I did not plan to breastfeed until my husband gently suggested I just try. I was successful in exclusively nursing my 3 daughters (2 of which are twins) for 6 months, then continued until they self-weaned after a year. Now I am a Certified Lactation Counselor to help new moms and I’ve written about breastfeeding before. Regardless of how you end up feeding your baby, there are some things I wish pregnant moms knew BEFORE baby arrived. So many moms focus on everything else like the nursery theme, touring the hospital, creating a birth plan, but feeding the baby is what will take up the majority of your day and energy once baby arrives.
10 Things I wish every pregnant mom planning to breastfeed knew while pregnant
1. Giving birth is just one day, but feeding your baby will be the focus for many weeks and months to come.
Instead of focusing on taking a tour of the hospital, use your time wisely and learn about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is how we biologically have fed our babies throughout history, but breastfeeding is not intuitive. We don’t magically gain new knowledge once the baby leaves our womb. If anything, you’re foggier and more confused about what’s going on and what to do than ever before (regardless of how the birth went)!
2. Ways to learn about breastfeeding:
- Connect with your delivering hospital’s lactation consultant
- Find a breastfeeding class
- Read one of these books
3. Find a breastfeeding group (I attended when I was still pregnant).
Finding a great in-person breastfeeding support group is like finding a second home. It’s a safe place to bring baby and not worry about crying (mom or baby), a diaper blowout, spit-up, and you can see how much baby took in a nursing session by weighing baby before and after a feeding. You also get to meet other moms experiencing the same things. (I met my closest “mom friends” from my breastfeeding group.) Ask your delivering hospital about groups local to you.
4. Breastfeeding is like learning to ride a bike. It looks like it should be easy, but it takes some time and effort to really know what you’re doing.
The first 2-3 weeks of nursing after giving birth play a big part in how successful the breastfeeding experience is going to be down the road. Pediatricians want to see baby back at birth weight by week 2 after birth. If baby is not there yet, they will often recommend formula if baby isn’t gaining appropriately (o.5 oz – 1oz. a day for the first few weeks). There are other options than formula. If you run into nursing issues, THIS is the time to seek professional lactation help, don’t wait!
5. 1 year of formula can cost over $3,000.
Breastfeeding doesn’t cost money, but it’s still work for mama (however, formula feeding doesn’t mean the baby stops eating altogether, you still have to feed baby)!
When my first baby was 6 months old, it quickly became clear to me, I knew more about breastfeeding than my pediatrician! Pediatricians and OBs do not receive training or education on lactation in medical school.
When you have questions about breastfeeding, get help from a lactation expert (they have formal education).
6. Until proven otherwise, operate on the idea your body has enough milk for baby.
- The #1 reason moms stop nursing is perceived lack of milk supply. The more you nurse, the more your body will produce milk, so keep latching and doing skin-to-skin to keep the milk flowing!
- Your body produces colostrum at week 16 during pregnancy; you are already primed with milk for baby before giving birth.
- Baby’s tummy is the size of a thimble at birth. You will not be filling giant bottles with milk and you shouldn’t!
7. The best way for your milk “to come in” is nurse every time baby shows hunger signs after delivery.
You already produce colostrum (the liquid gold) while pregnant, so producing “mature milk” is really the colostrum transitioning to the white liquid we all recognize. Nursing enough to trigger this transition means nursing about 10-12 times in 24 hours (or about every 2 hours regardless of night or day).
I nursed my oldest every hour and 45 minutes the first week. She wanted to nurse ALL THE TIME, and she liked to nurse for a looooong time. I just parked myself on the couch and stared at her face, or watched TV. It’s OK to zone out while nursing.
8. Your body creates the most milk at night and your babies are tuned into this, thus the all night buffet at your boobs.
It’s normal for babies to be up all night nursing (between the hours of 1am-5am when the milk-making hormone, prolactin, is highest in mama’s system).
Babies have day and night mixed up for this reason. Babies not produce their own sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, until they are older, but baby can passively get the melatonin your body produces through your evening milk. This helps you get some longer stretches of sleep!
Fun fact, mamas who breastfeed get 45 minutes more sleep compared to formula-fed babies (think about you, milk is warmed and sanitized the minute baby wakes up in the middle of the night). You don’t need to turn on the lights and go to the kitchen to prepare formula bottles at 2am, you just latch baby.
9. If you are in pain – ASK FOR HELP.
It’s usually the latch, but there could be other things. Call your lactation consultant or counselor for help. DON’T BE SHY!!!
10. Facebook breastfeeding groups are a great source of support.
Finding your village (even online) will help you be successful. The #1 reason moms are successful at nursing is support from their partner (sheesh, you’d think the mamas would get more credit).