Breastfeeding is a foreign subject to those of us who aren't moms yet, or even us moms who chose to formula feed instead. Contrary to popular belief, a pregnant woman's chest isn't filled with milk during those nine months of pregnancy. They're simply gearing up for the big day! A woman's milk supply doesn't actually come in until a few days after birth. Surprise!
When the baby is born and the mother chooses to breastfeed, the first sips the baby receives aren't exactly milk; it's colostrum. Baby Centre explains that this milk-like substance has all the nutrients your baby could ever need in its first few days of life. After three days of colostrum, a woman's supply will come in and start nourishing the baby with milk.
But are we expectant mothers supposed to know all this? There's a lot to worry about with a new baby arriving! This is where lactation consultants come into play. Some women need an extra boost of confidence, support, or tips of the trade when it comes to breastfeeding, and who knows better than an actual lactation consultant? Below are 20 things women wish their lactation consultant told them, and advice from licensed consultants themselves.
20 Different Colors For Different People
Did you know that breastmilk can come in different shades? What's more is that it's completely normal! One lactation consultant told USA Today that milk isn't always white. "Like the flavor of breastmilk, the color can change depending on what mom eats. A diet full of yams, squash and carrots could turn milk yellow or orange." The same can be said for women who drink sports drinks. However, if breastmilk comes out red, brown, pink, or olive green — give your doctor a call. The Australian Breastfeeding Association says that could mean blood is in the milk, often due to cracked nipples.
19 Sometimes Harder Than It Looks
From afar, breastfeeding seems kind of simple: You give your baby your chest, they latch, they eat, you're done. But that's not always how it starts.
Some babies have difficulty learning to latch, some women have a low supply — it can be tough. However, some women have no difficulty at all.
One consultant compares breastfeeding to riding a bike: "many people have absolutely no difficulty; some people find it challenging at first but quickly get the hang of it; while others do have a difficult time and decide to either go to bottle feeding, or get help from someone such as myself."
18 You Can Pump For A Long Time
I know personally, I'll choose to breastfeed my child and use a breastpump as soon as I can so that my husband (or anyone else) can feed my child easily. But some women don't always vibe with breastpumps; some can do it more than others. "There are thousands of mothers who have exclusively pumped for six months to a year, myself included," one consultant told Exclusive Pumping.
"Exclusively pumping long term is absolutely possible and is a viable option for women who for whatever reason are not able to (or do not want to) nurse."
17 Pumping 'Too Much' Is A Thing
"In many cases, it’s better for nursing mothers to not pump for excessive periods of time, because it can lead to oversupply, foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, and forceful ejection," one consultant told Exclusive Pumping.
She does clarify this statement by saying women who exclusively pump don't tend to have this problem.
"Forceful ejection is not an issue for a baby that is drinking the milk from a bottle. Foremilk/hindmilk imbalance issues are mitigated by the fact that all of the milk is mixed together in a bottle, so it’s not necessarily the foremilk that the baby drinks and fills up on first."
16 Eating Schedules Will Change
Your baby is just that: a baby. Like all things in life, they need to get the hang of this whole "being alive" thing, and learn how to feed, communicate, and grow. Jennifer Lezak told Mom.me, "In the beginning it can be a non-stop 24 hour a day job. I think a lot of new mothers panic because it seems like all their baby wants to do is nurse and they interpret that as them not having enough milk to fill up their baby, when in fact babies are designed to eat frequently and want to be on their mothers all the time." Once a mother gets to know her baby a little better, they can trust both themselves and their child a little better.
15 Gas Leak
Now that you're successfully breastfeeding your baby, what comes next? "When feeding, stop to burp about half way through the bottle. If your baby is fussy during or after a feeding, it could be gas," one consultant tells Parents. A gassy baby is something most new moms aren't prepared to look for or resolve. But they should burp the baby frequently and be aware of how often their baby goes to the bathroom. If nothing seems to help a gassy baby or a baby who hasn't relieved themselves, try gas drops or calling your doctor for further advice.
For extra cautious parents, keep track of how often your baby goes to the restroom!
14 Stimulate Your Milk
Breastfeeding can happen for every woman, and yet it's a different process for every woman.
"It may take a little while for both you and your baby to learn how to get a good latch, but while you are learning this new skill, it is still crucial to start stimulating your milk production soon after birth,"
a lactation consultant told Baby Chick.
"The [...] sensation alerts your [chest] that it’s time to start making milk and creating a supply. Breastfeeding works a lot like supply and demand. If you and your baby are not demanding that you make more milk, then your body will think that there is no need to make more milk and will begin to make less and less and eventually stop making any."
13 Tips For Pumping
Breastpumps come in handy when a new mom needs to go back to work, run errands, or has a babysitter. Instead of needing to be with the baby 24 hours a day, someone with free hands can feed the baby a bottle of breastmilk that was recently pumped.
Some tips for pumping are making sure to have the "correct flange size" for your chest (the right size will make it less irritating).
Try refrigerating your pump parts and wash the parts once a day instead of washing every two seconds. Keep an eye out for hands-free bras (so your pump can do its thing, keeping your hands free). And if you're able (through insurance or savings), buy a second pump so you don't always need to lug around the one!
12 Don't Worry If It's Too Hot Out
For moms who are breastfeeding in the summer months, don't worry about your breastmilk spoiling or becoming overheated. Director of media relations, Diana West, for La Leche International told USA Today, that moms in warm climates don't need to worry about their milk. "Milk inside your [chest] is already at 98.6 degree temperature," she said. "And as long as it's still in your [chest], it's totally fine. It's the rapid growth of bacteria after milk is expressed that can make it spoil, which happens more quickly when it's hot."
11 You Will Never Be Judged By A Professional
Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed your child can be a strained topic. Women are entitled to choose whatever way they feel is best, and no one can make that decision for them but themselves.
"I personally never judge anyone for their decisions on how they want to feed their baby,"
Jennifer Lezak told Mom.me. "I educate people to the best of my ability but after that I am there to help them meet their goals, whatever they may be. If it's breastmilk, formula, combo-feeding, nursing for one month or one year, all mothers deserve the support and education that best help them take care of their little ones."
10 Start Early
Most women know during pregnancy if they're going to breastfeed or formula feed. However, there are a few moms who start out with formula and change their mind. But is it too late? Well, not quite – but the earlier you start, the better.
One lactation consultant told Motherly to start as early as possible. "This helps establish your supply. Moms like schedules—really, we do—but babies don’t (at least not in the beginning). Their job is to eat, sleep, poop and cuddle with their parents." After starting early, your baby will get the whole breastfeeding thing down and feeding time will become easier.
9 It Doesn't Have To Hurt
I'm sure you've heard stories of women saying breastfeeding hurts. A little hungry baby is constantly pulling, trying to feed its hungry belly. But one consultant tells Baby Chick that it doesn't have to hurt: you just have to prepare yourself.
"If it hurts while you are breastfeeding, you need to speak with a lactation consultant as soon as possible because it shouldn’t hurt. Yes, you will experience odd sensations and pressure while breastfeeding because you probably have never had someone on your chest for extended amounts of time on and off throughout the day and night, but it shouldn’t be painful."
8 You Can Ask For Help
Every aspect of parenting is hard — even something as simple as feeding your child. While many women feel too proud to ask for help or feel like they're asking too many questions, a consultant at Pampers reminds mommas to ask for help when they need it.
"If you haven’t taken a breastfeeding class, ask the nurse or lactation consultant to help you learn how to correctly position and latch baby onto the [chest]." A woman may feel pressure or tenderness but keep trying until the baby learns to latch. "Babies and mommies become experts over time so don’t worry if everything is not perfect at first."
7 Babies Won't Always Grow Gradually
Many new moms think their babies will continue to grow bigger the more they're fed, but Pampers explains that's not always the case. "Babies will lose up to 10% of their [mass] in the first few days after birth." Obviously, this can worry a new parent, but it comes with the territory.
"Babies need to get rid of the extra fluids they were born with and when moms are given lots of IV fluids in labor we now know this [change in baby's body composition] can be more pronounced."
Just remember that fluctuations in the beginning are normal, but track the progress to report back to the doctor if you have any concerns.
6 Stock Up On Nursing Tanks
It goes without saying that when your a child's meal ticket, you have to be open for business 24 hours a day. I understand how new moms want to feel like themselves again and fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes, but sometimes practicality is best. Don't say goodbye to the maternity clothes just yet!
New nursing moms wished someone told them to stock up on breastfeeding tanks and to pass on the fashionista shirts. These nursing shirts make it way easier to feed on-the-go and to make your chest accessible to the baby, while being comfortable for everyone. Plus, they come in an array of colors and sizes, so they're perfect for every body.
5 Nourish Yourself
The Bump reminds all new moms to nourish themselves. Most are so consumed with feeding their new baby and making sure they're getting what they need to survive, that they in turn forget to nourish themselves.
One mom noted she would get "woozy after nursing sessions during the first few weeks and it was because I wasn't consuming enough calories."
The baby is getting everything they need, leaving you with very little. Remind yourself to eat lots of veggies, proteins, and keep snacks in your nursing bag!
4 You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do
One thing most new moms feel is judged. They feel judged for not knowing what to do or for doing something that's not "popular." But every mom has to do what she has to do. Regardless if you breastfeed or formula feed, measure what comes out of your baby, not what goes in.
"Baby will have few wet and dirty diapers in the first few days after birth; usually one wet diaper for each day after birth until mom’s more mature milk comes in when wet diapers will increase to 6 or more in 24 hours," one consultant notes. "Babies stools will also increase when the more mature milk comes in and by day four should have 3-4 stools per day that are beginning to look yellow with small cottage cheese-like particles in them."
3 What About Enhancements?
I remember rumors going around in my high school's health class about women with modifications not being able to breastfeed. But the founder of Honolulu Breastfeeding and Wellness Center, Nicky Naoko Lawnsby, noted that she's met women who were successfully able to breastfeed. "It’s possible, but can present some challenges. There is an extra object in the chest cavity,” Nicky said. “It’s much harder work for baby and mom.” She also notes how it can sometimes delay milk production "and increase the chance of mastitis."
2 Milk Does't Always Come In
This may be surprising to women, but not every woman is lucky enough to have their milk come in.
As much as a woman may want to breastfeed, if the milk doesn't naturally come, what's a gal to do? Baby Gaga explains how there are some factors that pertain to low-milk supply or even no milk at all. Stress can be a factor, hormonal issues, polycystic ovary syndrome and mammary hypoplasia can also happen... It's not exactly what an expecting-breastfeeding momma wants to hear, but these things can happen, and it's better to be aware of these causes and to have a backup plan.
This is no surprise to a future parent, but it's something some parents forget: you're about to become a living, breathing mess. One new mom wished her consultant reminded her that not only was her home going to be messy with a new baby, but so was her actual body. "You, your baby, your shirt, your couch, and your dog will be covered in breastmilk. Eventually this stops as your [body] adjust to what your baby needs. But at first, it is not pretty - make sure you have burp cloths everywhere, and yell at anyone who moves them away from arm's reach."