When possible, breastfeeding is definitely the preferred way of providing nutrition to your baby. In fact, the World Health Organisation suggests that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age,
However, knowing that breastfeeding is really beneficial to babies was the extent of my “preparedness” for what was yet to come.
Perhaps that was my fault, by not reading up more about it. But at the same time, I suppose I figured it would just come naturally. Besides, this is how babies have been fed since the beginning of human existence!
Little did I know, breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily come naturally to new mothers. It isn’t always easy. And it is worth being prepared.
Here are 7 things that I was totally unprepared for with breastfeeding. In retrospect, I wish I was a little more ready – it definitely would’ve made things easier!
Note that these are my personal experiences. Every woman and their baby have their own circumstances so some of these points may not necessarily apply! Affiliate links to products I love and recommend are included below. Please ready my disclosure for more info.
1. It isn’t easy, at first.
If you’re a first time mum, breastfeeding is a huge learning experience! Even if you’ve just had your second or third child, things will probably be different with them compared with your others. It takes practice and effort, but it’s totally worth sticking through the initial hurdles of mastering latching and positioning.
In the first few postpartum days, I really had no idea what I was doing – I didn’t know how to get my baby to latch properly, it was painful and I was super unconfident about the whole thing.
However, I found that having the midwives at the hospital help me with breastfeeding made a world of difference. It was really helpful having them there so I could ask them any questions, they’d advise me if my technique could be improved, and in general they were really supportive.
If you’re back at home and still struggling, reach out to a lactation consultant or connect with a La Leche League group/leader.
Keep in mind that when breastfeeding correctly, it shouldn’t hurt. So for your baby’s sake and your own, it’s better to seek help and advice rather than suffer in silence if it’s painful or difficult.
2. Beware of the engorgement.
Even that word makes me cringe. It’s definitely not a pleasant feeling, but it’s something every breastfeeding mama is very likely going to experience at some point.
I learnt about it the hard way. (See what I did there?? Okay, moving on…) I skipped a feed or two when I went out with friends, while hubby was at home giving a bottle during this time. What I didn’t realise until it happened was that this was a pretty definite way of causing engorgement! *facepalm* I guess this was a clear indicator of how little I knew about the whole process…
Throughout my months of breastfeeding, I’ve been lucky enough to not get mastitis, because it’s quite a common issue. Fortunately there are also a variety of ways to help avoid it. Being aware of the warning signs and applying early remedies can be crucial in preventing any escalating problems.
3. Get ready to leak.
I was 5 months postpartum and I was still wearing breast pads daily. Is that even normal?!
Anyway, apparently leaking breasts are actually a good indicator that lactation is working as expected! It’s your body’s way of helping ease engorgement. It does, however, happen quite unpredictably – so it’s worth being prepared. The Pigeon honeycomb breast pads are my favourite.
4. You’ll be extra hungry and thirsty.
Making milk is hard work! Particularly when your little one is nursing around the clock.
In fact, most women who are breastfeeding need around 200-500 more calories than mothers who aren’t in order to keep up with your baby’s needs. Just try and avoid the junk food or unhealthy snacks. Indulge in some healthier options instead.
You could also try lactation cookies/bars (such as Boobie Bars) – I’ve never tried any though so I can’t guarantee how well they work!
It’s also a good idea to keep a large bottle of water near where you usually breastfeed your baby. That way you guarantee easy access when the thirst hits mid-feed.
5. There are a surprising number of nursing positions to master.
From the cradle hold, to the football hold, the side-lying to the crossover – I had never heard of these before! There are different benefits to each, and some might work better than others for you and your baby.
It’s worth familiarising yourself with them, so it’ll be easier to put into practice once your baby’s born. Figure out which is easiest and more comfortable for you. You’ll be spending many hours during the upcoming months in these positions, so you want to be relaxed!
6. Baby can take aaaaages to drink.
Like, up to an hour, per side?! And then given that newborns drink every 2-3 hours (measured between starting times)…well, that doesn’t really very long between feeds. Don’t bother planning a long list of things to do in between.
Keep a book nearby if you feel like reading, or the remote if tuning into Netflix is more your thing!
7. There are plenty of products that make breastfeeding so much better/easier.
From nursing pillows to breast therapy gel packs, nipple cream to nipple shields, there are a huge range of products that can help you and your baby have a positive and successful breastfeeding experience. Most of these breastfeeding products I didn’t actually discover until later on, but I’ll definitely be more prepared for any future babies!
For specific ideas, check out my list of essential products for breastfeeding for my tried and tested recommendations.
What did you wish you knew about breastfeeding before it was time to do it? Leave a comment below!