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New mom: 10 things I wish I knew about breastfeeding before having a baby

Posted October 25, 2021 8:00 a.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2021 8:16 a.m. EDT

New mom: 10 things I wish I knew about breastfeeding before having a baby

Every woman has a different experience with breastfeeding – but now that I've gone through it, there are some things I wish I had known earlier.

It doesn’t come easy for many women. Last month, I chronicled my breastfeeding journey, which was a lot of tears and pumping for just two months of exclusive breastfeeding. I was surprised when I struggled and, unfortunately, hard on myself as a result (which was so not okay).

This is a big one, and it's true for all parents – you will be tired. Overly tired. Because I breastfed, I woke up every few hours for months. Even when a loved one offered to give baby a bottle so I could sleep, I needed to wake up to pump milk. Before baby, I knew I would be tired, but I never imagined I would go almost 90 days sleeping for no more than three hours at a time.

Those early days of constant feeding is what boosts your supply, and it’s what newborns require if breastfeeding. It’s very difficult to get out of the house or see family and friends those first few weeks, and that’s normal and OK.

On the same note -- I felt rude declining visits or leaving the room to breastfeed or pump. Don’t! Your privacy and comfort matters.

Breastfeeding is based on supply and demand. I needed to introduce formula early on. Since it was my goal to exclusively breastfeed, I pumped every time my baby had a bottle. That was a lot! Everyone is different. Some breastfeeding moms exclusively pump, and some use both formula and breastmilk from the beginning. Some moms don't need to pump until they return to work (even though extra pumping sessions can increase your supply). More on my experience here.

Nursing bras are great, but pumping bras are better. Pumping will be necessary when you return to work or if you leave your baby for an extended amount of time, so a pumping bra is essential – plus, you can still nurse in them. Trust me, holding flanges to your chest for 15-20 minutes is not fun. Buy a pumping bra – or two – and free your hands (for texting, eating, etc.)!

As if you aren’t busy enough taking care of a baby, you have to remember to eat and drink water if you’re going to produce milk. Plan to carry around a water bottle 24/7 and have healthy snacks ready to go that require no to little prep, because breastfeeding moms need extra calories.

Stress also impacts milk supply. This was another difficult one for me. Take care of yourself, whether that means asking for help, making time to get a shower or nap, or snuggling your little one. Baby blues and postpartum depression are real, so learn the differences and talk to your doctor if you need help.

Don’t expect to fill up those 8 oz. bottles when you pump. My lactation consultant reassured me that pumping anything from 0.5 ounces to 4 ounces (depending on when I last fed my baby) was normal. The most I ever pumped was 5 ounces. If you’re worried about your supply, get help.

And, most importantly, no matter how you feed your baby – you are doing something incredible! So be kind to yourself, moms.