Health

Here's What First-Time Moms Should Know About Breastfeeding

All praise nipple cream.

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We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share the lessons they learned the HARD way about breastfeeding.

They had a lot of great and smart wisdom to share. Here is some of their advice for new moms:

1. Not breastfeeding, for whatever reason, doesn't make you a failure or a bad mother.

"I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding, but that being said...it doesn't fit everyone's lifestyle. The most important thing is to feed your baby in the manner that best fits you and your family. And don't let anyone make you feel bad about your choice — it's none of their business how you feed your kid."

—Jessica Sullivan Sabin, Facebook

"My only advice... if for some reason, you absolutely can't breastfeed, don't beat yourself up. I spent countless hours sobbing because my body just didn't make milk. I could've spent more bonding time with my baby if I would've realized that having to feed her formula doesn't make me any less of a mother."

—Valerie Vauclair, Facebook

"Breastfeeding was awful for me. I got mastitis, bled, and didn't produce more than 2 oz at a time no matter how long I fed or pumped. I hated it. Formula feeding my girls made us all happier and healthier, and they almost never get sick. Don't put undue pressure on yourself if it doesn't work."

nataliesullivans

2. The first few weeks can be REALLY hard.

"The first two weeks are the hardest. I cried every day from the pain. I thought I'd be a terrible mother if I gave up so I pushed on. [...] If you can make it through the first two weeks, you have already made it. The rest of it is a breeze comparatively."

—Heidi Barley, Facebook

3. It may not actually hurt — so don't be terrified. And if you're feeling pain, check in with an expert to see if it's normal or a sign that something is wrong.

"As great as it is that women are being educated that it can be hard/painful/ stressful to nurse, it has also backfired some because now EVERYONE assumes that those things will be true for them. It doesn't have to be. You don't have to go into your first postpartum nursing session terrified of failure. Educate yourself. That is important. But remain positive, because it can be a beautiful thing from the beginning!"

—Mandy Ourth, Facebook

4. Seek help from a lactation consultant.

"If your nipples hurt (not like, are uncomfortable, but really hurt) talk to a lactation consultant, pronto. Odds are there's a latch issue. I seriously went from bruised nips to totally fine after a lactation consultant sorted out how I was latching the kid on."

—Katherine Stephanis, Facebook

5. Use a nipple shield if you need to.

"Nipple shields are your friend! They are annoying, get lost easily, and require daily cleaning, but if it's the only way your baby can nurse, then use one! I had to use one for six months, but we are still breastfeeding now at 13 months. You can do it!"

claireg4d6e05535

6. It can take a few months to feel like you have the hang of it.

"Breastfeeding is work. Most nursing moms I know say that it takes about 2-3 months to feel like you have the hang of it. Stick with it, keep offering, develop a support system of other moms that have nursing experience, WIC, lactation consultants, etc."

—Jessica Sullivan Sabin, Facebook

7. Find a community for support.

"Websites like www.kellymom.com and the La Leche League Breastfeeding Support Communities are awesome places to ask questions, get answers and build a community for yourself."

—Jessica Sullivan Sabin, Facebook

"Seek out support groups. Whether they're online, or drop-ins; breastfeeding can be emotionally and physically draining. You might also feel trapped. Other mom's going through the same thing can make a world of difference."

gbaerbig1004

8. It's OK if you give your baby a bottle from time to time. Or even more often. Or even all the time.

"Giving a bottle is NOT the end of the world. The vast majority of mothers who give their baby a bottle but continue to attempt to breastfeed will be successful. If you are of the minority, a bottle is fine — most of our parents had exclusively formula!"

—Heidi Barley, Facebook

9. See if there's some way for your partner (or other kids!) to help out and be more involved.

"When my first was born, she kept falling asleep. The [lactation consultant] had my husband work to keep her awake. It kept my stress levels down and helped him feel like a part of the solution. My four year old [also] knows her job is to bring me water every time I nurse."

—Mandy Ourth, Facebook

10. You may be surprised how long it takes your baby to eat.

"Babies take forever to eat. Like at first 15-20 minutes on each side. They get better as they get older, but it still takes time."

rebekah20

11. Nursing pillows, y'all.

"Boppy pillows or some kind of contraption that helps you hold your little one up while you breastfeed! My Boppy was a life saver! Your comfort is key to having a good "let down" and an over-all good breastfeeding experience."

krrasure

12. Nipple cream is a godsend.

"Lanolin — I use Medela Purelan. I wish I'd known about it from the beginning but I started using it 3 weeks in and it helped heal my nipples."

Vheelax

13. Frozen breast pads + lanolin = heaven for cracked nips.

"I would put breast pads in the freezer. Those paired with lanolin balm were a godsend dry cracked nipples."

amyg47

14. A good pump is a great investment (and it doesn't even have to be expensive).

"I loved my Medela Pump in Style double pump. I pumped 3 times a day for 13 months and that sucker was a champ."

—Jessica Sullivan Sabin, Facebook

"Get a breast pump. Call your insurance and see if you can get one before baby arrives. If not, order one as soon as they get here. Ask if you have a spending limit. If not, get the most expensive one that's double hands free. You may be able to purchase it from the hospital before you leave- but be sure to call insurance first."

rebekah20

15. Look into washable nursing pads.

"I really liked the washable nursing pads more than the disposable, they were much softer. My favorites are NUK brand."

—Sarah Biggs Gray, Facebook

16. And a hands-free pumping bra.

"Get a PumpEase hands free pumping bra! I pumped for over a year at work 5 days a week. This product is a lifesaver."

—Rebecca Conrad Radcliff, Facebook

17. And nursing tank tops!

"I also always wore nursing tank tops at home because they were so much more comfortable than a bra. The Motherhood brand ones are nice and long and durable."

—Sarah Biggs Gray, Facebook

18. And high-quality nursing bras.

Nursing bras — don't cheap out. You can wear them throughout your pregnancy and until you no longer need them. These bras will get a solid year's work out of them AT LEAST. Go to a decent store and pick out a couple good ones once your boobs get larger (maybe by the 6 month mark [of your pregnancy]?), and don't worry about them not fitting cup size when your milk comes in. As long as you have a little room left in the cups, you'll be fine. Band size — go with your original size, it will fit once you don't have a baby taking up all that space and you can use expanders towards the end of the pregnancy. Straps — they should have some element of padding, your shoulders and upper back will thank you once those jugs get HUGE."

—Cheryl Apostle, Facebook

"Spend the money on a few good nursing bras and tanks. Especially if you have unusual measurements. I highly recommend the Bravado line — fashionable, functional and, best of all, comfortable."

shannonj16

19. Pumping isn't always easy, either.

"If you decide to breastfeed, don't be surprised if you aren't able to pump. I have been only nursing my 4mo old son, but when I returned to my one night a week job, I was not able to pump anything and I freaked out. I asked my doula about it, and she said it is a very common thing for nursing women to not be able to pump anything. But there are some great videos out there on hand expressing. Even then sometimes, it just doesn't work, so you may HAVE to substitute with formula if you are going to be away from your baby for a long-ish period of time."

—CJ Frier, Facebook

20. If you're going to return to work and you want to pump, you might want to start doing it a few weeks before you go back, to get some stored up.

"I started pumping a few ounces a day several weeks before I went back to work (first thing in the morning, when your supply is usually bursting) and it was a HUGE help when I went back to work full time. I had all those ounces frozen, and didn't have to stress about "not producing enough" when I was at work."

—Erin Littlefield Murphy, Facebook

21. Create a relaxing safe space to learn how to nurse.

"Give yourself time, don't treat yourself harshly, don't judge yourself or compare yourself to anyone else. Make sure you are surrounded by things that make you relaxed and happy. If you've got the time off of work and the support, than take advantage of that and go into breastfeeding with a positive outlook. Have a book nearby or a soothing drink. Nice music. You won't always be in a safe place to breastfeed, so make the beginning easy as possible, so that when you are in a stressful situation, (a relative's house with a jerky uncle that doesn't think breastfeeding in public, i.e. the living room is acceptable) you'll still be able to enjoy the time with your child."

—Katyna Singleton, Facebook

22. If your kid is biting your nipples, pinch their nose.

"If your kid bites, pinch their nose. They'll immediate let go of you so they can breath, and it's just unpleasant enough that they learn really fast that biting isn't fun. It took maybe 2-3 tries with my kid on her first tooth, and she never tried it again."

—Katherine Stephanis, Facebook

23. Go ahead and nurse in public.

"Just nurse in public, your life will be so much easier. The trick is just to look confident, even if you're fumbling around cluelessly. Even if people do notice, the unspoken rule of "I'll pretend not to see if you pretend I can't see" is surprisingly strong. And seriously — once latched, with a hand casually draped over the r-rated bits, I've had plenty of people ask if the kid is napping. You're subtler than you think you are."

—Katherine Stephanis, Facebook

24. If you're nervous about nursing in public, practice in front of a mirror first.

"I breastfed all three of my kids. My advice to a first-timer? It's normal to feel nervous about nursing in public or even in front of people in your home. So in those first few weeks post-partum, practice in front of a mirror. You'll know exactly what everyone sees and doesn't see, and it will help you build confidence. You can do this!"

angels4d4906ef4

25. If you had a c-section, learn to nurse lying down.

"Mom of 2 here. I nursed my kids for 2.8 years and 3.4 years respectively, both after emergency c-sections. Best thing I did was have the lactation nurse show me how to nurse lying down. When you're recovering from surgery, sitting up is so painful so being able to recline on your side to nurse is a lifesaver. If you plan to co-sleep this is even more essential. The bigger your baby gets, the easier it will be to nurse laying down. "

lisadebruynr

26. If you hate it, try to stick it out for a month and see if things change.

"I absolutely hated breastfeeding at first and wanted to quit right away. Someone recommended toughing it out at least a month. At two weeks it didn't hurt anymore, at three weeks the feeling that I was "just" a milk supply had passed, and at four weeks I was so happy to be saving money and actually feeling sorry for my husband who has to deal with bottles when I'm not around."

lauranolanr

27. You also have to think about your own needs.

"I couldn't keep up with my son's demand. He ate every 2 hours until he was 4 months old, day or night, and large quantities. We implemented bottles early on. We mixed formula with breastmilk. We moved to full bottles of just formula and a bottle or two of breastmilk a day so I felt like I was giving him something. Finally, at 6 months, we went completely to formula when I was so stressed and so frustrated and so DONE with all of it. And you know what? He's 2 now, and he's a happy healthy boy.

Do what you can. its all you can do. You're doing it right."

—Cheryl Apostle, Facebook

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Health Editor at BuzzFeed Life

Contact Carolyn Kylstra at carolyn.kylstra@buzzfeed.com.

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