Breastfeeding your child can be challenging, especially if you’re not getting the help and support you need from family and friends, or even from medical professionals. Here are eight things I wish someone had told me about breastfeeding, so you don’t have to learn the hard way.
1) Your baby will not starve
Many women worry that their newborns will starve while they’re at work, but unless you’re a surgeon or working in a similar profession, there’s no reason to fear leaving your baby alone for long stretches of time. All babies need is a steady supply of breast milk. If you have trouble breastfeeding, keep trying; it may be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but many moms get used to it over time.
2) There are many ways to feed your baby breast milk
There’s exclusive breastfeeding, pumping to collect milk, and supplementing with formula. There are also different ages at which babies can be fed breast milk: infants can be breastfed as soon as they’re born; some moms decide to switch to formula a few months in. And there are many benefits to breastfeeding (besides providing essential nutrients): it may reduce infant mortality rates and help newborns sleep better.
3) You can still go out without pumping and feeding a bottle
It’s been two months since you had your baby, and you haven’t gone out yet. It’s time to get your clothes on—and make sure they have a hidden zipper or nursing access. You won’t regret it!
4) Breastfeeding isn’t about weight loss
Some women have misconceptions about breastfeeding and use it as a way to lose weight. While it’s true that breastfeeding burns calories, there are many other ways to lose weight. Don’t feel like you need to breastfeed because of its health benefits. In fact, you should only breastfeed if you want to. Remember: your baby will get all of her nutritional needs from formula if you don’t have any milk!
5) Know your options when it comes to formula
If you can’t breastfeed, know that there are many safe formulas on the market. Try to buy organic, if possible. Do your research and choose a formula based on ingredients as well as cost—some formulas are more expensive than others but can have additional health benefits for your baby. (Here’s more information on breastfeeding vs. formula.)
6) Some women don’t produce enough milk so here are some alternatives
If you find that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat, consider using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) like Medela’s Supplemental Nursing System, which delivers colostrum from mom to baby via a thin tube. The breast milk goes in one end and then drips into baby’s mouth. This way, you can still bond with your baby and he gets some extra nourishment while gaining weight.
7) Babies grow at different rates, but what does that really mean?
Babies come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll also likely find they grow at different rates. Newborns can lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight, or roughly 5 ounces per week, before you know it and then gain it back quickly—all within their first month. At three months old, your baby should have doubled her birth weight and grown about an inch more than she was when she was born.
8) Don’t be afraid to get help from other people
If you’re nervous or uncomfortable about breastfeeding, bring a breast pump to your pediatrician for a consultation. There are also groups like La Leche League that provide peer support and even classes on how to properly breastfeed, so if you can’t find an online forum/group in your area, look for one close by.