One thing that I feel like no one is adequately prepared for in motherhood is breastfeeding. It’s something many think about in terms of whether they are going to try to do it or not, but so many people do not feel adequately prepared or educated enough when it actually comes time to do the dang thing! So today I’m going to share a little about my personal experience and what I wish I had known about breastfeeding!
If we are meeting for the first time - Hi! Welcome to Vibrant Mama Wellness! My name is Megan, and I am a pre and postnatal personal trainer. I am certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with a specialization in pre+postnatal fitness through Pronatal fitness. I am a mom of one, and became interested in pre + postnatal fitness as I was going through my own pregnancy journey!
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. This blog post is based on my own research and experience - please consult a medical professional before starting or making any changes to your exercise program).
Breastfeeding was really not something I gave a whole lot of thought to. Instead I was more focused on all the things I needed for when the baby arrived - the crib, the bouncer, swing, gadgets, wraps, bottles, etc. I thought that breastfeeding would come naturally (because this is what we always hear) and that I would figure it out as I went. I hoped that I would be able to produce enough milk and honestly believed that was the only obstacle people faced.
I delivered my son via c-section, and after we were out of the OR and doing skin to skin, the only instruction I got from the nurse was to place him to my breast. I remember thinking, “okay? What does that mean?” He was rooting around and I tried placing his mouth close to my nipple and hoped that was what she meant. And to be honest, she wasn’t nice about this process. She asked me “did you seriously not take any breastfeeding classes?” Now keep in mind, this was in 2020….when there were no in person childbirth classes or anything like that. So no, I did not take classes! I had to blink away tears from eyes as I told her no, and asked what I was supposed to do. She forcefully grabbed my breast and put it in my sons mouth, and commented on my nipple shape saying she needed to go get a shield because it wasn’t going to work.
Now, this blog post isn’t meant to scare you if you’re pregnant, but the reality is, mothers are not given enough support and education when it comes to breastfeeding. Given this was my first interaction and encounter with breastfeeding, I was immediately concerned. "Would I be able to breastfeed? Was something wrong with me? Was I really supposed to know all of this already? How dumb of me to not do my research!"
But the fact of the matter is, education isn’t there unless we actively seek it out and advocate for ourselves.
As far as my story goes, I did get more support once we were moved into our postpartum room, and I had a lactation consultant come work with us daily while we were in the hospital which was incredibly helpful. At my son’s 1 week appointment, he was jaundiced and wasn’t gaining weight the way they were hoping, so his pediatrician suggested pumping a few times a day so we could give him bottles and ensure he was getting milk. I was totally on board with this, since my number one priority was making sure he was getting adequate nutrition. I was surprised at how much relief I felt pumping. Nursing wasn’t easy due to his latch, and it was painful for me despite all the work with the lactation consultants. When he was 3 weeks old, I made the decision to exclusively pump. And I did that until he was 10 months old! It was very time consuming and lots of hard work, but I have no regrets in that decision.
Okay so let’s talk about some things I wish I had known about breastfeeding so I could’ve been better prepared!
It does not come naturally. Let’s be honest - it’s a totally new skill to learn! I think the messaging about breastfeeding being natural is doing parents a disservice because they don’t take the time to research and educate themselves before the baby arrives. My advice would be to learn everything you can and take the classes! Talk to other moms that breastfeed and get their tips and tricks!
How to pump. Just another thing I had no idea how to do. When I first took my pump out of the box, I was so intimidated by it. There were so many buttons and setting and different sized flanges - how was I supposed to know what to do with this! Again this comes back to education. Learn how the pump works. Get the correct sized flanges (there are ways to measure yourself which the best way!) Learn how to properly handle and store breastmilk. By doing this ahead of time it will lessen the stress once the baby arrives.
Ask for help! Lactation consultants are wonderful resources. In addition to local, in person consultants, there are also so many that do virtual consultations, which can be really helpful if you can’t or aren’t comfortable traveling to one! They can help you with your supply, troubleshooting your latch or pump, and just overall be a great support.
Let go of expectations. There is so much shame surrounding how we feed our babies. But at the end of the day, we don’t have a ton of control over what happens. There are so many factors that affect how our babies feed, our supply, and our mental health! Letting go of expectations and being okay with whatever happens can help so so much!
Again, these are all my personal experiences and thoughts when it comes to breastfeeding. But as someone that had a bit of a rollercoaster ride of a journey, these are things I wish I had known/done in hindsight!
What was your breastfeeding experience like? Do these tips helps? Let me know in the comments!
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Disclaimer: This blog does not serve as medical advice. Please consult your medical provider before starting a new fitness routine. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.