What to Expect from Breastfeeding

I’m all about having realistic expectations: If you know up front that something is going to be hard, then you won’t be so distressed when you start hitting obstacles.

No question about it: Breastfeeding is hard…at first

There are many benefits to breastfeeding, including protecting the child from some illnesses because of antibodies transferred from mother to baby, as well as lowering the risk of obesity for the child in future years. And breastfeeding makes it easier for a new mother to lose her “baby fat” from pregnancy.

Ad yet, although over 80 percent of new moms start out trying to breastfeed, at least half or more of them give it up, despite all the recommendations by experts that women should try to exclusively breastfeed their infants until at least 6 months of age.

What I want this blog to do

I could blog for an entire year about breastfeeding, and I still wouldn’t cover all the information that’s out there. So in this blog I’m going to concentrate just on giving you a realistic expectation about this mysterious practice.

The first obstacle: What our media and society often say

The media tend to portray breastfeeding as something that just comes naturally to all mothers and infants. Well, let me say that I have seen far too many new mothers in the hospital who were completely discouraged because their infant wasn’t feeding well—so don’t you believe it.

What you should know about breastfeeding

  • Expect that breastfeeding will initially be hard.
  • Most mothers and infants have to learn how to breastfeed.
  • It can be miserable at first. You will be exhausted, your nipples will be sore, and no one else can do it for you.
  • Note well: Ask that your infant be put to your breast within 1 hour of birth. This practice really does seem to help with getting breastfeeding off to the right start.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The nurses are well-trained, of course, but most hospitals also have lactation consultants (women who are specially trained in the art of breastfeeding). If you feel that the breastfeeding isn’t going well, you can always ask to see one of these specialists.
  • Lactation consultants are also available once you get back home. Your pediatrician should be able to help you find one.
  • Plan to feed your newborn every 2-3 hours until your milk comes in. Initially, it may seem that your baby is not getting very much to drink, but what they are getting is full of important antibodies to help their immune system. And, whenever your baby breastfeeds, it sends a message to your body to make more milk.  This is the only way your body will know that it must make milk!
  • Hold off introducing a pacifier until you feel that the baby is sucking well. Infants suck differently on a pacifier than they do on a breast, and some babies have difficulty making the transition between breast and pacifier during the first few weeks.
  • Find out if any medications that you take or will be taking can interfere with breastfeeding, or could potentially be harmful to your baby.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Simply plan to eat, drink, and sleep. Really, that’s about all you will get done for the first few weeks.
  • If you’re going back to work, plan and discuss your pumping schedule with your supervisor or with the coworkers who will be affected by your schedule.

Hang in there, and know that it will get better

With my first child, I expected to be doing projects around the house between feedings. I quickly learned that the days passed in a sleep-deprived blur, and that some days just getting myself showered was an accomplishment.

I believe that by 6 to 8 weeks breastfeeding becomes easier than bottle-feeding, and it’s much more rewarding. You never have to warm up formula in the middle of night or worry about bringing formula along with you. And breastfeeding really does foster a special connection between you and your infant. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing a wonderful thing for your infant!

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