I’m a mom of three and my breastfeeding journey has been one of the biggest learning curves of my life.
I breastfed my firstborn for four months in combination with formula. I had to go back to work when my baby was 8 weeks old. I was constantly traveling for business and pumping as much as possible. I remember feeling stressed out, exhausted, guilty, confused, and sore most of the time, but I also remember giving my all to breastfeed as long as possible.
With my second, I had postpartum complications and I was only able to breastfeed her for 5 days–which I’m grateful for. My heart broke for the second time, but I was able to manage my guilt and bottle feed my baby girl with no regrets.
The third time around, my body and my baby surprised me.
During my third pregnancy, I’d decided not to breastfeed. I didn’t want my heart to break again. But when I held my baby in my arms for the first time, I changed my mind.
A lactation consultant from the hospital came over to my room and started saying all these things about breastfeeding I had no idea about. How to help baby latch and what to do to avoid getting hurt. I was relaxed and at peace with the idea of it all possibly not working for me, so I listened and calmly applied everything she taught me… and it went well.
My baby is almost 7 months old and I’m still breastfeeding him!
This time around I learned so much! It’s incredible how knowledge is, in fact, power. So I want to share the most surprising things I have learned about breastmilk, baby, and our bodies, hoping these will encourage you and help you wherever you are in your own journey.
1. It’s an endurance, athletic sport!
Not only do we burn over 500 calories every day, but when babies go through a growth spurt, breastfeeding moms run endless marathons to make sure babies are satisfied. Also, we get so thirsty our water intake increases considerably. I keep bottles of water all around the house, as my mouth gets super dry when I breastfeed and I feel thirsty all day long.
2. Our breastmilk is enough
As I started supplementing with formula when baby was a few days old, I followed my pediatrician’s advice and stopped counting the minutes on each breast. In a few weeks, I noticed my baby was content after each breastfeeding session so I stopped giving him the bottle. I noticed that the more I had baby on my breasts, the more milk I produced. So I didn’t t stress about not having an established routine for my baby. I just nurse him whenever he needs it, and here I am, 7 months strong and counting. Breastfeeding on demand is the key!
3. It’s exhausting
I wasn’t aware of how much tiredness breastfeeding would add to my already worn-out body. It’s energy and time-consuming, let alone very emotional. During the growth spurt seasons, breastfeeding becomes even more exhausting, as baby needs to be nursed pretty much all day (and night) long. The few breaks baby gives mom, important decisions need to be made: should I shower? Should I eat? Should I take a nap? Should I clean? If you have other children, then there’s no dilemma. The other children need mom’s attention and care.
4. Breastmilk changes to adapt to our growing babies’ needs
Did you know that the breastmilk produced the first few days is different from the milk we produce at 2, 3, 6, 9 months, and so on? Its composition even changes depending on the time of the day! And it transforms to adapt to the needs of our growing babies. How wonderful is God’s creation? Our bodies are proof of it.
5. The majority of foods we consume don’t affect baby
There are a lot of myths about what breastfeeding moms can and can’t eat. I’m dropping a super gem I’ve found here. A trusted source I use to find out if any foods, ingredients, or medicines pose a risk for baby: e-lactancia.org. Write anything in the search box to find out the level of risk for baby. You will see that there are almost no limits when it comes to eating while breastfeeding. Just a few obvious things that are off the table completely such as alcohol and some medications.
6. There is no need to spend money on breastfeeding products
At the hospital with my newborn, I asked the lactation consultant for her recommendation on lotions to soothe nipple cracks and products to increase milk production. To my surprise, she said that there’s nothing like my own breastmilk to hydrate and soothe my skin (squeeze a few drops before and after nursing baby and gently rub them on your nipples) and nothing like nursing baby on demand and tons of water to keep the milk production going on. At seven months into breastfeeding, I can testify this is true.
7. Lactation consultants are awesome
It’s a career. They study and prepare and are available to help you at any point in your breastfeeding journey. In-person, online, wherever they are, whether they’re just sharing their content on Instagram or Tik Tok, or doing 1:1 consultations, they are knowledgeable and can teach you how to trust your body and fix any issues you might be facing. I follow @lactanciamitos and @prolactancia. Their content is in Spanish and is always rooted in trusted, scientific sources. If you have any recommendations on lactation consultants that generate content in English, drop them in the comments!
8. Exclusive breastfeeding is doable, even after a few months of formula feeding
As the days went by, I learned that the more baby was on my breast, the more satisfied he was and the less he needed formula. In three months, with support from my husband, lots of patience, and perseverance, I was able to drop the formula and exclusively breastfeed my growing baby. Seeing him satisfied, wetting his diapers, and gaining weight gave me peace and confidence to keep going on. My breastmilk is enough!
9. It’s not supposed to hurt
We are not supposed to suffer when nursing baby. I learned with my lactation consultant that when there’s soreness, something is off and there’s a need to get help. Sensitivity in the first weeks though is a reality. I used to pump sometimes to give my breasts a little break.
10. It gets easier!
After three months, I had some sort of breakthrough and both baby and I became pros, completely in sync. Since then, my body has adapted to baby and baby knows exactly what to do and how. It became a breeze and now that he’s older it’s becoming cuter!
11. It’s wonderful
Aside from all the scientifically proven benefits and the emotional connection that is developed between baby and mom, breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin from both baby’s and mom’s brains. This helps reduce stress and increase happiness! How wonderful is that?
What else have you found or learned about breastfeeding that has surprised you? I’m happy and grateful for the gift of breastfeeding my baby! I can’t believe I’m still doing it after having decided I was not going to do it at all. However, after 7 months I’m starting to wonder how things will go when baby’s teeth start appearing. Would you share your knowledge and tips in the comments? I’m curious and a bit nervous about it!