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Got Milk? Part One: What does a new momma need to know?

This “Got Milk?” post is the first in a series I am putting together on breastfeeding.

A few months ago I was doing henna at India Restaurant and had the most pleasant conversation whilst doing henna on the belly of a pregnant woman.  She was 39 weeks along with her first baby, and was very excited to share that she was planning to clothdiaper and breastfeed.  We got on so well she asked to exchange numbers- thinking we could get together sometime in the future.

A week later she called me.  She was upset.  Her baby wasn’t eating “enough” on schedule or gaining “enough” according to her doctor- who was giving her the classic breastfeeding sabotage information.  Her mother was telling her to supplement- and had actually gone to the store to buy formula for the baby.  I did my best- gave her every scrap of information I could fit into the conversation before she had to go.  I never heard from her again.  I really hope she managed to hold out and go on to a successful nursing relationship with her baby.

If she is now formula feeding it is NOT her fault and I do not think less of her.  At one point even the most experienced and knowledgeable of us mothers was once a first time mom.  Scared and nervous and susceptible to the opinions of others- especially those in the medical profession.  It could have easily happened to me.  I was seventeen, in high school, on my own, and if my doctor or my mother had been vehemently against breastfeeding I would have listened to them and stopped.  I had no idea what I was doing.   I didn’t have any confidence in my choices as a parent.  I only lasted as long as I did (11 months) because I was left alone and did what worked for me.  Although, the flip side of that is -I would have maybe nursed for another year if there had been anyone around to give me GOOD advice and support.

When Cooper was a few weeks old I took him for a check up at the pediatrician.  The office was running late-as usual- and so I stood in the waiting room and nursed him in the babyhawk.  The two very young, (one of which was very pregnant) girls behind me began talking about breastfeeding- and the non-preggy one commented that I made it look so easy but it wasn’t- she had tried for five whole days but her milk never came in.  The other made faces and told her friend she couldn’t do THAT.  She also said that formula was way easier- cuz, like, other people can feed the baby.

I find these attitudes so aggravating.  If it was really THAT difficult, if milk “didn’t come in” THAT often, we would never have survived as a species.  It is EASY.  But you have to be confident.  You have to be informed, because so many unqualified (or just plain ignorant) people will be ready and waiting- armed with bad advice, misinformation and bottles of free formula.

But I took a deep breath, turned around and smiled.   I told them that breastfeeding isn’t difficult- sometimes the first few weeks are tricky, but after you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy and I’m a lazy person.  I told them that I do it because not only is it better for my baby for all those healthy reasons, but it is free and I’m broke.  They laughed and rolled their eyes.  I’m pretty sure my words had no effect on her decision to formula feed, but I am glad I tried.

I have been exchanging messages with a facebook friend who is pregnant with her first baby.  She is going to breastfeed- and can I say I love that she wrote “IS” and not “TRY” -it got me thinking about the things first time mothers need to hear about breastfeeding. So I posed this question to twitter:

“What do you think a new mother needs to know/hear about breastfeeding?”

“What do you wish someone had told you?”

Breastfeeding Advice- a twitterstream-


@kitchenwitch that just b/c someone has bfd or says they have bfing exp they might be wrong (like my mom, w/ horrible advice etc)


@kitchenwitch lanolin is a hero. nipple shields arent hard and they are helpful. boppy or breastfriend pillow is a must. lots of breast pads


@kitchenwitch nurse asap nurse on demand.bm digests in 90 minutes, so Ok to feed often. do not supplement. U WILL make enough #breastfeeding


@kitchenwitch u can breastfeed baby with food allergy. avoid milk products as much as you can.


@kitchenwitch Tell them to join a support group like LLL before birth. And to remember that ‘this too shall pass’!


@kitchenwitch The blog ‘first the egg’ has a good page on BF with links – you might want to check it out


@kitchenwitch what amde me decide to keep breastfeeding after all our issues was that- formula keeps trying to be close to breastmilk….


@kitchenwitch sooo… why not just use the original?


@kitchenwitch Don’t! don’t stop, don’t supplement, don’t take the first doctor opinion you get. DO find an IBCLC and local LLLI meeting.


@kitchenwitch just because your milk didnt come in on the 2nd day, doesnt mean you need to supplement.


@kitchenwitch NUK pacifiers are less confusing if you want to use pacifiers for your breastfeeding baby


@kitchenwitch tell about the 3 & 6 week growth spurts. Lots of momma’s think they aren’t making enough and stop :(


@kitchenwitch feed the baby as often as they want. Sounds obvious, but I wish i hadn’t been so schedule driven with my first.


@kitchenwitch have lanolin at all nursing stations for first few weeks and use regularly. Also put on before shower to protect from spray.


@kitchenwitch if you’re going to have to pump, start from the get go as that’s when you’ll.have LOTS of milk


@kitchenwitch don’t let people make her feel ashamed when she needs to feed in public. Light airy scarves are great covers and stylish.


@kitchenwitch I’m coming to the BF advice late, but I always say don’t “try”, “do”. And get the help it takes. Attitude count hugely!

And here are some really great links with information on breastfeeding:

Via @FeministBreeder


@kitchenwitch I wrote a post about that here – http://thefeministbreeder.com/a-letter-to-my-friend-with-breastfeeding-struggles/

Via @RadicaLactivist:

What Every Parent Should Know About Infant Formula http://tinyurl.com/224qnj

“Just One Bottle Won’t Hurt” — or Will It? supplementation of the breastfed baby http://tinyurl.com/2a7asv8

Breast Feeding Help – Breastfeeding—Starting Out Right http://www.drjacknewman.com/help/Breastfeeding%E2%80%94Starting%20Out%20Right.asp

Sabotage (a great piece about how breastfeeding moms are set up to fail) http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/05/04/sabotage/

8 Responses to Got Milk? Part One: What does a new momma need to know?

  1. I wish someone had given me the contact info for a Lactation Consultant. That alone probably would have made a huge difference for me and my son.
    My son was born a little early and wouldn’t latch on. I tried and tried. I asked nurses, docs, etc. They all seemed clueless. After pumping for 6 weeks, my supply ‘dried up’.
    I did keep trying though. For a year, I tried. To this day, I wonder if an experienced Lactation Consultant could have helped.

    • It is awesome that you kept trying.


      I think pumping for any amount of time is admirable. I have such a love/hate relationship with my pump!

      A LC might have been a great help- or might have given you som really crappy advice- With my last three babies I was told my breasts were TOO BIG to breastfeed.
      Yet I did just fine. WTF?

      You TRIED Liz, and that is awesome.


  2. That contrary to what most nursing/breastfeeding books will tell you, nursing CAN be painful even if babe is latched on right for the first couple of weeks!! With all three of my babies I would leave the hospital with sore, sometimes cracked nipples and my lactation consultants were always praising me that my babies were latched on correctly. Just because your nipples are sore doesn’t mean you’re doing it “wrong” and you should give up! Stick with it, the first couple of weeks are rough but once you get to week 4-6 it suddenly becomes MUCH easier and more natural to both you and baby.

    Don’t be so quick to doubt yourself. Sure, it is a mind boggle to sit and think that your milk supply will be the sole thing keeping your baby alive, but I find alot of women lack self confidence and are very quick to simply say “It must be me, I’m not making enough.” As long as your babe is putting out 6 wet dipes a day you are FINE!

    Never worry about baby being at the breast too much, don’t doubt yourself if baby wants to nurse seemingly all day long for a few days, it’s probably a growth spurt! There were DAYS where I would practically live in the recliner with the baby at my breast or she would scream bloody murder. Don’t let anyone tell you something is wrong or that you’re “spoiling” baby. You milk supply will adjust to demand. When Baby needs more milk for growth he instinctivly will want to nurse ALOT to boost your supply! You cannot spoil a baby by holding him and nursing “too much”.

    Don’t be alarmed if suddenly around day 3-4 when your milk comes in full blast if you find yourself suddenly able to consume enough food to feed 5 teen boys… I remember sitting there right after I had my last baby, my first day home with her and all of a sudden I was ravenous. I ate two large cheeseburger subs all by myself and was stealing my husbands dinner. Same goes for fluids, you will be parched, drink, drink, drink!

    Somone already mentioned Lanolin. Miracle stuff right there.

    Just because you might get NOTHING out if you pump, doesn’t mean you have no milk. Some women are horrible pumpers, I am!

  3. The single biggest thing that I wish I had been told is to wake the baby for feedings until they regain to birth weight. I had been told by a nurse educator that babies wake when hungry and never to wake a sleeping baby. My guy slept A LOT, was a really slow gainer and the doctor’s office (where the nurse works, too) guilted me in to supplementing when my guy hadn’t gained back to birth weight at 4 weeks. That combined with all of the sleeping led to supply issues and he got 6-8 oz of formula daily until solids were introduced. But his primary source of nutrition was still breastmilk.

  4. “What do you think a new mother needs to know/hear about breastfeeding?”

    Ignore the tons of people hovering over your breasts poking & telling you to do this or that. Stick with it, it’s worth it.. and you will need to remember to stick with it when you’re feeling like you can’t do it any longer. Believe me, bloody nipples and all, LaLecheLeague girls remarked at my stamina to stick with it.

    “What do you wish someone had told you?”

    1) bloody nipples. this might actually hinder girls from breastfeeding but like childbirth- it’s not about you, it’s about the baby. What’s the most important thing you can do for your baby? FEED THEM. Put someone else’s needs before yours. Three months of bloody nipples but i kept on keeping on just the same! Whenever I hear of people planning to nurse for 3 months or less, I want to shake the dickens out of them and laugh hysterically, silently scoffing. Oh my. Simply plan on nursing for as long as you can. Don’t worry about the number of days weeks months or years. I nursed for 11 months and I’m proud of that.. my original ‘goal’ was 6 months.. but forget that, a number is just a number- go for gold (as long as you can, and then go further!)

    after the 4th month i had a copious supply of milk– so much so that i could hold a cup under (pump, schmump!)after taking a shower and bottle it for later. I was on the phone with a maternity ward in Delaware talking about donation!

    I also wish someone would have told me just how intimate and important breastfeeding is. You bond in a reciprocal way: uncomfortable milk fills up then lets down with baby gladly taking that pressure away from you, filling their bellies and soul with pure love.. and for the first time in your life you realize what those breast are truly for!

    Oh, and nursing your baby to sleep does NOT make them codependent and unable to self soothe. Ignore this ‘advice’.. if anything, it makes them more confident that you will be there for them if they need you.

  5. Wow excellent post !! I am a proud breastfeeding mom, who helped her daughters breast feed too ! It isn’t always painless, but is so worth it. Find out your breastfeeding laws ! Finad a LLL and connect with other mothers. Understand that you are doing what is absolutely best for your baby.

  6. This is a great topic! I wish someone had told me to ignore the “well-meaning” nurse who pushed formula on us in the hospital because my baby “wasn’t hungry enough.” Um, huh-wha? I wish I’d been confident — and had someone holding my hand who was — that my milk would come in soon (it took 2 or so days but then was gushing!), and my newborn could absolutely hold off till then on colostrum alone.

    I also think this would be reassuring: It gets easier. It gets much, much easier. You won’t always need to nurse with pillows and props or under covers. You’ll get the hang of it and be able to nurse anywhere!

    Another helpful tip would be to show or tell someone how to nurse lying down. Lifesaver for me!

    And this: You’re not alone, even if you feel like you are. Thousands of women right at this minute are breastfeeding just like you! And we all support each other.

  7. yes. i have four children. breastfed them all. even though my mom…everytime…was sooooo good about reminding me that “they have bottles now, i never did that, if you wanna sleep i could feed the baby”…maddening yes. but i forgive her because i know she was just advising out of her own ignorance and discomfort.

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