel no guilt whatsoever.
8. If you need to nurse or bottle-feed your baby to sleep, do it.
I still nurse my 7-month old to sleep every night. The experts will say that is a bad habit, and needs stopped immediately, but this mama needs sleep. If nursing my daughter to sleep is the fastest way to get her to sleep, you best believe I will do it.
Don’t feel guilty if that is what you need to do also.
9. Once your breastfeeding baby gets teeth, you will probably get bitten.
It’s not really an “if,” but more of a “when.”
My daughter has her 2 bottom teeth, and let me tell you, when she bites down on my nipple with her teeth, it hurts like hell. I can only assume it will get worse as more teeth come in. I’m seriously contemplating weaning her early, because of these random biting instances.
10. Mothers are superheroes.
Who else can say they carried their baby for 9 months inside their belly, and then used their own body to provide nourishment for that baby?
11. Have fun with breastfeeding.
Every breastfeeding mother has probably squirted her “liquid gold” across the room a time or two, just to see how far it goes. I recommend doing this in the shower, as it is also helpful when relieving engorgement.
12. Cherish the breastfeeding moments.
Every mother knows that the breastfeeding stage is a very small phase in a child’s life. So, enjoy it while it lasts. The bond that develops between a breastfeeding mother and her child is super special. Whether you have a newborn that has just passed out on your lap, milk-drunk, or a 6-month old that has just finished eating and is now grinning widely up at her mama, remember these days. Take a picture in your mind so that you can remember the days of babyhood and innocence, before your child becomes a rebellious teenager.