If you’re a new mother, or about to be, you have a lot of stuff to think about. Everything is about to change, your life is going to undergo a massive overhaul because you’ve got a brand new human relying on you.
Scary? Sure. Amazing? Definitely. And if you are prepared for it, even the scary stuff won’t be so bad. One of those things that you need to be ready for, is breastfeeding. It might seem fairly straightforward, but there are a lot of aspects of breastfeeding you’re probably unaware of.
There are aspects that no one really talks about and can be a bit of a shock to the system if you’re not expecting them. So here are 5 things that you should know before you start breastfeeding:
You’ll Have to Wait For Your Milk
This is something that can be a great source of frustration for some women when they start breastfeeding. You’re not going to be producing a huge amount of milk right from the get-go, it’s going to take some time for your body to acclimate.
This is especially common if it’s your first time nursing a child. It often takes up to five days for you to start producing a steady flow of milk. While this is irritating, it’s really not that much of a cause for concern.
What you need to remember is that your newborn has an exceptionally small stomach for the first few weeks. It’s only about the size of a tic-tac. So at the beginning, if you are barely producing a few droplets of breast milk at each feeding, it’s almost certainly enough.
By the time you’re baby’s stomach has grown to the point where they start needing more food, your body will have adapted and you will have a greater supply of milk. Of course, if this doesn’t happen, or if indeed you are completely dry from the word go, that’s a different story.
I still wouldn’t panic though, consult with your doctor to see what might be causing the problem and if you have to explore alternative options, then so be it.
It’s Going to Hurt. In More Places Than You Think
So I think it’s fair to say that most new mothers who are about ready to start breastfeeding will be expecting a certain amount of pain. But most will only expect it in breasts and nipples. It doesn’t seem like anywhere else could possibly be affected right?
Wrong. Of course, do prepare yourself for nipple pain because your nipples are not going to be used to someone sucking aggressively on them. Well, most women won’t be used to that anyway.
That pain can be pretty severe, but you can also expect quite a bit of pain in your abdomen and in your back. This is because your uterus is going to be reacting to the breastfeeding too.
This system is all connected and the process of breastfeeding releases certain chemicals which are working to help your uterus return to its normal size. This will cause cramps and contractions but they shouldn’t last for too long.
It can be a pretty alarming and very uncomfortable experience however, so make sure that you are prepared for it.
You’re Going to be Hungry. And Thirsty.
Producing breast milk will take up almost a quarter of your body’s energy. It might not seem like a strenuous activity but your baby’s body has been operating on your energy for the entire pregnancy and they will need to do the same for a while outside the womb too.
So if you are eating a normal diet, you are probably going to burn about a thousand calories every day while breastfeeding. Some women will be confused as to why they are so hungry and so thirsty despite the fact that they are eating plenty of food.
But it’s pretty simple. Despite what might seem like a relatively small amount of milk, it’s a significant chunk of your nutrition that you are transferring to your child. Again, it’s nothing to worry about and all you really need to do is increase your daily caloric intake.
Your baby will still be getting enough nutrition even if you are eating normally so this one is really for your benefit more than theirs.
You Should Consult With an LC Straight Away
Depending on the hospital or the neonatal unit that you give birth in, you might not even get the chance to see the Lactation Consultant unless you specifically request it. I would recommend that this be one of the first things that you do.
Ideally, you should start breastfeeding within a couple of days of giving birth or maybe even the same day and you want to make sure that you have all of the necessary information that you need before you actually start.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or raise any concerns that you might have either. The LC is there to help and I can guarantee that no matter how ridiculous you think your fears are, they’ve heard them all, and worse, before.
I would also advise having your partner with you during every consultation that you have so that you are both prepared for any pitfalls or unusual situations that might arise.
Always Have an Extra Shirt Handy
It’s not a nice thing to think about, but this is one of the more unfortunate side effects of breastfeeding. You can probably expect a bit of spillage. But what’s that expression? There’s no point crying over spilled milk.
But there is a point in planning ahead for it. If you are going to be breastfeeding on the go, then bring along an extra shirt. Or maybe a couple of extra shirts. It’s not just to prepare for any spill while you’re feeding either, but sometimes you will lactate when you don’t want to.
It’s embarrassing but it happens and you don’t have to worry about it though if you’ve got a second shirt handy.
So as you can see, while there are some unexpected, unwanted side effects of breastfeeding, they are all things that it’s easy to prepare for. And there is also quite a few benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby, which in my opinion, outweigh the negatives.
Breastfeeding is a rewarding experience overall as long as you know what to expect and you can react accordingly to the stuff most new mothers don’t see coming.