When we embark on the newness of motherhood there are so many surprises! Most of us are left wondering why nobody bothered to mention that you could get stretch marks on your legs, or that you would lose blood for a few weeks postpartum.
Here are some of our favorite breastfeeding truths that your friends forgot to mention.
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Breastfeeding Truth #1: It doesn’t have to hurt!
Lots of the information we hear about breastfeeding can be about how painful it is. Some women do experience pain with breastfeeding, even intense pain that includes cracking and bleeding nipples and infection. Obviously, this doesn’t sound like something anyone would want to experience while raising a new baby.
What we sometimes don’t hear is that breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, and that pain is indicative of a problem. Issues with proper latch, tongue-tie, and mastitis can cause discomfort and serious pain. But they can and SHOULD be addressed quickly and early.
The idea that breastfeeding has to hurt is false and contributes to women waiting to get help. The short version is this: breastfeeding doesn’t have to hurt. If it does, get help and get it sooner than later.
Breastfeeding Truth #2: All babies are different
Babies are little people and just like adults in that they are all a little different and have their own personalities. Many adults eat three meals a day, but we all vary in how much we eat, how long it takes us to eat, and how often we eat throughout the day. Many factors influence adult eating patterns and the same is true with babies.
Once we have children it’s all too easy to fall into the comparison trap and wonder why your baby doesn’t sleep through the night or nurse for five minutes at a time. Doing so just causes unneeded stress.
There ARE patterns that tend to be true for babies. They usually nurse often, especially for the first few months of life. One, two or three-hour stretches are typical between feedings. All babies are different, however, and patterns and averages don’t apply to every baby.
Some will go longer between feedings. Some will nurse for five minutes at a time, while others will nurse for 30 minutes or more.
Women who nurse numerous babies through their life will be able to tell you how they were all different despite similar parenting.
Don’t compare yourself or your baby to others. Find your own rhythm and your unique nursing relationship. You will know it’s working when your baby is content and growing and you are finding joy as well.
Breastfeeding Truth #3: You don’t have to wean at age one
Various pediatric and health organizations have statements regarding how long infants should be breastfed. There are also countless books sharing their opinion as well as endless family members sharing their own experience and wisdom. This information can be very helpful, but it isn’t always accurate, and it may not work for you and your baby.
No, you don’t have to wean at one. If you neglect to wean at one, it doesn’t mean your baby will nurse forever! They will grow up and move on, we promise.
Many moms and babies cherish their breastfeeding relationship into the toddler years and find that it brings comfort, assists with naps, reduces susceptibility to illness, and eases the pain of teething.
Breastfeeding has lots of benefits for as long as you wish to continue it.
Breastfeeding Truth #4: Breastfeeding changes. All the time.
Sometimes the frequent nursing of a newborn can be overwhelming. There is often broken sleep for mom, and this is a big change and not always a welcome one. Newborn parenting can be intense, and so can newborn breastfeeding.
Your newborn, however, will soon be a crawling baby, then a toddler and so on. As your baby changes and grows, so will your breastfeeding relationship.
When you sit every hour or two to nurse your newborn, it’s easy to time travel to the future and imagine a place where you are still doing this at one or two years old. That’s a little overwhelming!
Projecting a future breastfeeding relationship based on a current one is not a great plan or an accurate prediction. Your constantly nursing newborn may soon be a busy crawler who you can barely hold in your lap long enough to feed. They may then morph into a toddler who craves that reconnection with mama as they get more and more capable of moving out into the world.
Your baby changes and so does breastfeeding. You’ll adapt!
Breastfeeding Truth #5: Support is crucial
A lot of books and videos about breastfeeding focus on preparing mom, teaching her techniques, and giving her knowledge. This is all very important, but it isn’t always enough. Your support system for breastfeeding will carry you a long way, probably farther than all the book knowledge you can acquire.
A gentle vote of confidence from your partner, words of wisdom from a mom at your local breastfeeding support group, a local IBCLC you have on speed dial: these are all avenues for breastfeeding support that can save the day when you hit a bump in the road.
Read what you can, but at the end of the day, don’t forget your support system. They matter too.
As you navigate new parenthood, you’ll find many things that surprise, challenge, and enlighten you. Know this: the insecurity is part of the journey. You’ll discover your own path and your baby’s unique needs. You are perfectly designed to be paired with this baby. In time, you’ll be the one with support and wisdom to offer others.