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What to Expect When Expecting to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding can provide the ultimate bonding experience between Mommy and baby. It is economically a great option and can provide infants with many health benefits such as reduced ear infections, extra antibodies, exceptional nutrition and possibly fewer cavities for the nursed child in the future. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages mothers to breastfeed infants for their first 12 months of life when possible.

Many new families often chose to use formula, finding that there is more freedom to who can feed the baby and that formula can give babies a great start in development in comparison to their breast fed counterparts. Sometimes the going back to work transition can be easier if the baby is bottle-fed and moms can rest assured that their baby will be well fed

Whether you chose to bottle feed or breast feed is a decision made best among your family, understanding that whichever decision you make before baby may need to have some flexibility once baby arrives. No new mother should feel guilty for choosing one method over another nor shamed into one way of feeding or another. Researching your options for feeding early can help guide new moms into making a newborn feeding plan. 

Life never goes exactly as planned and neither do our feeding preferences for our new little bundles. For those mommies who are planning on breastfeeding here are some real life expectations for what your first year of breastfeeding may endure.

9  Not Everyone Can Breastfeed

I have heard crushing stories of defeat from women who had declared that they would solely breastfeed only to find the struggles to get milk going and baby to latch become overwhelming that they give up. Having a new baby is no time to feel conquered. Unfortunately some women do have difficulties either producing enough milk for baby to grow or finding that nursing is too painful to continue. 

This is in no way meant to discourage anyone from wanting to breastfeed but rather as a reminder that our plans sometimes change and being open to the idea of supplementing or being patient while it takes a few days for your milk to come in.

Typically women can expect to have some colostrum either prior to baby’s birth or beginning afterwards. This is an orange/yellow discharge from the nipples that is very high in calories the baby will need before he/she can drink much in one feeding. During the first few days as baby learns to suckle mommy can expect her milk to begin to increase. Nipples may get sore and if you are giving birth in a hospital, they may expect you to pump or supplement. 

Pumping will put a little extra pressure on your breasts to get milk production going so that there will be more with each feeding. Think of nursing as a supply and demand relationship. What your baby or you pump off you can anticipate your supply to produce roughly that amount the next feeding. Keeping up your healthy diet and eating around 500 extra calories a day can help keep milk production up.

Supplementing doesn't mean the end of the world either! Sometimes babies can use a few extra calories from formula if the mother’s milk supply has not come in or if the baby does not yet have a strong latch for sucking out the milk. When first learning to breastfeed be patient with yourself as well as baby. You both have to learn and get practice at this new experience. 

There are also many nursing classes or lactation specialists to help ease the process if you find any difficulty in your learning to breastfeed.

8  Learning Curve

What works for one mom may rarely work for another. This is so true with so many aspects of motherhood and breastfeeding is no exception. Advice comes to new moms from many sources but the best judge is you and your own instincts. Learning to breastfeed can take some time so expect to be a little patient and it will become easier and more natural the longer you nurse.

There are many different positions to try to hold your infant while nursing that it can almost be overwhelming while you try to find how to get comfortable. There are great nursing pillows that can help keep the baby nice and close so that your arms do not have to do all of the lifting. Some moms prefer the “football” hold which is where you latch your baby onto the breast by holding the back of his/her head and having her feet go behind you, under your arm.

Sometimes laying on your side next to your baby can be the most comfortable position. Breastfeeding is surely an adjustment. Every baby, woman and their surroundings can lead to different challenges when it comes to feeding. Covering up and nursing in public can also be a difficult task to master. I suggest practicing at home if you plan to use a nursing cover. 

Not only will baby need to be used to a blanket over his or her face, but trying to nurse a squirming child while keeping your gals covered can also be a new challenge.

7  Expect to Get Wet

Nobody ever told me when I was first going to start nursing that once my milk came in it may spray at will! Thank goodness there are nursing pads as some women may leak or spray a little during feedings. There was one occasion where I had left my own child with a sitter to run out to the store and I began to hose down the aisle when somebody else’s child began to cry! 

It happens to every mother

This does not always happen but with being a breastfeeding mom it may be a good idea to pack an extra shirt and bra for yourself just as you may learn you need to pack extra outfits for the baby during days out from the house. As if spit up, poop blow outs and baby food spills are not enough to worry about, your leaking boobs can lead to even more embarrassment if you are not ready ahead of time.

6  Expect Some Dirty Looks

Not everyone is a fan of your natural form of nutrition for your baby. Even if you cover up and sit away from the general population, do not be surprised if you get shot a nasty look or two from strangers. In recent years there has been a push by pediatricians and doctors to make their offices more breast feeding friendly. 

Some doctor’s offices have nursing rooms to encourage moms to feel comfortable while feeding their babies. Many malls and stores for nursing moms offer nursing stations where you can find some privacy when it comes feeding time. When a baby wants to eat he or she will not mind who is in view, nor will he or she expect to wait for a better time. 

Though people should just mind their own business, they don't

As a mom it is your duty to feed and care for your baby as you see fit. There are options for privacy or coverage so just think about what you feel comfortable with and keep in mind what you would want your children of non-nursing age to see from other nursing moms out in public. There are plenty of nursing covers that can be easier to put on than a receiving blanket to keep breast and baby covered.

5  Five Fingers and Toes, and TEETH Oh, My!

Some babies sprout a tooth or two very early on. Just like anything that goes near their little mouths, a nipple or breast may get a little bite too! Babies certainly do not try to hurt their mommas, but a strong sharp bite can honestly come as a mean surprise. 

The expression of teeth does not have to mean the end to nursing. Breast shields are one way for women to defend against infant gnawing, but typically babies who are hungry want to eat and when they want to chew, they will chew. Learning the different signs of what your baby may want will not only protect your breasts but also aid in the teething relief for your little one. 

 All that matters is that your baby is healthy

If teeth are coming in and you do not want to be the chew toy, try having a teething ring nearby to pass if you baby seems ready to chew instead of nurse. Babies are also exceptional learners, so as long as you do not allow yourself to become a teething toy by removing the breast when baby begins to chew, you will likely begin to teach the baby that you are not for chewing. 

Offering a teething alternative can lead to positive reinforcement of what the baby is allowed or expected to chew on.

4  Dietary Restrictions, Still Precautions for Baby’s Development

So you thought the 10 months of pregnancy was the only time you needed to worry about what you put into your body? Wrong! No longer do you have the placenta to shield some teratogens from your growing fetus, you now have to be cautious about what you are expressing in your breast milk. Medications should still be supervised through your doctor or by your baby’s pediatrician. 

Many medications are deemed safe while others will have warning labels stating not to use or use caution “if pregnant or breastfeeding”. As always it is best to check with your doctor if you are nursing before introducing medications to yourself or your baby. Caffeine and alcohol are both expressed in breast milk so avoiding both of these is highly important! 

Always check with your doctor before taking an new medication

Even if caffeine does not seem that dangerous to pass on in small doses, your little one’s body does not have an effective way to synthesize it and you could be setting yourself up for a very awake, very cranky baby until he/she is able to get the caffeine out of his or her system. Certainly illicit drugs would also be able to pass to a baby through breast milk and should not be used. 

3 The Chore of Pumping

Likely you never thought that breastfeeding your baby would mean how often you get to be hooked up to a machine! Breastfeeding moms have the option to pump and leave breast milk for the baby while mom must be away from baby. Sometimes the daunting task of pumping can become overwhelming. Never try to pump a full days worth of milk in just one sitting. 

Many moms have to work up to getting any extra milk to pump and store. Pumping can also be a great way to encourage milk production when first beginning to breastfeed but too much pumping or pump settings that are too hard may leave you extra sore.

Pumping may not be as gentle as your baby is

Returning to work moms or trying to leave baby overnight can be challenging for the nursing mom. If you expect to return and continue nursing long breaks away from the baby will mean you need to hook up to the pump! This is very feasible but can lead to lonely lunch breaks or plenty of interrupted vacation time if you thought you were going to get a break from baby, your pump may have to join you in his or her place.

2  Medical Complications

There are two almost scary but not uncommon occurrences where you may need to seek medical attention due to breastfeeding complications. The first one is thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection that can develop from the extra moisture between your baby’s mouth and your nipples. 

If thrush develops it will look like several white speckles throughout the baby’s mouth you’re your nipples may be a little dry and itchy. Thrush is not harmful but often will require some medication from the pediatrician. The doctor can prescribe some drops that you can put into the baby’s mouth and it will clear up within a week.

The second common, yet slightly more serious complications that occasionally accompanies breast-feeding is mastitis. This is an infection that develops inside of the breast tissue. The good news is that it is relatively harmless to your baby, but it can make the mother very ill very quickly. 

Mastitis is painful, but you can get over it quickly by continuing to breastfeed

You may feel a swelling in a very localized area of one or both breasts that can be sore to the touch. Fever, nausea and red streaks in the breast area are all signs that you may need to see your doctor right away. Although painful, nursing can help alleviate the pain and keep the milk flowing through the breast.

An antibiotic may be prescribed but these are often very safe for baby, as the infection does not pass through the milk. Continuing to nurse during mastitis is encouraged.

1  Baby Losing Interest

As your baby grows he or she will gradually be introduced to other foods such as cereal, soft chewy foods and most likely a bottle at some point. Babies are very observant creatures by nature as this is how they learn about the world around them. 

There may come a time when your baby is no longer interested in laying for 20 to 30 minutes at a time to nurse and rather munch on other foods or grab a bottle and go explore. Sometimes the mere freedom of baby learning to hold a bottle can seem like more fun for the baby then cuddle and nursing time with mommy. 

You might not be ready for them to move on, but they are

As your baby grows, feeding routines will as well. Don't be surprised if your baby begins to show less interest in nursing during the daytime especially when there are so many things to be observed!

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