Category

Breastfeeding

How To Exclusively Pump and Keep Up Your Supply

“How To Exclusively Pump and Keep Up Your Supply” is a guest post written by Tiffany Thomas. Many thanks to her for sharing her wealth of knowledge on this topic!

How to exclusively pump

This post contains affiliate links, meaning a small commission may be earned at no extra cost to you.

Having a new baby should be a wonderful, joyous time for mothers.  While it is not perfect (how can sleepless nights be anything but?), it can be one of the most rewarding things you do.

Nothing can ruin those feelings more than the stress of having an inadequate breastmilk supply, especially when you have to pump exclusively.

For both of my children (and for future little ones), I have only been able to pump.  Tongue ties combined with flat nipples, mixed with severe health issues on my part have created a perfect storm of not being able to nurse.

While there is nothing wrong with exclusively pumping at all¸ it definitely has its challenges.  The biggest stress of pumping is ensuring you have an adequate milk supply for your baby.

It can be so disheartening to pump for literally hours every single day and only come away with 3-4 oz – total.  

I’ve put together some tips that can help boost your milk supply.  As you read these, however, please, please, please keep in mind that every woman’s body is different.

No matter how much milk you provide, or how much you need to supplement with formula, what matters most is that your baby is shown your love and affection.  Don’t let the stress of “not enough milk” interfere with that.

Now, on to the tips!

How to Exclusively Pump Part 1: What you need

Get a good double breast pump

How to exclusively pump

 

The most important aspect of pumping is to have a good quality breast pump!  There are dozens of posts and reviews out there, so I won’t go into details in this post.  I give a few general guidelines, though:

  • See if your health insurance will provide a breast pump.
  • Try to get a hospital-grade breast pump.  My insurance company provided a rental (since these cost over $1,000) after my OB wrote a prescription.  Some hospitals will also rent them
  • While it is tempting to buy a used one, they are not able to be sterilized since the air circulates through the motor (unless it is hospital-grade)
  • Get a double breast pump.  Not only does this save time, you also don’t lose the milk from the other side when a let-down occurs.

Have the right supplies

There are a few must-haves (for me, at least) when I am pumping:

  • Pumping bra.  The person who introduced This allows me to have both hands free while I pump.  I can then multi-task (like work or even play with my children) while pumping.
  • Something that smells/sounds/looks like your baby.  When you can see, smell, or hear your baby while nursing, it encourages more frequent, quicker let-downs.
  • Pumpin’ Pal flanges.  These are amazing.  Because they curve, you can lean back a little when you pump.  It helps my relax and not feel like my back is going to break!
  • Something to do.  Whether it’s work, reading a book, or even just browsing Facebook, you need to be able to do something other than sit and think about how much you could be doing if you weren’t pumping!
  • A comfortable place to sit.  Nothing will make you want to rush pumping more than feeling uncomfortable.

All of these things will help increase your supply because you will be less likely to be stressed and rush your pumping session.  If you are on edge or uptight, then you won’t be able to have as effective let-downs.

How To Exclusively Pump Part 2: Keeping Good Supply

How to exclusively pump

Stay hydrated

If you are not producing enough breast milk, one of the first things you should look at is how much you are drinking.  Water is preferable; you should avoid sodas, sugary drinks, and even sugary fruit juices.  Gatorade might be a bit better than water.

If you’re like me, and plain water makes you feel a bit sick, add some lemons or other flavoring methods.  I will water-down juice or powdered drink mixes, usually ¼ mix and ¾ water.  One thing that helps me is mix up an entire pitcher each morning and then leave it on the counter to drink throughout the day.

The average person should drink 64 oz per day, but that varies for each person. When breastfeeding, you should add an additional 32 oz to what you already drink (so around 100 oz per day).

Eat well

Did you know that you need more calories producing breast milk than you did being pregnant?  The average pregnant mother only needs an extra 300 calories in the second trimester and 400-500 calories in the third trimester.  However, when you are breastfeeding, you need at least an extra 500 calories per day.  (There are about 20-25 calories in each oz of breastmilk.)

So many mothers try to go on a diet to lose the extra baby weight, but what it really does is take away the calories needed to make healthy breastmilk for your baby.  You may also want to take a multivitamin, or continue taking your prenatal vitamin, so your breastmilk is full of nutrients.

Set a schedule that fits your body

Everyone’s bodies are different, so it makes sense that your body will produce and empty milk differently.  A baby will nurse until they are full, no matter how long it takes for the breast to empty.

For me, it takes forever to empty.  I do best pumping 5 times per day for an hour at a time. 

Yes, you read that right – an hour at a time.

It takes forever, I know, but I get 75% of my milk during that last 10 minutes of the hour.  I try to set a schedule that works, and my body gets used to producing the milk at that time.  In fact, if I am running late, I will still have let-downs during my scheduled pumping time, even if I am not actually pumping!

(Although I will point out that for the first month or so of my baby’s life, I just pump every time she eats, which is usually 10-12 times per day, for about 30 minutes each time.  Then I adjust to the 5 times per day.)

Try power-pumping

How to exclusively pump

When babies go through growth-spurts, they tend to nurse almost constantly, for short periods of time, for a couple of days.  The mother’s body will increase the amount of milk because of the high demand.

In order to mimic this in your own body, you can do “power-pumping” for a few days.  This will take more time, so it might be good to do this over a weekend (instead of trying to pump during breaks at work).

The way power-pumping works is that for each session you pump, you pump for 10 minutes, take a 10  minute break, pump another 10 minutes, take another 10 minute break, and pump for a final 10 minutes.  Repeat this 6-7 times  each day for 2-3 days.

This should increase your overall supply.  Nursing mothers will have full, uncomfortable breasts for a few days after a growth spurt.  Their body will then naturally lower the milk supply to match the baby.  However, since you pump, you should be able to maintain this increase!  When you need more milk, just power-pump again!

I tried to power-pump at least once a month when I had babies.

How to Exclusively Pump Part 3: Mental and Emotional Support

How to exclusively pump

Find a support system

Lastly, what you really need to have a good supply is a good support system.  If you are stressed about pumping and want to throw in the towel, having support is vital.

One of the best places I found support was through Facebook groups.  There are several different Facebook groups that are devoted to women who are exclusively pumping.  It’s a great place to ask questions, get advice, and interact with other women who are in the same place you are.  Odds are, they’ll also be up at 2 am pumping when you are, so you can have someone to talk to!

Keeping things in perspective

This may be a difficult journey, and exclusively pumping may not be what you had planned.  It definitely wasn’t how I envisioned I would feed my baby.  But I ended up loving it so much more than nursing, and it was the best fit for my family.

Just remember, every ounce of that liquid gold is worth it.

If you have to supplement with formula, you are not a failure.

Even if you do every one of these tips and only get 5 oz per day, you are not a failure.

Each ounce of breastmilk that comes from your body goes towards helping your child grow and builds their immune system.  But more important, fed is best.  If it just isn’t working out at all and is damaging how you feel about your worth as a mother, then let it go.  Purchase some formula, and enjoy snuggling your baby.

In the end, those snuggles and love will help your child more than anything.

Do you have any questions about exclusively pumping?

Leave me your question in the comments and I will answer!

And if you’re just starting out on your breastfeeding journey, don’t miss the 5 must-dos for breastfeeding success.

ABOUT THE GUEST POSTER

Tiffany Thomas is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals!  She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart.  They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi together, and saving money.

Follow her here:

 

 

Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom And Baby

It’s no secret that breastfeeding offers many benefits for your baby, including nutrients, immunity, and attachment. But have you heard about all the breastfeeding benefits for Mom?

It turns out, the nursing relationship is mutually beneficial for mother and child for not only physical health, but emotional well-being and bonding as well.

Here are 14 of the breastfeeding benefits for mom and baby.

Breastfeeding benefits for mom and baby

Benefit for Baby: Physical and Emotional Connection

Skin-to-skin contact is essential for an infant’s development, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In fact, a study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that breastfeeding leads to improved maternal-infant bonding.

A baby who does not immediately bond with another individual is at risk for significant stress that can lead to both physical and emotional challenges throughout life. Breastfeeding helps to reduce this risk and gives mom and baby a chance to connect right away.

Benefit for Mom: Faster Recovery from Childbirth

Even though the release of good hormones is often reward enough for breastfeeding, mothers also benefit physically each time an infant feeds.

Statistics show that many moms who breastfeed recover faster and more easily from childbirth as the hormone oxytocin releases. As a result, the release of this hormone can help to minimize postpartum bleeding and help return your uterus to its normal size.

In fact, research suggests that mothers who breastfeed and cuddle their infants within 30 minutes of childbirth can help to reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

Got childbirth questions? I’ve got answers. Read All Your Not-So Stupid Birth Questions: Answered!

Benefit for Baby: Protection Against Potential Illnesses

One of the primary benefits of breastfeeding for your baby is the potential to ward off infections, illnesses and diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports that infants are at less risk for developing respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections and type 1 and type 2 diabetes if they are breastfed.

It is well worth all your effort to know that nursing is providing your little one with daily nourishment as well as protecting him or her from future infections. 

Benefit for Mom: Natural Form of Contraception

breastfeeding benefits for mom

If you choose to exclusively breastfeed your baby, the process delays your menstrual period from returning after birth. Since you are not ovulating, breastfeeding your child serves as a natural form of contraception, which extends the time between pregnancies.

However, use this method with caution! The effect only applies if your child is less than six months, your period has not returned and you are breastfeeding both day and night. If you supplement with formula or start weaning, your fertility is likely to return.

Benefit for Baby: Improved Maturation

While all babies benefit from the nutrition and bonding that results from breastfeeding, pre-term babies especially reap the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with mom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found that skin-to-skin contact from breastfeeding can improve neurobehavioral maturation, autonomic maturation and gastrointestinal adaption.

In addition, pre-term infants who are breast fed have more restful sleep patterns and cry less, which ultimately constitutes better growth.

Once you’re aware of the benefits, make sure you have the knowledge to achieve your breastfeeding goals. 

I always recommend a breastfeeding class for expectant moms who have their hearts set on breastfeeding. It makes a world of difference to go in prepared for any challenges you might encounter. Have the solutions already ready so you don’t need to search for answers when you’re stressed and exhausted with a newborn!

The best online breastfeeding class I’ve found out there is this one by Milkology. It is extremely thorough and the video format makes it feel like you’re really taking a class, but on your own schedule and at your convenience.

breastfeeding success

Benefit for Mom: Release of Hormones that Promote Love and Nurturing

For mom, the closeness of connecting with baby is the most rewarding part of breastfeeding, but there is scientific evidence from the AAP that explains why you feel good during nursing sessions.

These feelings are often attributed to the release of hormones that are released when feeding your baby. For instance, prolactin is released while breastfeeding, which gives mothers a nurturing sensation. It is also known to help moms to relax and improve focus.

In addition, oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, which promotes a sense of attachment and love.

Benefit for Baby: Reduced Pain

Breastfeeding benefits for mom

Infants who are born with medical conditions benefit significantly from breastfeeding, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The agency’s research found that skin-to-skin contact from breastfeeding can neutralize the newborn’s body temperature and help prevent hypothermia. In addition, when a child is held by a parent during breastfeeding, the act can help reduce pain, decrease crying, offer cardiorespiratory stability and stabilize blood glucose concentrations.

Not only are you offering your child comfort physically, you are also providing nutrition and emotional support each time you breastfeed and cuddle with your infant.

Benefit for Mom: Cost-Effective Feeding Method

breastfeeding benefits for mom

Like everything related to babies, feeding your infant can get expensive. Baby formula costs about $15 per can, which may only last 3-4 days if your baby is a good eater. If your baby has allergies or difficulties digesting formula, special hypoallergenic formula can cost double that.

Depending on the formula you choose and how much your baby eats, a year of formula feeding will cost around $2,000. With breastfeeding, you are providing all your baby’s food- free of charge!

Benefit for Baby: Reduces the Risk of Childhood Obesity

Choosing to breastfeed your child as an infant can have significant effects on his or her development later in life. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of childhood obesity, a condition that affects three in 10 kids according to a 2016 study.

The balanced diet your infant receives from breastfeeding not only gives him or her a healthy boost early on in life, it also sets the tone for a healthy lifestyle in the future.

Benefit for Mom: Reduced Risk of Illnesses

As a mother, your primary goal is to provide nourishment for your children through breastfeeding, but you are also safeguarding your own future too. Studies released by the American Academy of Pediatrics have revealed that women who breastfeed have lower rates of ovarian and breast cancer later in life.

Women who breastfeed also have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes. As a result, your blood pressure and cholesterol are often lower during and after breastfeeding.

While breastfeeding does not guarantee a healthy future for mom, nursing can help you to reduce your risks for prominent illnesses and diseases. 

Benefit for Baby: Fewer Ear Infections

breastfeeding benefits for mom

It’s common for babies and toddlers to experience painful ear infections. Breastfeeding helps to ward off this physical condition. The U.S. Office on Women’s Health reports that infants who are breastfeed are less likely to contract as many ear infections as children who are not breastfed.

While your child is likely to suffer from common colds or illnesses throughout his or her life, reducing the risk of ear pain is a definite benefit for both your child’s and your well-being. 

Benefit for Mom: More Convenience and Less Rush

When an infant is ready to eat, he or she often gets fussy while parents rush to prepare bottles and formula. Breastfeeding eliminates this process and allows you to put your baby to your breast immediately.

The convenience also extends to travel or trips to the store. When your child is hungry, you can simply feed him or her while out and about when choosing to breastfeed.

Concerned about privacy? Many stores and businesses provide a private area for mothers to breastfeed. You can also invest in shawls or breastfeeding blankets to increase your privacy when feeding in public. You can even make your own nursing cover if you have basic sewing skills, by following this DIY breastfeeding cover tutorial.

The act is natural, and thankfully, much more accepted in private venues because individuals acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding.

Benefit for Baby: Increased Antibodies and Nutrients

Breastfeeding is the ultimate way to fuel your child’s body with what is often dubbed as liquid gold.

During pregnancy, mothers make colostrum, which is a thick milk your infant receive during the first few feedings. Colostrum is rich in antibodies and nutrients, which can ultimately ward off infections that affect newborns.

In addition, the U.S. Office on Women’s Health reports that colostrum can aid a newborn’s digestive system, even though he or she only receives a tiny amount of colostrum with each feeding.

As your baby grows, your milk matures, offering just the right amount of protein, sugar, water and fat your child needs. Breastmilk is constantly changing to provide exactly what your child needs at that particular stage of development. 

Benefit for Mom: Sense of Fulfillment as a Mother

One of the most beneficial reasons mothers choose to breastfeed is the accomplishment of singlehandedly giving your baby all the nutrients he or she needs directly from your own body.

Breastfeeding ultimately will provide you with a sense of pride. Your love for your child often surmounts when you are holding him or her in your arms and creating an emotional and physical connection with each feeding.

It is well known that breastfeeding is a commitment and it can be difficult, but the feeling of nourishing your baby from your own body is an amazingly rewarding experience.

For more on breastfeeding, pregnancy, baby names and all things parenting, make sure to follow me on Pinterest!

Resources: 

American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding.aspx

American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/benefits

U.S. Office on Women’s Health

https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed

How To Sew A Breastfeeding Cover

A huge thank you to Diana of Sew Very Crafty for sharing this DIY Breastfeeding Cover tutorial with us! I know all my nursing mamas who sew will love to try this one out.

How To Sew A Breastfeeding Cover

Ever looked at a breastfeeding cover and thought “why buy this when I could make one myself?”  This nursing mom essential can be made in an afternoon from a wide variety of fabrics that you can find at Fabric.com and Hobby Lobby.  I created this project so that the new mother can have a breastfeeding cover that is beautiful, sturdy and functional.

This post contains affiliate links that if you click on them and make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

This is a simple sewing project that only requires beginner sewing skills, a yard of fabric, parachute clips and some boning.  Don’t stress about the boning it is very easy to work with and is readily available at any fabric store.

In this project I used two different fabrics but you could use one or more if you like.  For the top and the straps, I used a home decorator weight fabric for sturdiness and a lightweight quilting cotton for the rest of the body.

Breastfeeding Cover Supplies

  • 26″ x 32″ for the bottom of the cover (you can make larger for older and bigger babies as well)
  • 32″ x 6 1/2″ coordinating or contrasting fabric for the top of the cover if doing a contrasting strip.
  • 20″ x 4″ for one side of the strap using coordinating or contrasting fabric
  • 9″ x 4″ for the other side of the strap using coordinating or contrasting fabric
  • Boning 14″ long
  • 1 parachute clip or 2 D-rings.  I chose to use a parachute clip for mine.
  • Standard sewing supplies including wonder clips

Step 1: How to Sew a Breastfeeding Cover

With right sides together, sew the coordinating fabric with the main fabric along the short ends.  This should give you one long piece of fabric that measures 26″ x 38″. Press the seam toward the darker fabric and top stitch along the seam for a professional look.

Breastfeeding cover
Place the top to the bottom right sides together.

 

Breastfeeding Cover
Top stitch along the seam

Step 2: Create the Straps

Fold each strap piece in half lengthwise and press.  Open the straps then fold the raw edges to the center fold and press.  Fold in half along the original fold line and press.  Fold the short raw edges inside the straps and press then clip.  Top stitch along each long edge for a finished look.

breastfeeding cover
Create the straps

 

breastfeeding cover
Sew the straps

Step 3: Add the parachute clip or the D-rings

If you are adding a parachute clip, unclip the pieces and fold through the end of the long strap through one of the pieces and the end of the short strap through the other.  Sew the straps using a box to firmly secure them.  If using the D-rings, place both of the D-rings trough the short strap and sew in the same manner.

Breastfeeding Cover
Add the parachute clip or D -rings

 

breastfeeding cover
Sew the parachute clips

Step 4: Sew the Hem

On the bottom long edge of the cover piece fold over 1/2″ and press, then another 1/2″ and press.  Sew along the turned edge.  This is the hem of the breastfeeding cover.

Breastfeeding cover
Sew a hem along the bottom of the cover

Repeat this step for the shorter sides of the cover.

Breastfeeding cover
Create a hem along the sides

Step 5: Make a Channel for the Boning

On the top of the cover fold the raw edge 1/2″ and press.  Fold again another 1″ and press.  Find the center of the long top edge of the cover and mark with a pin or erasable pen.  Measure 7″ toward the side from the center and mark with a pin pr pen on both sides. Sew along the folded edge from one 7″ mark to the other 7″ mark.  You will be inserting the boning into the channel you just made.

Breast cover
Measure 7 inches from the center on each side

 

Breastfeeding cover
Sew a channel for the boning between the two 7 inch marks

Step 6: Sew In the Boning

Boning is a curved polyester strip that is used to create a bowed effect to the front of the cover.  Insert your boning into the channel that you just created with the curve facing toward you.  Sew perpendicular to the hem next to the ends of the boning to secure.

Breastfeeding cover
Insert the boning

Step 7: Add the straps

Add the straps by inserting them right side up under the hem next to the boning.  Fold over the hem and press.  Sew the straps to the cover using a box to make sure that they are totally secure.

Breastfeeding cover
Sew on the straps

Step 8: Complete the Top Hem

Sew the remainder of the top hem from the straps to the corners and you have completed your DIY  nursing cover. I hope you enjoy making this simple breastfeeding cover.

Check out your finished product:

Breastfeeding cover

Breastfeeding Cover

Diana

About the Guest Poster

Diana Sew Very Crafty

I am a lifelong learner, sewing enthusiast, parent, spouse, lawyer, and die hard St. Louis Cardinals fan. I live in California with my husband and one fat dog. My kids come to visit occasionally from college, especially when it is time for laundry or they have run out of food whichever comes first. I love God and my country but am proud of my Irish heritage. I enjoy sharing my creativity and the things that I love with others. In my spare time, what little there is, I make and sell handbags and write my blog.

Be sure to follow Sew Very Crafty on Pinterest  for more awesome craft tutorials! You can also find her on Facebook page at here.

How To Get A Free Breast Pump

Did you know that since the start of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) it is now mandatory for insurance companies to cover breastfeeding supplies? So many people aren’t aware of this, and they waste their money buying or registering for a breast pump. Keep reading to learn how to get a free breast pump with insurance- the easy way!

how to get your free breast pump

This post was written in collaboration with Aeroflow Breastpumps, but all opinions are my own.

How To Get Your Free Breast Pump With Insurance

The process for getting your insurance to cover a breast pump can be a little confusing. If you’re an introvert like me, calling your provider for a prescription and then dealing with the insurance company may seem overwhelming. That’s why I was so excited to learn about Aeroflow Breastpumps, which will take care of all that for you.

What is Aeroflow Breastpumps?

Aeroflow is a company that was founded in 2001 and started their Breastpump division in 2013 in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act. They specialize in helping pregnant and nursing mothers obtain breast pumps through insurance. Their user-friendly website gives mothers easy access to all the information and supplies they need to have a successful breastfeeding experience.

If you go with Aeroflow, the process to receive your pump looks like this:

  • Fill out the Qualify Through Insurance form with your insurance info and demographics
  • Your dedicated Aeroflow Breastpump Specialist will contact your insurance company and verify your specific benefits
  • Your Breastpump Specialist will obtain the prescription from your provider
  • Aeroflow will contact you to review your benefits and pump options
  • Your breast pump will be shipped right to your door!

That’s a lot less hassle, which is a total win in my book. And the best part? Their services are entirely FREE.

Here’s an even simpler outline of the process:

how to get a free breast pump

FAQs

How long does this process take?

After you fill out the Qualify Through Insurance form, your Aeroflow Breastpump Specialist will get in touch with you in 3-5 business days. Once your eligibility is confirmed and you’ve selected your pump, it will be shipped out to you as soon as possible at no charge to you. Aeroflow ships using UPS ground shipping and will provide you with a tracking number.

At what point during pregnancy should I contact Aeroflow?

You can reach out any time during your pregnancy. Depending on your insurance provider’s regulations, you can expect to receive your breast pump 30-60 days before your due date.

If you are in need of a breast pump after baby is here, you can even qualify for one up to a year after birth. This is a fantastic benefit because sometimes pumps can lose suction power with extended use- which happened to me when I tried using the same pump for Luca that I had used with Elle!

Breast Pumps

Your insurance plan won’t specify a pump brand or specific breast pump they will cover. Instead, they cover certain features. Your Breastpump Specialist will help familiarize you with the different options for features that you will need for your intended pumping use.

If you want additional features, you can choose to upgrade your pump by paying the extra amount out of pocket or with your Health Savings Account (HSA) or FSA. Upgrades might include extra sets of bottles and parts or a transportation bag if you’ll be carting your pump back and forth to work.

This chart can help you compare the different breast pumps available based on their specific features:

how to get a free breast pump

Different moms will have different preferences about their breast pump level of suction, size, noise level, etc. Think about where you will do the most pumping- will you have access to an electrical outlet? If not, make sure you get one with battery power.

A closed system pump is also a wise choice as it ensures milk can not flow back into the tubing. You want to keep your pump parts clean and dry to avoid the risk of mold.

That’s how easy it is to get your free breast pump!

Going through Aeroflow means more convenience for you, so you can have a happy and stress-free pregnancy.

Do you have other concerns about breastfeeding?

If you have concerns about the crucial first few days of breastfeeding, make sure you read this post about starting breastfeeding off right.

7 Things That Completely Shocked Me About Breastfeeding

With all the breastfeeding misinformation pregnant woman hear, reality is bound to bring you some breastfeeding surprises! Here are the 7 things that completely shocked me when I started nursing my first baby.

breastfeeding surprises

1. Breastfeeding REALLY hurt in the beginning- but not where you think.

Based on everything I had heard and read about breastfeeding, I was expecting my nipples to be cracked, sore, and bleeding once I started breastfeeding. For me this turned out to be completely untrue, even with my second baby who was tongue tied. I used lanolin on my nipples for the first few days each time, but they never cracked or bled and they barely hurt at all.

This is largely because my babies had a good latch, so you want to make sure you get that checked early on by a lactation consultant. If the baby has a bad latch it will almost certainly lead to nipple damage and pain.

Anyway, back on track. Where did I feel pain the first couple days of breastfeeding? In my uterus.

The pain felt very similar to labor contractions but was actually even MORE painful at times.

Prior to giving birth I had never even heard of this, but apparently when you breastfeed, your body releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has several reproductive functions, but after birth it’s job is to stimulate your uterus to contract back down to size.

They say the pain is more if it’s your second (or more) birth, but I had serious pain even with my first baby. I was writhing in pain every time I nursed her in the hospital and had to request extra pain meds because of it.

Other moms I’ve talked to said it didn’t hurt them as much, so this can vary from person to person. But don’t be surprised if you have contractions as bad as labor contractions for the first couple days (and yes, it does completely stop after the first few days).

2. You don’t actually make breastmilk for the first few days.

Ok so maybe I was a little unprepared going into breastfeeding. I did take a class, but I must have been spacing out during the part where they talk about colostrum.

(By the way, if you are looking for an amazing breastfeeding class you can do from home on your own time, I can’t recommend this course from Milkology enough. I took it after breastfeeding two children and still learned things I didn’t know!)

So after you first give birth, when your baby nurses he is getting colostrum. It’s like a condensed antibody-rich super version of breastmilk. It is perfect because your baby’s stomach at birth is only the size of a marble, so the way they get a huge boost of immunity while taking in very little.

breastfeeding suprises

Colostrum tends to be thick and yellowish, so don’t be alarmed if you see it and don’t think it looks like breastmilk.

It also has a laxative affect to help babies have their first bowel movement and flush out jaundice. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

You will be even more amazed a few days later when you wake up with ENORMOUS, firm and sore breasts. Ta-da, your milk has come in!

Honestly, take whatever mental picture you’re imagining of how big your breasts will be and just double it. That’s how big they will be at first. Your body starts out thinking you’re feeding triplets and makes that much! With time it will settle down and regulate to the amount your baby is actually taking.

3. You don’t really have to drink gallons of water.

I’ve never been a big water drinker, and people had me thinking I’d need to choke down a gallon an hour in order to successfully breastfeed. It seriously had me scared that I’d never be able to do it.

Yes, your body will need more water than it did before. But lack of water is rarely the reason for having low supply. I’m pretty sure water intake is one of those easy scapegoats people jump to whenever there is a supply issue or other nursing problem.

When you feel thirsty, drink. When you think you might be hungry but it mayyyybe could actually be that you’re thirsty, drink. Don’t make it something to obsess over and drive yourself crazy about.

The official guideline for drinking water when breastfeeding is 100 oz per day, up from the normal 64 oz per day (not that I ever, EVER drank that much pre-pregnancy, but yeah, that’s what the rules say). 100 ounces roughly equates to 3/4 of a gallon, which is not impossible but still could be challenging for some people.

Here is my UNOFFICIAL guideline for drinking water when breastfeeding:

  • When you wake up in the morning, before drinking a coffee (more on that later) drink a glass of water
  • Make it a habit that anytime you sit down to nurse, you bring a glass of water with you and try to drink it while you’re sitting there mostly distraction-free
  • Any other time you happen to find yourself thirsty (or dizzy/sluggish), of course drink some water
  • Keep up a healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, which are mostly made up of water

That’s it. No need to measure ounces and beat yourself up over water. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

4. Your breastmilk is not the same as it was 10 minutes ago.

That is to say, the milk that comes out at the beginning of a feeding is not the same milk that comes out at the end.

When you begin a nursing session, the milk that comes out is known as foremilk. It is lighter in color and contains less fat. This can be thought of as more watery milk, to quench baby’s thirst.

Gradually during the feeding, the fat content of the milk changes. The milk produced at the end of the feeding is called hindmilk, and it has a high fat content which helps baby feel full.

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Foremilk on the left, hindmilk on the right. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The properties of foremilk vs. hindmilk isn’t something most nursing mothers need to concern themselves with. (Yes, if you pump all the milk will get mixed together and that is totally fine.) The only reason for knowing the distinction is to understand why you should NOT switch sides until baby fully empties one breast.

Do not take misguided advice of timing the feeding and switching sides after some arbitrarily determined time. You want to make sure the baby empties the first breast to get the fatty hindmilk before switching.

You will know it’s time to switch sides when baby stops actively nursing on that side. They may continue to suck on an empty breast, but you will be able to tell when they are no longer swallowing. At that point it’s fine to switch sides and offer them the other breast.

5. You can successfully breastfeed using just ONE breast!

At around 4 months old, my daughter went through a phase of preferring the right side only. Luckily, it didn’t last too long and I was able to get her back to eating on both sides, but during that time I did lots of frantic research about one-sided nursing.

It turns out tons of people have managed to do it! Remember that breastfeeding is regulated by supply and demand, so if one side is getting all the demand that side will produce the supply. The other side will dry out!

For the record, I was able to solve my problem with some baby trickery. I positioned her the way I would if I were going to feed her on the right, but twisted my body and offered her the left. This would eventually bother my back, so slowly during the feeding I’d scoot her over to a left side football hold.

6. You do NOT need to quit drinking coffee while breastfeeding.

It is a common myth that drinking coffee or other sources of caffeine will negatively affect your baby when breastfeeding.

While caffeine does pass through to breastmilk, it is at a rate of about 1%.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and La Leche League confirm nursing moms can drink up to 3 cups of coffee per day. There have been studies that show drinking 5 or more cups per day can cause irritability in babies, so stick to 3 or less to be safe.

This is great news for all the breastfeeding moms who are being woken up every 2-3 hours all night and REALLY need their coffee!

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7. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be hard.

I wanted to end on this positive note because I feel like the common dialogue pregnant moms hear about breastfeeding is always that it’s going to be SO DIFFICULT. Don’t get me wrong, for some people it really is. But for a lot of people, it actually does go smoothly.

It takes effort and commitment to breastfeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be hard. And if you have the support and knowledge, I truly don’t think it will be hard.

I can boil it down to three things:

  • your family being supportive of your desire to breastfeed, especially your husband/partner
  • having at least one close friend (or female family member) who is breastfeeding or has in the past
  • arming yourself with in-depth knowledge about breastfeeding

Read as much as you can about breastfeeding. A good motto is hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. You may not have any problems at all, but if you do, you need the support and knowledge to find a solution. You don’t need a partner who is going to say “just give him formula” the first time you encounter a problem.

There is tremendous value to feeling knowledgeable and confident at the start of your breastfeeding journey. Taking a class through the LLL or the hospital you plan to give birth at is a great plan. If you find the class times or locations are a hinderance for you (or if you just prefer to learn at home in your PJs), The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is the best one I’ve found on the internet. And at $19 it’s very reasonable for the value you’ll get out of it.

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What are your burning breastfeeding questions?

I am happy to answer any questions you have about breastfeeding, either here in the comments or in another blog post. Just let me know what you’d like to learn more about!