Things People Don’t Tell You About Breastfeeding

I have been breastfeeding for a total of 3 years. It may or may not seem like a long time to you, but believe me, I don’t really remember life before nursing. The benefits are endless — it’s the perfect food for babies, it’s convenient, it’s always the right temperature, and it’s cheap too! Well, technically it’s free. So while I was totally excited about breastfeeding my baby, there were a lot of surprises along the way. Some people tempted me to wean my son, but my friends and family were always so supportive of nursing that I kept it up. The next few blogs I will write are all about the things nursing mothers aren’t told that I feel they should know. Please understand that this blog isn’t being written to discourage anyone from breastfeeding, but instead to prepare all of the new mothers who want to breastfeed in order to have a happy and healthy nursing journey.   I also hope to unite the mothers that have breastfed previously through their own unique trials and tribulations.

While the common understanding is that mothers will always have milk after giving birth, this is not entirely true. For some, milk will ‘come in’ easily but some women have to work really hard to have a healthy milk supply for their babies. Women who have vaginal deliveries are more likely to have their milk come in; this is because the body releases certain hormones when a baby is delivered naturally which activates the milk process in our breasts. This does not mean that women who deliver their babies via C-section won’t have a healthy milk supply; their bodies just have to work harder. For mothers who are experiencing difficulty with milk supply, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Nurse as soon as you can after your baby is born and as OFTEN as you can. The first two days are the most important in setting a good foundation for milk. The first type of milk that comes to the breasts is called colostrum. This milk is present even before the baby is born and is extremely good for the baby as well. It is high in protein but low in fat and sugar, which makes it easy for babies to digest. At this time you may be worried that your baby is not getting enough milk, but a little bit of colostrum goes a long way. A new baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble, so it would not be able to handle more than the small amount of colostrum that the body produces. It also contains many antibodies and growth factors, which help promote development of a baby’s digestive system and immune system. It also contains immunoglobulin - which is an antibody that protects babies against infections of the throat, lungs and intestines - and white cells, which help destroy disease causing bacteria and viruses. It has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties as well.   Believe me, this is only the beginning of the list of benefits!
  • After day two you typically will have your milk come in. If your body is like mine, you will have a very painful surprise. I went to sleep and woke up with very sore, hard breasts that were much larger than those that I went to sleep with. You may think, “oh you’re so lucky, you have a healthy milk supply;” while I agree with you, I also know the pain I had to deal with. It took a few days for the pain to go away and for my breasts to get back to a manageable size (still too big for me to be comfortable with). The technical term is ‘engorgement.’   If your breasts become engorged as well, you can try a hot shower and warm compresses to help your milk flow down naturally.   Resist the urge to express too much milk. Breasts are very intuitive — if milk is emptied from them they will produce more, and while it may be very tempting to squeeze out all the milk from them in order to be comfortable, you’re going to be back to being engorged again within a few hours. It will take them two or three days to finally figure out how much milk your baby needs on a daily basis. It’s kind of like a supply meeting demand relationship.

Hopefully these few points on establishing a good milk supply will help you on your breastfeeding journey. Remember, engorgement can be painful but taking some painkillers will help. Be sure to believe in yourself and trust your body to know what to do in order to care for your baby.