There are a lot of things one can't really prepare for until the baby is actually born. Breastfeeding is one of those things. Sure there are countless books on the subject, one could hire a lactation consultant months in advance, ask a doula everything she knows, badger fellow mothers and grandmothers for all the information they have on the topic and just pray it's not nearly as bad as how that one woman on youtube said it was.
But at the end of the day, mom can not actually breastfeed until their baby is in their arms. After the little one is born and he or she takes that little wiggle "walk" in search of what will be his or her first latch onto the milk source, the breastfeeding journey truly begins.
Although everyone's experience is bound to vary from person to person, there are a few important milestones that mothers eventually have to come to when breastfeeding. Curious as to how the first year of breastfeeding really looks? Or, just wondering how that personal mom-and-me breastfeeding stacks up to others?
Read on for the 20 ways Moms breastfeeding journey will change over the course of their baby's first year.
20 Too Full Too Fast
Engorgement happens usually at the beginning of a mother's breastfeeding journey–although it can actually happen at any time. Engorgement is what happens when you are producing a lot of milk and not emptying. They will feel heavy and full, they can also feel uncomfortable. Once your baby is born, your breasts receive a signal to start milk production. Blood flows to the area, and your milk usually comes in one to four days after the birth, but don't worry if it doesn't, it will come eventually. Engorgement is usually temporary and eventually, you will produce just as much milk as your baby needs.
19 Attachment Issues
Many first time mothers will encounter latch issues in the very beginning of their breastfeeding journey, it is not something out of the ordinary. Mostly because we have no idea what in the world we are doing and we get a revelation that breastfeeding is nowhere near as easy as it looks, latch issues can come as a complete surprise. Causes for latch issues can vary from tongue ties, a really hungry baby, the time it takes to get used to breastfeeding, and how the feeling of latching can be so eye-opening for the mother. The first few seconds when the baby latches can be unpleasant, but it's far more startling.
18 The First Milk
"Firstly, my milk did not come in on day 3. Everyone said it would come in on day three but on that day, James had his circ and my emotions floundered and … no milk. I also now know that women whose milk is late coming in are more likely to suffer an emotional blip on day 3. It was hard. I then had to fight the nurses who said he needed a bottle because my milk was not sufficient. It was a hard day," said first-time mom Terra LaRock. The first milk is known as colostrum, it's a thicker, yellower milk, and it may take a bit to come in depending on how you deliver, says La Leche League."
17 'Real Milk'
A few days after you have colostrum your "real milk" will come in. And when it does, some real unexpected changes will happen, namely the let down. "I can tell you that my let down is not a light tingle! It is a breath-taking [discomfort] that goes right through my body. I would count backward from 30 as it came on, knowing that if I breathed it would eventually settle," said mother of three Meg Faure. Many women consider the milk that comes in after colostrum, 'real milk.' Although any lactation specialist will tell you colostrum is milk as well.
16 Getting The Hang Of Things
One day you will eventually get the hang of things. It actually will not take as long as you might think. For me, I thought to myself "hmm I got the hang of this nursing thing" by about one month. Eventually, you will feel so attached to your little one that there may be moments when you kind of wish you could detach. If that happens to you, don't feel bad. Nursing means you are literally your baby's lifeline. Whenever your little one is hungry, sad, tired, cranky or upset he or she will want you, at least for this moment in time. Just make sure your support system is strong.
15 Nursing Accessories
"I had to put two pillows underneath my nursing pillow to make it the right height, I had one pillow behind my back and my feet had to be propped up on an ottoman. (I couldn't remember which [side]I left off on) and a water bottle or two to my right. Nursing was a main event at our house for a while. Yet sure enough, as the days and weeks went by, I too became one of those mamas who could breastfeed anywhere. It just takes time," said mom Terra Larock. For many moms figuring out this whole nursing thing means lots of accessories. Pack your arsenal full of pillows, creams, pads, and snacks for the beginning of your journey.
14 Going Public
When moms new to nursing nurse in public for the first time, things can feel like taking a big step into the deep end of a pool. The trick is wearing easily accessible clothing. When I used to think about nursing in public, nothing scared me more than dealing with an upset, hungry baby, and a top that closes in the back. That being said, keep easy access to the goods in mind as a top priority when you get dressed and are planning to go out with the little one. Save those little back dresses for date night.
13 Getting Comfortable
Okay, so several times after you nurse in public for the first time, you will eventually get comfortable doing so just about anywhere. There may be the occasional distant relative or random Starbucks patron who may make you want to turn the other way, but after a few months, breastfeeding will feel as natural to as it actually is. Just wait for it! "Breastfeeding is SO convenient and SO empowering! No bottles, no bottle warmer...," said mother Suzanne Khan. It's just you. No need to pack bottles for travel, or rush to the store for formula when you're tired. And no matter what anyone tells you, remember that you are enough.
12 The Express Milk Lane
Being away from your baby is never really enjoyed, but having to pump to make up for the lost feedings is even less of a walk in the park. "Being chained to a [...] pump gets depressing! I went back to work when my daughter was five months. I pumped every single day, twice per day for SEVEN MONTHS!" lamented mother Suzanne Khan. The thing is, pumping is not easy. It takes really hard work and a lot of dedication. Just a word of advice, although it may not be a treat, remember to pump on a schedule, it will help your health and that of your little one in the long run.
11 Development Stage
Breastfeeding during your little ones developmental stages can be a challenge. "At four months, my social butterfly wanted to pull off [...] to look around – it was impossible to feed in one go – he wanted a snack and then to check around and then to snack again. I found this so frustrating," explained mother Meg Faure, and the thing is, this developmental stage of exploring their surroundings and realizing the world is much bigger than it is, only increases their desire to pull off, look around, and get distracted while eating. This will eventually be an indicator for a few more things toward the end of your breastfeeding journey, but more on that later.
10 Supply Dips
Okay, this one is not so funny. Pesky supply dips can occur for a myriad of reasons during your breastfeeding journey. If your cycle returns, if you get sick, if you get pregnant, if your little one starts teething, if you miss a pump session or six, if you are stressed, if you are tired, if you are anxious, if you are distracted, did I mention there are a myriad of reasons that your supply can dip? In some cases, moms who do not express milk when they need to can develop an infection known as mastitis. This can lead to a permanent supply dip if it is not treated properly.
9 Freezer Stock Or Not
Depending on your lifestyle, you may come to a point where you may ask yourself whether or not a milk freezer stockpile is necessary for you and your family. Having a freezer stockpile does have its advantages, but it is no easy task to build up a large stockpile unless you are blessed with a crazy oversupply that somehow evens itself out naturally, so that should be worth keeping in mind as well. According to Baby Center, the purpose of a freezer should be for two purposes: To have enough milk for the first day back to work or during a time you leave your baby. And, for emergencies.
8 Night Weaning
Night weaning will be tough, and there is no telltale age when it will occur or when will be the right time for you or your family. Many mothers will experience their little ones crying and mourning over not being able to nurse throughout the night. It will pass. It will feel terrible but it will pass. Weaning your little one from eating at night is one of the first steps to independent motherhood. Just try not to get frustrated if it takes several days to fully wean your child. It also means the end of your breastfeeding journey is not far off. Keep reading for more of what to expect.
7 Baby's First Foods
At around 6 months you will start introducing your little one to solid foods or perhaps earlier if they are showing interest in your food, able to sit up on his or her own, showing head control, and losing the extrusion reflux says Baby Center. When you start introducing solids it's usually just one or two spoonfuls and milk maintains the main source of nutrition for your little one, but introducing solids is a big deal. It's one step in the right direction if your child becoming an eater of food that you no longer produce. Pretty cool, right?
6 Weaning Woes
When you start weaning your little one off the breast, it's best to do it slowly but surely. Try eliminating the feedings they do not particularly care for first, or introducing a bottle in place of that feeding. Children tend to prefer the morning and bedtime feedings most, so try to save those for last. Just don't be surprised if things get just a little rocky at first. Be prepared to offer up other food or a way to soothe your child that does not involve nursing when weaning begins, it may take some time, but you'll get it, Mom.
5 Don't Go
One of the most unexpected things many mothers experience toward the end of their breastfeeding journey is separation anxiety for both the child and mom. Make your approach gradual, do not rush the weaning process rushing can lead to signs of premature weaning, for example: increased separation anxiety, whining, crying, tantrums, night wakening, and withdrawal from activities or general “aloofness” and inattention, according to Baby Center. It is normal for mothers too to feel anxious about being separated from their children and worried about how someone else may be feeding them. It is all a part of the process and it just means you care. A Lot.
4 A Helpful Hand
When weaning isn't going as well as you may have imagined, it may be time to bring in reinforcements. Asking your partner to wake with your little one when he or she is not quite adjusted to night weaning, can really help. Your baby will naturally associate not eating with your partner and it will then be easier to calm or soothe during the weaning process. Same goes for bottle feeding, ask your partner to offer a bottle in place of one feeding every day until eventually, you are where you feel you need to be. Eventually, all of the weaning difficulty will be a thing of the past.
3 It's Your Birthday!
Nursing for an entire year is recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics, but it is also a huge accomplishment for mothers. If you get to this point give yourself a round of applause, you did it. Some mothers choose to continue after this point, and some may have stopped long ago. Either way, know that your journey is your own. Trust yourself and your baby and do what you feel is best for both of you. Dr. Sears advises, waiting at least until this point since premature weaning can lead your child to feel unfulfilled and uncomfortable because it is “pushing [them] into independence before he is completely ready.”
2 Replacing Milk
Yay! you've made it an entire year. Now, if you need to replace milk or look for milk alternatives after you have started weaning, consider these alternatives and reasons for why you should replace them. When you stop breastfeeding it is only natural that you will think about what kind of milk your little one will start drinking afterward. For some, cow's milk is not the way to go. Luckily there are so many options which will give you some peace of mind. Again, many mothers choose to wait until their baby self-weans. This could be years later but weaning truly depends on each family and their journey.
1 On To Bigger And Better
When your breastfeeding journey finally comes to an end, you will need to figure out new ways to bond with your little one and replace that time that the two of you once shared. This will be a difficult time, mostly for you, mom. Try to come to terms with the end of this chapter in your long book of motherhood but look forward to bigger and better things that are still waiting for you and your little one. Consider offering lots of extra cuddling and close mommy time, this will really help both of you. Your child needs this emotional reassurance and physical connection. This is a great time for mommy and me movies, special days, and activities.
References: Baby Center, La Leche League, The Natural Child Project, The Pumping Mommy.com, Pregnancybirthbaby.org, American Academy of Pediatrics.