Let’s get real about breastfeeding. It’s weird. It’s pretty cool. Yes, it can be painful and no, not every woman is able to do it. Yes, women shouldn’t be shamed for doing it publicly and no, formula-fed babies aren’t being set up for failure (the things people say sometimes…). Breastfeeding is a decision and a commitment that many women make when they have biological children. I breastfed both of my kiddos. My first one was not a great experience and my second one has been as easy as pie. If you do choose to breastfeed, or if you’re on the fence about it, here are my real experiences.
With my first kiddo, I was expecting this magical bond, this sudden “womanness” that would befall me, this miraculous sensation of how natural breastfeeding is. Nope. Didn’t experience those. I did breastfeed her for six months because I read so many articles on the reality of the benefits of breastmilk but I stopped at six months because my supply was pretty defuuunct since I was pregnant again. Yes, if you’re breastfeeding, you can get pregnant again AND your supply can get cut significantly. She switched over to formula within a week and I was able to just focus on growing a baby instead of feeding a baby while growing another. But the reality is, I could have had a better experience breastfeeding her. How? Read on sis!
Problem 1: Rushing the Latch
When you have a baby screeching at you, and especially when it’s your first baby, you might be tempted to just throw her onto the milk maker and calm her down ASAP. When this is done at the expense of a good latch, you’re going to end up with some very sore nipples and likely, a still hungry baby.
Solution: Take your time latching the baby! You want an open-mouthed, wide mouth alllll around the areola, not just on the nipple. You can gently unhook the baby’s mouth from your chest until he or she gets it right. I took my time getting good latches with my second baby so much that even at the hospital, the lactation consultant was like, “Wow, way to go mama!” haha. And a good latch is not a blistering latch or a bloody latch or a painful latch! It can be slightly painful in the beginning as you get used to it but it should NOT be painful for long. Unless they have teeth but that’s wayyyy down the line. Also, check to see that they are swallowing milk. You can hear it and also see the swallow motion in the neck.
Problem 2: Being Uncomfortable When Breastfeeding
I tried the “My Brest Friend” pillow and it was a little difficult for me to keep on hand anytime I wanted to feed my girl, so I didn’t get much wear out of it. I didn’t take the time to make sure I was comfortable during every feed so I might have subconsciously rushed feeds and I ended up with a pretty sore back.
Solution: You don’t have to use that product exactly but you definitely want back support for you and a pillow of some sort under the baby so that your back is not arched and bent every time you feed your baby. With my second, I have support for my back, a pillow underneath the baby, and a towel near me so I never worry about spills. I also kept coconut oil on hand in case my nipples ever needed some care. I felt better about the baby taking in some organic coconut oil than a nipple balm product with ingredients I couldn’t understand!
Problem 3: Tight And Strappy Clothing
Ugh. Straps that press down into your chest will end up creating little balls in your boobs. I was so paranoid this would lead to mastitis that I was never very comfortable mentally. I didn’t want to invest in good maternity bras because I was like, “What’s the point, I’ll stop using them soon enough!” Not the best place to cut corners lollll.
Solution: Wear comfy bras or maternity bras that do not press into you and keep a supply of sunflower lecithin on hand (check with your doctor of course) in case you ever worry that the milk in your chest is getting hardened. I wore a medium in the maternity bra and a small in the comfy bra linked above. Also, your boobs can be harder if you aren’t hydrated! Drink LOTS of water. Breastmilk is 90% water!
Problem 4: Engorgement
You DON’T have to be miserable during engorgement. If you’re not familiar with engorgement, it is when breast tissue overfills with milk, blood, and other fluids. Your boobs will feel very full, hard, and painful.
Solution: First, remember this is temporary as your milk comes in! More practically, try to get the baby to nurse the milk out but also remember, the more you nurse on one side the more that side is telling the body HEY baby needs more milk here! It’s a little tricky. I used a haakaa to relieve engorgement and I am so thankful I did. You can see “haakaa hacks” online for other feeding issues! A haakaa is a manual pump that uses suction to draw out milk in the boob. I placed this on the boob baby wasn’t feeding on so while I fed the baby, I was also slowly building a freezer stash of milk! You can read more about my freezer stash later in this post.
The haakaa paired with warm showers (sometimes multiple in a day) and hand expressing brought me so much relief during engorgement, whewww. Also, I kept a massager on hand and sunflower lecithin in case anything got super uncomfortable but I didn’t even have to use either with my second baby because I was regularly using the haakaa and hand expressing! I kept my mini-fridge, haakaa, milk bags, and towels by my bedside during engorgement so that I didn’t have to keep going to the kitchen to put the milk away. I washed the haakaa in the sink in my bathroom at night and cleaned it with boiling water in the day from my tea kettle.
Problem 5: Leaking
I wish I knew how much milk I leaked! Sometimes I leak when my baby cries. Sometimes I leak when I’m emotional. I also leak if I sleep on my side for a prolonged amount of time and there’s a lot of pressure on one boob. UGH. I do not like leaking at all.
Solution: I wear lounging bras or these comfy maternity bras and place nipple pads on the inside. You can buy disposable or reusable ones! I keep a ton of these in my purse, car, and even by my bedside. I also sleep facing up, which is so different than when you’re pregnant since you can’t sleep on your back when you’re pregnant haha.
Problem 6: Gas
WOW. Okay. First of all, what you eat can absolutely affect the baby. Did you know that? The hospital doesn’t help by giving us new moms food that is difficult to digest like cheese, potatoes, and beans.
Solution: Legumes, broccoli, potatoes, and dairy can make your baby gassy, and thank the Lord my mom let me know about that because I did not have gas with baby one after removing those mostly (I say mostly because I still had dairy) from my diet. If I ever had something that made me gassy, I guarantee it made my baby gassy too. In those scenarios, we ended up using the Windi to relieve the baby of gas but very sparingly because you want the baby to learn to fart!
Freezer Stash of Breastmilk
A freezer stash is a collection of milk that you freeze and keep on hand in case you can’t breastfeed. This could be because you are running errands, you are tired, etc! I built up my stash SO quickly with my second. This is likely because I started using the haakaa earlier than I did with my first. I preferred these milk storage bags because they had a twist top and I didn’t have to worry if I properly closed the top or not! If I want to leave the house, I keep one of these bags in the fridge. I clean their bottles using my Instant Pot actually! It has a sterilize setting.
Breastfeeding Products I ACTUALLY Use
And that’s all I use for breastfeeding! When you have a streamlined setup and process, your breastfeeding experience can bypass so many obstacles.
Breastfeeding is a gift, a miracle, and something women should not take for granted if they can do it. Sadly, the USA is one of the countries that promotes and advocates for breastfeeding the LEAST. If you can breastfeed, I recommend looking into all the health benefits for both mom and baby. There really are so many.
If you cannot breastfeed, that is OKAY. Do not be hard on yourself! You can always buy breastmilk from a milk bank or use formula! I supplemented with formula with my second baby before six months and he’s taken to it well. I had this thought in my head with my first that I couldn’t supplement at all and that was a weird pressure I put on myself. Do what is best for YOU and for baby.
Have any questions? Drop them below and I’ll try my best to get back to you! Follow me on Instagram and comment under this post for a quicker response!