As a new mom, the thought of breastfeeding can be both exciting and overwhelming. You've probably heard all the "breast is best" slogans and read about the countless benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby. But let's be real, no one tells you about the not-so-glamorous side of breastfeeding or pumping. Breastfeeding and pumping can take a toll on our physical and mental health, in ways that we never imagined. So, in the spirit of keeping it real, here are 10 things we wish we knew before we began our own breastfeeding and pumping journeys.
- Your nipples will be sore. Like, really sore. But don't worry, it will get better. In the meantime, stock up on lanolin cream, ice packs and invest in a good nursing bra.
- You will leak….a lot and whatever time of day your boobs decide to let down! But don't stress, it's a normal part of breastfeeding. Just keep a few breast pads in your bra and you'll be good to go.
- Pumping is breastfeeding! If you’re giving your baby the benefits of breast milk, then you’re breastfeeding mama! Why pump for your baby? Pumping breastmilk can be a great option for moms who want to ensure their baby has access to breast milk even when breastfeeding isn't possible. It allows you to have a supply of milk on hand, and can be used when you're away, or when your baby is unable to breastfeed. Additionally, it can help to maintain milk supply and give you some flexibility in your busy life as a mom.
- You’ll feel anxious…a lot. Keep tabs on your mental health and physical health – remember, postpartum hormone fluctuations can really take a toll on us, and you’ll especially feel it when your milk supply changes with your baby’s needs. Going back to work might amplify feelings of stress and anxiety, so remember to go easy on yourself, stay connected with family and friends, and prioritize yourself mama! Getting into a pumping routine to store milk can be very beneficial for YOUR mental health so that others can help feed your baby when you need a break. It can allow others to bond with your baby and give you some time to rest or attend to other responsibilities.
- You will feel like a milk machine – breastfeeding and pumping can feel like (and basically is a FULL TIME JOB!). Your baby will want to nurse all the time, and you'll feel like all you do is sit around and feed them. But remember, this is a temporary phase and it's all worth it for that bonding time with your little one.
- You will get to know your lactation consultant REALLY, really well. They are there to help you navigate the breastfeeding journey and answer any questions you may have. Because our milk supply changes with a variety of factors like our own nutrition and hydration, age of our baby, time of feedings and overall demand from our little ones, it may seem difficult to understand how to navigate, predict and measure our output. It's important to remember that every mom and baby are different, and it may take some time to get into a flow and with the right support, you can add pumping to your breastfeeding journey with confidence.
- You will feel like a superhero and you most certainly are! There's nothing quite like the feeling of nourishing your baby with your own body. It's truly amazing and empowering.
- You will learn to nurse and pump in some weird positions (and places!). One-handed, standing up, in the car, while holding your baby's head with your chin…you name it, you'll do it. And you'll be amazed at how flexible you become!
- You'll learn that breastfeeding and pumping is not one size fits all. It's a journey and a process, and as much as you'll try to plan it, it will not always go as planned, but that's all part of the experience, and you'll learn to roll with the punches and enjoy the ride.
- You’ll learn a lot about your baby, yourself and new products and services that are right for YOU! Remember, your breastfeeding and pumping journey is yours alone…you get to decide what’s best for you and your little one. At Leche, we want to celebrate the hard work you’ve put into your journey by helping you preserve your milk for later use. While freezing or refrigerating breast milk is still the most common storage method, freeze drying is considered the best form of preservation for breast milk as it removes the water content from milk, leaving behind only the nutrients and enzymes. Freeze-dried breast milk can be stored for a year or longer at room temperature, whereas fresh milk can only be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, and frozen milk for up to 6 months. Interested to see if Leche is right for you? Check out our flexible travel and everyday options here!
Breastfeeding and pumping is not always easy, but it's one of the most rewarding experiences you'll have as a new mom. And while we know that nutritionally your breast milk is nutritionally perfect for your little one, maintaining an exclusive supply is real work. For your mental and physical health as a mom, caregiver and so much more, we advocate for keeping YOU healthy first. If that means cofeeding or supplementing for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your little one, we fully support that! Just as pumping can provide a sense of security for mothers in knowing that they have a backup plan in case of unexpected situations such as a premature birth, unexpected absence, or unexpected illness, so can formula feeding. Once you reviewed ideas for storing your breast milk and feeding, finding your flow can alleviate a good chunk of your new mom anxieties.
And, we can’t say this enough.…don't be afraid to reach out for help! Remember, every mom and baby are different, what works for one may not work for the other, so be kind and compassionate to yourself, and know that you're doing an amazing job as a mother.