Today my little one is five months old (don’t ask how this is possible, I just don’t know), which means I’ve survived five months of being a first time mostly clueless mommy! And it also means I only have one month left of my original goal to exclusively breastfeed her for the first six months. Of course it doesn’t mean I quit the day she is six months old…in fact how I plan to introduce solids is mostly undecided…oh well four more weeks to figure that out. In the meantime looking back here are some things I wish I knew before I started and here they are in no particular order:
1) It will get easier! In the beginning everything had to be just right. I had to be in my nursing chair with a Brest Friend and a footstool. I needed one pillow behind me, one under my arm and one propping up where her head was. I could only really nurse in the cradle position and for that I had to use both hands, one for the “c-hold” and one to support her head with. I had to have someone nearby because I HAD to scratch my nose or my back or something the minute she was latched on properly! But these days I can nurse her pretty much anywhere without a lot of thought to it, yes I can nurse and walk at the same time.
2) There might be bumps in the road. So not only does it take time for you and your baby to figure out how to do this but there can be some challenges along the way. Some I anticipated…sore nipples? Stock up on Lansinoh. Nursing 24/7? Get some outside help. Stressed about booby traps? Set yourself up for the best possible outcome! But others I didn’t…I didn’t know that I was engorged (okay I suspected but I wasn’t sure, it was my first time at the rodeo) and I didn’t know how to use my breast pump, needless to say my doula’s help was invaluable for this. The biggest bump (literally)? I started getting plugged ducts and recurring mastisis when she was eight weeks old. This was challenging not only because it hurt (a lot) but because despite my research and reading I didn’t really prepare myself for this possibility and was kind of clueless when it happened. I finally got in touch with a lactation consultant and things improved markedly.
3) Don’t stress the gear. Just like everything else on my baby registry, I did lots of copious research to prepare myself. And while I do recommend some things to make this easier: a nursing pillow, footstool, nursing bras, bottles, freezer bags, maybe a breast pump, don’t stress yourself out figuring out the best possible piece of equipment. For example I was really worried about bottles, what about nipple confusion? and flow rates? and BPA? But in the end I didn’t end up giving her a bottle so that was all pointless (and if I wanted to give her a bottle a quick trip to any drugstore would have done the trick.) And pumping, I was very concerned about pumping (which pump? how often? when?) but as it turned out pumping exacerbated my plugged ducts so I ended up hand expressing anyway. If you discover you desperately need something in this day and age it can be delivered to your door probably overnight!
4) Get support! Not just for your ta-tas but for you. If you weren’t brought up with breastfeeding as the norm you might not have your mom or mother in law to turn to, your husband might be clueless, your girlfriends might not have kids yet, etc. So do yourself a huge favor, find a support group and if possible go while pregnant to get used to seeing women nurse their babes.
5) It’s kind of awesome. In the truest sense of the word.