1. You Can’t, and Shouldn’t, Do it Alone
Breastfeeding may seem like a solo endeavor, and it can certainly feel lonely at times, but it takes a village. Support, especially partner support, is one of the most influential factors in achieving your personal breastfeeding goals. Beyond your partner though, be sure to enlist the help of friends, family, and community. You can start rallying your troops even before baby comes.
- Find a local breastfeeding meet-up that is convenient for you. Some of these moms will become your closest friends as your babies grow into toddlers together.
- Have lactation support available. Find online lactation experts and follow their accounts, get the number of your local La Leche League chapter on the ready, set up an in-person consult with a lactation consultant, find an online support group.
- Find some family and friends who have breastfed. Have friends with older kids who know the ropes? Sometimes having someone who has been through it already can lend just the perspective you need on days that feel overwhelming.
- Friends and family want to help and be useful. Give them that chance. Ask a friend to organize a meal train for you when baby comes. Ask someone to watch baby for an hour while you get something done or take a rest.
2. Expect the Unexpected
When it comes to breastfeeding or anything about baby, it is hard not to have expectations, or at least ideal scenarios of how we’d like things to go. Sometimes already pregnancy doesn’t go how we had planned, or maybe birth took a turn in a different direction. Breastfeeding-- and all of parenting probably-- is no different. We have our plans, and sometimes other circumstances don’t cooperate with our plans. It’s important to stay flexible and keep an open mind about what your feeding journey might be like. If you have it in your head, for example, that formula is terrible, then you are going to experience unnecessary guilt or shame if it turns out you need to supplement. There’s nothing wrong with goals of course, and during the course of breastfeeding, goals can help motivate us. Not being too rigid in expectations though, could save yourself from some self-imposed heartache.
3. It Can Feel Good
As breastfeeding moms or soon-to-be, we hear a lot about how much breastfeeding hurts. We hear about clogged ducts, engorgement, bleeding, cracked nipples and mastitis, and while all of these things do exist, so does pleasure. What a lot of moms don’t talk about is how enjoyable breastfeeding can be. It can be physically pleasurable for a lot of women. The let-down produces a rush of feel-good hormones, which can almost feel like a high. The connection, closeness and bond it creates can feel absolutely magical. And the feeling of doing something hard can be a real boost of confidence and point of pride. Also breastfeeding is called a journey because it is long and it changes. In the beginning, you may feel anxiety or discomfort, but six months later, you may absolutely love breastfeeding and not want to stop anytime soon. So, wait for it, you’ll most likely have times, maybe even months, where breastfeeding feels fantastic.
4. It’s Temporary
When you are in it, breastfeeding can feel like it is going to last forever. That this is the new normal. That you’ll never have your life--or your body- back again. That lack of sleep, spit-up, diapers, leaky boobs and crying are happening from now on. This is especially true as a first-time mom. Because although you know logically that this will end, there are hormones and sleep deprivation clouding your thinking, and you’ve never done this before... I assure you, like pregnancy, this too is only temporary. And it is not what it means to have kids in general; it is just one stage. Your baby will start sleeping more, will start solids, will become potty-trained. This is the most intense time of parenting, and it won’t always be like this. It’s the most intense and also so precious. Looking back, it will seem like a fog or a daze or a dream. Hopefully a happy one, but not always, and that’s ok too. On to the next stage of parenting with its new discoveries and challenges!
5. It Will Affect your Relationship
There’s nothing like the self-sacrifice and thankless job of breastfeeding to give you some big feelings about your partner who isn’t doing the feeding. It’s normal to feel resentment, even anger at times. The workload is not fair or even. (Hence all of the memes about partners snoring while we’re up feeding). As much as you can try and pump and let your partner give baby bottles, or let your partner take care of diapers, there is an enormous responsibility that is yours alone and can loom large. Breastfeeding is an incredibly close and intimate act, and it is normal to feel “touched out” and not be particularly welcoming of your partner’s touch. You may also not be feeling sexy or not have much of a sex drive to speak of. You may feel guilty about this too. And then there are hormones… Again, try and remember that this stage is temporary. It’s ok if the most romantic gesture your partner can do right now is get up to bring the baby to you to feed. Keep the lines of communication open. Your partner may also be feeling helpless, rejected or just confused. Continue to love and see each other and be patient with this time. It too shall pass, and passions can and will reignite. Your relationship may never be “the same” because now you are parents, but it will deepen and grow into something even stronger.
6. It's Your Choice
You’re the mom. You get to decide how to feed your child, what to feed your child, how often to feed your child, where and when to feed your child. You can choose to breastfeed in public or not, use a cover or not. You can stop breastfeeding before a year. You can breastfeed for 3 years. Whatever you want. What other people think will not matter when all is said and done. This is your child and you get to decide. Period.
7. It’s going to be OK
In the midst of what seem to be the highest stakes on the planet (the health and development of your baby!), there is a temptation to feel like you can make really huge mistakes, but take the pressure off mama. That really isn’t true. Found out people recommend starting baby on a vegetable first so they don’t develop a taste for sugar-- and gasp!, you already started baby on a banana? It is OK. Found out people say you should put baby down awake but you nurse your baby to sleep every time? It is OK. There is so much scary stuff out there- and a lot of the advice might be directly in opposition, so what’s a mom to do? Remember it’s OK. These decisions are not final, irreversible, or will have ripple effects on your children for decades to come. There is plenty of time and space to try different parenting styles and approaches, make mistakes, be inconsistent. No parent is perfect, and we don’t even know what that means. You’re doing your best and finding your groove, and your baby is happy, healthy and loved.
8. Google Everything, but Trust your Gut
Caution: breastfeeding may lead to excessive googling and quora without any end in sight. There’s nothing like having a baby constantly attached to your nipple to make you worry about a million and a half things. Finding answers on the internet, over and over again, can be like a form of therapy, giving you a sense of control and security that can be hard to come by when you’re breastfeeding. So go for it. Read all of the books. Read all of the blogs. Listen to all of the podcasts. Armed with all of the information and recommendations, also trust your gut. Every mom and baby are different. No one knows your baby better than you. If a piece of advice doesn’t sit well with you, it’s probably for a reason.
9. You’ll Cry, but Remember to Laugh
Breastfeeding can absolutely be tear-inducing, but remember laughter is the best medicine. Breastfeeding can be really funny and ridiculous and embarrassing. You’ll be soaking through not only bras and shirts but entire sheet sets. One boob will often be visibly bigger than the other. You’ll have milk actually shooting out of your nipple in six different streams. Your baby will throw up on you a ton, might pee or poop on you if you let your guard down for a minute. You might forget to put your boob away. Have a laugh. Things are about to get real silly.
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