Breastfeeding is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind experience that so many mothers love. It has many benefits, and it is absolutely mind-blowing how our bodies can create a perfectly nutritious blended meal for our babies on demand. 

However, the first thing to know about breastfeeding for any new mother is that although it is natural and something that so many mothers do, it’s not always easy. So leave your expectations at the door. It’s a journey- for some the journey is smooth and simple, for others it is rocky and emotional. I was personally SHOCKED by the difficulties I experienced when I had my first child. I was experienced in childcare in general, and had read all the expected books prior to getting to the hospital in labor. Perhaps I skimmed through any warnings about the difficulties of breastfeeding, thinking “oh that won’t happen to me”. Or maybe they weren’t even there. Either way, I was so excited to get started breastfeeding my new little babe and had no inclination that it wouldn’t be successful. 

I won’t bore you with the details, as every experience is so unique. But I will tell you that my son and I were never able to get the hang of breastfeeding. There were so many tears. So many hormones. So much pumping. And at 6 weeks I completely gave up. I truly believe that if I had been better prepared to handle the struggles of being a first time breastfeeding mother, we might have eventually been able to be successful. 

So how can you prepare to be successful? Here are a few great things to know before you even start. 

  • Take advantage of all the help in the hospital! It can be tempting to just want to spend time alone with the baby, as it seems like there are nurses and doctors in and out constantly. But the more time you can get with a lactation consultant or a knowledgeable nurse regarding breastfeeding, the better! They are there to help you and know all the breastfeeding basics. They can help baby get the right breastfeeding latch and ensure that baby is getting the milk she needs. They also are usually not afraid get right in there. So either be prepared or be ready to tell them what you are comfortable with. Ask every question you can think of! You can be as prepared as you would like, but actually doing it will a whole new experience and the hands-on help is priceless. 
  • Getting baby to properly latch on to your nipples and successfully drinking milk can take work and time. 
  • Purchase a breastfeeding pillow ahead of time and bring it to the hospital so you’ll have it right away. 
  • Be prepared to spend A LOT of time nursing. Newborns eat often and for long stretches of time. 
  • In the first few days, your milk won’t fully come in. What you produce initially is called colostrum, a yellowish liquid that will boost baby’s immune system. 
  • Breastfeeding can hurt. Your nipples can get sore, red, cracked, and sensitive.
  • Many experts recommend holding off on giving baby a pacifier until you are breastfeeding successfully. 
  • It can be helpful to pump in the hospital to get your milk to come in- take advantage of their powerful pumps! 
  • Be prepared for a lot of positivity, patience, and persistence. The more of those three components you have, the more you set yourself up for success!