Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I am 1 person, with 1 baby, and I've nursed all of...You guessed it. 1 child. I am not a nurse, a La Leche League consultant, or a professional by any stretch of the imagination. I can only share with you my personal experience and what I learned through consulting with my pediatrician, breastfeeding specialists, and independent research.
Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let's start.
I hope that all of you had a wonderful lactation consultant at your hospital to help you when you first start(ed) breastfeeding. I didn't. My "lactation consultant" was a nurse that popped her head in the door right before I was discharged from the hospital and said something to the effect of "You want to make sure she latches on correctly and wash your breasts often".
Well OK, then.
After months of fumbling around in the dark and a little trial and error, here are things that nobody ever told me before (or after, for that matter) I started nursing Cali.
1. It's not actually supposed to hurt. I say this with trepidation because it is going to be uncomfortable and you'll probably be sore because your breasts (more than likely) have never seen that much action. But I had searing pain for 3 solid months and everyone kept telling me that it was normal. I finally got my butt in gear and spoke with a La Leche League consultant that informed me that it actually wasn't normal. Thank you. I wasn't crazy. Our problem ended up being Cali's latch. She wasn't getting enough of my boob in her mouth and it ended up causing us some very painful problems. As soon as we fixed that, the pain was completely gone within a couple of days. If you've had pain for more than a couple of weeks, it wouldn't hurt to seek out help.
2. Speaking of latch, it's uber important. A bad latch can cause a ton of problems. 2 of them being pain for the mother, and poor milk consumption for the baby. It would take Cali up to an hour to nurse in the beginning and I was also told that was normal. It wasn't. Newborns will nurse for longer periods of time because they're learning too. But if your baby is nursing for an hour and still hungry, you might have a bad latch.
3. It might not actually help you lose all of the weight. This is really still up for debate but from what I've gathered, it varies from woman to woman. What is proven is that your body produces a hormone called prolactin while you breastfeed and this slows down your fat metabolism. But don't worry. Most women report losing the last few pounds shortly after their baby weans. Even though weight loss is a debatable side effect of breastfeeding, there's still a ton of other benefits.
4. It was the most difficult adjustment of having a newborn. People will warn you about the sleepless nights and possibility of colic but nobody ever told me that breastfeeding would be such a huge adjustment. For me, it was the timing of everything. It seemed like as soon as I fed Cali, changed her diaper, got myself ready, and headed out the door, she was either A) ready to go back to sleep or B) ready to eat again. It definitely took a couple of weeks to get a rhythm down.
5. What you eat can effect your baby. When Cali was 2 weeks old, she started crying uncontrollably at random times (mostly at night). My pediatrician told me she probably had colic and that I had to wait it out and that most babies outgrew it within 3 months. After some independent research, I figured it wouldn't hurt to try and eliminate dairy since it's the most common food allergy of babies. After about a week of eliminating all (even traces of) milk/dairy from my diet, Cali's symptoms disappeared. She was a different baby. Then around 6 weeks old, we noticed blood in her stool. Our pediatrician said it was probably a fissure (DON'T GOOGLE THAT) and it would go away within 2-5 days. After a traumatizing moment (that I'll spare you the details of), and our first ER visit, we spoke with a GI doctor that suggested taking out all gluten, eggs, and soy (along with the dairy I was already avoiding). 2 weeks after I did this (by the way, soy is in everything), we had no more issues of blood. I'm not saying that your baby doesn't have colic but if they're crying and you feel helpless, it's an easy fix if that's the problem.
So there you go. I hope that your breastfeeding experience is all rainbows and unicorns but if it's not, it's OK. With a little research and patience, it's probably fixable. And if all else fails and you feel like it's best for you and your baby that you switch to formula, that's OK TOO. Do you need me to repeat that? IT'S OK. You tried and that's all anyone can ask.
Do you have any other surprising facts about your breastfeeding experience? Share them in the comments!