There’s really nothing like motherhood — it’s one of those things that takes first-hand experience to really understand what it’s all about. But if you’re on your first child, how could you possibly know what to expect? Books can feel outdated and unreliable, and a visit to your doctor’s office can sometimes be more confusing than helpful. Don’t worry! In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we asked six of them to share the one thing they wish someone had told them about breastfeeding. Whether you’re trying to decide if nursing is for you, or you’ve already determined it’s a go, here’s everything you’ll want to know about before you dive in — you know, mom to mom.
“I wish I’d been told that breastfeeding is great, but being a sane mother for your child and a full tummy is what really matters in the long run. I wish there was more education and resources about how to start breastfeeding. There was one lactation nurse at our hospital, and she was only there three days a week because their funding had been cut. I suffered tremendously dealing with the PPD, sleep deprivation and breastfeeding loss. I wanted so badly to have that relationship with my baby— it makes me emotional even now just to write about it. But it wasn’t in the cards for us, and truth be told, babies will never know the difference.” — Elizabeth Hendrix
“I wish someone told me that your breastfeeding journey will not be what you expect. I used to think that if you wanted to breastfeed, then you could just do it. What I didn’t know was no matter how bad I wanted it and how hard I tried, my body just didn’t make enough milk, and that’s ok! I was still able to breastfeed my daughter until my goal of one year — I just also had to supplement with donor milk and formula. We still had our journey, it just looked different than I had expected.” — Meghan Ortiz
“I wish that somebody had told me that overproduction and forceful letdowns (the natural reflex that releases milk) were things I should be mentally prepared for. I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to produce enough milk, but I did, and then some. I was too nervous to complain about it because it’s the “better” problem to have, but my heart would sink when I’d feel my letdown coming on and I knew my baby was about to start choking and crying. He sounded like he was drowning. It was really tough to navigate. I also wish I was told that I might not actually love breastfeeding. Everybody told me it was a magical bonding experience and that’s not how I felt about it at all. For me, it was something I wanted to do because of the health benefits for my baby, but I didn’t necessarily love doing it.” — Cydni McCardle
“So many people told me not to beat myself up if it didn’t work. So many people told me how hard it was, how great it is, how important it is, how un-important it is—I got so much unsolicited feedback from so many people, that it was really hard for me to follow my instincts with it. I had a very very hard time with it, and mostly gave my son pumped milk for the first three months (until one day nursing magically clicked for him), and I was awful to myself about it.
When people say things like, “Just because you can’t/don’t breastfeed, it doesn’t make you a bad mother,” it really made me question whether I was succeeding as a mom. If nobody said those things to me, I probably wouldn’t have ever questioned it. Instead, I drove myself insane trying to make it work, spent hours forcing it with my son, and thousands of dollars on lactation consultants, tongue and lip tie revision, props, pumps, special feeding bottles… It was awful.
“I wish someone had told me it’s really hard, and if you decide you want to do it, you’ll probably need a lot of help. And left it at that.” — Laurel Pantin
“I wish someone had told me how painful breastfeeding would be, in detail. I had heard some chatter about it, but nobody sat me down and got real with the day-in-day-out struggles. Not only does it hurt during feeding, sudden pains can occur when your milk is coming in (close to feeding time) or if you’ve gone a long time without feeding. Aside from that, the nipples can get really dry and chapped, which can sometimes lead to bleeding.” — Priscilla Hoyt
“I wish someone had told me that breastfeeding is a full-time job with overtime! I knew life as a mom would be busy, but nursing alone takes up most of my time. For the first six months, babies can feed between eight and 12 times per day and each session takes about 40 minutes — and even more so if you have a hard time producing — that’s anywhere between five to eight hours a day with a baby on your breast. It’s incredibly exhausting and overwhelming, so moral support from your other half and family is extremely important.” — Elizabeth Reza
If you still haven’t decided whether breastfeeding will be the best choice, you and your baby can figure it out together — but at least now you have some real-life insight into what nursing might look like for you and your baby. While it can be difficult, breastfeeding is a personal choice. Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember your journey belongs to only you. You got this, momma.