What nobody tells you about breastfeeding

September 23, 2016 | by Anita Krajecki, RNC-LRN
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

If you’re planning to breastfeed, you may want to keep reading. Sure, you may have signed up for a breastfeeding class or two and asked some friends about it. Still, many new moms are blissfully unaware of what breastfeeding really entails.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding as a target bench mark. Yet, research has shown that few mothers achieve this goal in the U.S. In fact, a survey published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that two-thirds of mothers nursing newborns are unable to stick with breastfeeding for as long as they intended.

Why do many moms stop breastfeeding within the first few weeks after their baby is born? Some common reasons include: sore nipples, perceived insufficient milk production, concerns about baby’s nutrition and weight, and difficulties with breastfeeding.

It’s important to get off to a good start so you can maintain your breastfeeding goals.

First, ask your doctor about having a consult with a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are professional breastfeeding specialists. They can teach you how to feed your baby, and help with any breastfeeding problems, such as latching difficulties, painful nursing, low milk production and return-to-work issues.

Next, learn the truth about what breastfeeding entails. If you’re like many new moms, what you expect and the reality of it may be vastly different. Here’s what nobody tells you about breastfeeding:

  • It doesn’t necessarily happen “naturally” – Don’t expect it to be easy. Breastfeeding is an art that you and your newborn have to learn together. Getting a baby to latch on correctly can take time. With some practice you will get the hang of it, and lactation consultants are a great resource.  
  • You don’t have large amounts of milk immediately – It takes time for larger volumes of milk to come in. For the first few days after delivery, only tiny amounts of colostrum come out. This is a digestible, thick, yellowish substance that carries essential antibodies and is the right amount of volume for your baby’s small tummy in the first few days. Some moms worry their newborn isn't getting enough to eat. It is normal to feel this way until you start to build your confidence with nursing. In two to five days, your breasts will start transitioning to the larger volumes of milk.
  • It can hurt – A LOT. The first few weeks can be rough trying to figure out latch and positioning techniques. Moms may experience some pain when they first begin learning to breastfeed. If you are experiencing pain of any kind, schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant to learn how to improve your latching techniques.  
  • You may worry your baby isn't getting enough to eat – With breastfeeding, there’s no way to tell how much your baby is eating. Many new moms get nervous their baby isn’t getting enough and want to start supplementing with a bottle, which can slow down milk production. If after nursing, your breasts feel softer and your baby seems relaxed, satisfied and continues to have frequent wet and poopy diapers, all should be fine. Talk with your doctor about it if you still have concerns.
  • Your nipples may bleed – Starting out, your nipples may feel raw and sore, and yes, even crack and bleed. It's common, and it typically passes with practice and once you and your newborn learn proper latch. Creams and ointments can help your nipples recover. Also, since sore and bleeding nipples may be caused by poor technique, a lactation consultant can definitely help.
  • Your baby will want to nurse 24/7. Newborns need to eat around 10-12 times a day, which means you will probably feel like you’re nursing all the time. Each nursing session usually lasts between 20-40 minutes. Remember to stay hydrated and take care of yourself too, rest as much as possible!
  • It is a sacrifice – Breastfeeding can be tedious and exhausting for a nursing mom in the early days, who is likely already tired from giving birth. There are many days you may feel trapped. Until you learn how breastfeeding can fit into your life, it may feel inconvenient. In time, you will become a master at breastfeeding and it will no longer feel like it is consuming your life. If you will be returning to work outside your home it is possible to continue breastfeeding. Meet with a lactation consultant to learn the best tips to help you succeed.
  • Your breasts will change – During breastfeeding, some women experience milk leaking while others never have this problem. If you notice that you are leaking, there are numerous brands of good breast pads to help. After breastfeeding, your breasts could become smaller than they were before the baby. It’s common to notice a darkening of the nipples/areolas, which usually fades once breastfeeding is over. Call your doctor if you notice your nipples turning white and feeling sore.
  • It’s worth it to invest in a quality pump – Not all breast pumps are created equal so get a good one and learn to use it as soon as possible. Once breastfeeding is established and going well, your partner can help with feedings and you can get a break or, better yet, you can get a sitter and have a date night. Breastfeeding can be designed to fit your needs and some women prefer to exclusively pump their breastmilk and feed it to baby in a bottle for some or all feedings.

Now that you know some of the truths about breastfeeding, we wish you the best! Breastfeeding can be challenging in the beginning but the benefits for you and your baby make it all worth it. Remember, if you ever have any questions or concerns about your breastfeeding experience, seek out the help of a lactation consultant.

Learn more about breastfeeding services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Both Edward and Elmhurst hospitals offer prenatal breastfeeding classes to teach you the basics, as well as a breastfeeding support group led by an IBCLC or a certified breastfeeding counselor.

On Thursday, Sept. 29, the Edward Breastfeeding Center will open its new, nearby location at 10 W. Martin Ave., Suite 202, in Naperville. Moms with infants and toddlers in tow can enjoy more convenient parking and shorter distance to enter the building. In addition to providing support and assistance to moms who have chosen to breastfeed, the Center also has breastfeeding and pumping supplies available for purchase (breast pumps can also be rented).

The Breastfeeding Center is open to all moms in the community, even if you didn’t have your baby at Edward Hospital. Call 630-527-3238 to make an appointment.

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