4 Things to Know Before Breastfeeding
It seems like breastfeeding should be one of the simplest acts on earth, considering the human race was dependent on it for thousands of years, but that's often not the case. Whether you're not sure if you want to try nursing at all or are planning to breastfeed exclusively, here are four things to keep in mind.
It very rarely comes easy.
People love to say, “Breastfeeding is natural.” That is true, but that doesn’t mean breastfeeding is easy. Before formula and bottles were a thing, breastfeeding was the norm. This meant that women had much more experience in what a proper latch looks like or what to do if they had too much (or not enough) milk by the time they had their own babies. Today, many women begin their breastfeeding journeys with little to no practical experience, and they have to figure it out as they go along.
There are no schedules.
If you've been reading traditional pregnancy and baby books, it's common to come away with the idea that babies nurse every two hours for 10 minutes a side. In reality, nursing babies eat when they want and for as long as they want, and this is totally normal. When your baby is older, you may find that you notice a certain pattern to the feedings, but even then a sudden growth spurt and cluster feeding sessions can come on without warning. It's also important to keep in mind that every child is different. One baby may need both breasts every time to be full, while another may alternate with every feeding.
All lactation consultants are not equal.
Whether you're planning on breastfeeding for six weeks or two years, support is crucial to your success. If you have a family member or friend who had a successful breastfeeding relationship she can help a great deal, but a good lactation consultant is worth her weight in gold. If you're having trouble getting started, don't just go with what the hospital lactation consultant tells you. Look for a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who can offer references and is willing to meet up with you personally to observe a nursing session and troubleshoot.
Everyone will have an opinion.
From how long you should nurse or whether you need nipple guards to the cover-up controversy and whether you should breastfeed at all, everyone will feel the need to offer an opinion on your nursing experience. Soak in the supportive comments, take all advice with a grain of salt, and remember that your breastfeeding choices are no one's business but your own.