What No One Tells You About Breastfeeding
Just mention the word “breastfeeding” and suddenly everyone from your mother to your
hairstylist has some insight to offer. (Try cabbage leaves! Wait to pump! Pump from the very start!) With so much information to sort through, how do you know where to begin? Read on for the honest truth from experts—and other moms.
You don’t need to eat like a dietitian.
Because your baby gets first dibs on the nutrients your system stores, eating well is
less about producing quality milk and more about maintaining your own health and energy.
So don’t agonize over eating a cookie … or three. Fill in nutritional gaps by taking a prenatal vitamin that’s chock full of calcium, vitamin D and iron. Another who-knew: It’s OK
to consume a moderate amount of caffeine (about two cups of coffee per day), and to
indulge in the occasional alcoholic beverage. Time your tipple for right after you breastfeed so your body metabolizes the booze before your next nursing session (it takes about an hour per drink).
Your belly may feel a bit crampy.
It might even feel as if you’re menstruating again. What’s going on? Oxytocin (the hormone connected to milk letdown) is also responsible for helping your uterus return to its normal size. Though uncomfortable, that pesky cramping means your body is healing as it should.
Your milk doesn’t look like cow’s milk.
It won’t look the same from day to day, either. That’s because breast milk’s composition
changes to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. At first, you’ll produce a sticky, yellowish-white colostrum that’s rich in protein. In a few days, when your milk supply comes in, it will
contain two parts which might separate in the fridge: foremilk is thin, watery and may appear pale blue; hindmilk, which has more fat, will be slightly thicker and creamier.
Your breasts may leak—a lot.
Blame it on those hormones again. Oxytocin helps you bond with your baby, but it also turns on the sprinklers when you least expect it—for instance, when you hear your baby (or sometimes any baby) cry. Fortunately, you can wear nursing pads in your bra to contain leakage.
Nursing can be boring.
Feedings can last as long as an hour, and babies need to be fed every couple of hours at
first. Repetitive? You bet. It’s fine to entertain yourself by checking email or catching up on
your DVR queue while you nurse, but resist the temptation to do so at night. Keep light
(including screen glow) to a minimum in the evening, to orient your baby to day and night.
It might hurt.
Some pain is normal as your nipples get used to your baby’s latch, but if you’re feeling
intense discomfort, talk to your OB. She’ll want to rule out mastitis or blocked ducts, and can recommend a lactation consultant who will help with baby’s latch. Breast pumps can also leave you hurting if you use them incorrectly. Be sure to start on the low setting and turn it up just high enough to get the milk flowing. Use a purified lanolin product to soothe nipples after feeding or pumping.
It can be complete bliss.
There is something incredibly satisfying about snuggling close to your little one while you
breastfeed. The oxytocin surge ushers in a cascade of feel-good emotions, and the release of prolactin, another hormone involved in milk production, makes you feel drowsy when you’re done. Can you say naptime?
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