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18 things we wish we'd known about breastfeeding (before we started).

Even if you take a breastfeeding class and read all about it online, breastfeeding can still be confusing once you sit down to try it.

Unless you spent your pregnancy hiding under a rock, you’ve probably heard a few things about breastfeeding.

You know that it’s natural and sort of intuitive, but that it’s not always easy. But then there are the other things that no one seems to tell you about. From yellow baby poop and sore nipples to breast milk snobbery and bottomless-pit-hunger, here’s what we wish we’d known about nursing…

1. Trust your instincts.

Even if you take a breastfeeding class and read all about it online, breastfeeding can still be confusing once you sit down to try it. That’s why it’s key to get help and to get it early: breastfeeding success is all about getting a good start – figuring out how often to feed your baby, how to get her to latch on properly and how to establish a strong milk supply. But once you know your baby is eating well and gaining weight, you’re in the clear. Just get the help you need, keep trying – and don’t give up.You’ll get the hang of it.

2. You’ll constantly  wonder if your baby is getting enough to eat.

Formula-feeding mums get the clarity of measurements on bottles and doctor-recommended serving sizes, but breastfeeding mums have to wait until baby decides he’s done eating (and if he falls asleep sucking on your boob, is he done eating?)

As a result, you may become obsessed with knowing whether your baby is crying because he’s hungry – or because, well, he’s a baby and babies cry. Relax mama: if he’s content and he’s pooping and peeing as much as he should be, he’s getting enough.

3. There may be a ton of discomfort at first – or none at all.

“There may be a ton of discomfort – or none at all.”

There’s a chance you’ll be one of those women who nurses without so much as a sore nipple. If so, lucky you! But other mums find much of the breastfeeding process uncomfortable. There’s engorgement, which gives you rock-hard breasts the size of a porn star’s (and so much pain that you can’t even think about doing anything that porn stars do). Then there are the raw, cracked nipples from baby’s constant and earnest sucking for the first few days.

Ouch! And don’t even get us started on infections like thrush and mastitis.

Fortunately, most discomfort is just the result of minor adjustments your body is making to breastfeeding. Your breasts will learn to hold the right amount of milk to prevent engorgement and your baby will stop sucking the bejeezus out of you when she learns to nurse efficiently. If not, that’s a sign there’s something wrong and you should contact a lactation consultant.

4. You’ll become a breast milk snob.

Once you become a breastfeeding mum, your relationship with formula may change. You may tell your husband that the free sample of formula in the cupboard is off-limits – for emergency use only (the emergency being that you and your milk jugs get into a fatal car crash and never come back). Or, if you’re doing the combo of nursing and formula from any judge-y friends. And you’ll see other mums around town and immediately note whether they’re armed with powdered formula dispensers of a nursing cover. When did you turn into this crazy mama?

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5. You’ll amaze yourself.

The first time you see baby sucking on your breast properly, you’ll stare with shock and awe. “Is he really swallowing? Are we really doing it?!” If you weren’t so exhausted (and if you didn’t have a baby attached to your boob), you’d do a happy dance.

6. Just what the heck is “letting down”?

You’ve probably heard friends talk about their breast milk “letting down” and the “let down” sensation — and had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. “What is this ‘let down’ everyone talks about?” you might think, “And how will I know when it happens to me?”

Simply put, the breastfeeding “let down” feeling is a totally normal tingling, rushing sensation that many mums feel as their milk starts to eject. (Some women find it relaxing, some say it feels like pins and needles and some actually find it to be more of a painful, deep ache. And some don’t experience the sensation at all.) If you’ve got a super-abundant supply of breast milk – lucky you! – the let down sensation may be more uncomfortable. But if you think your let down is too forceful (your baby may have trouble handling the flow), you may want to talk to a lactation consultant.

7. Pumping is a pain… but so worth it!

If you’re going back to work, pumping might seem like one more thing to do in your already over-scheduled day. You’ll be painfully aware that everyone in your office sees you carrying your breast pump to the pumping room and you’ll wonder if they are all thinking about your boobs. (Who cares?)

“Pumping is a pain. But so worth it!”

Unless you work for a very small company, your employer must provide you with a place to pump. If you’re lucky, it will have a fridge. (If you’re not, your breast milk will have to rest in the office fridge next to the Chinese takeout that’s been sitting in there for the past week.)

Even so, you may find yourself enjoying the pumping routine. For starters, it might be the only break you get all day. Plus, you’ll think about your baby while you do it. In fact, thinking about your baby helps your body release the milk. Continuing to breastfeed and pump will also be motivation to keep yourself healthy by eating right. And with all you’ve got on your plate now, it’s important that you stay healthy.

8. Breastfeeding can suck the desire to have sex right out of you.

Here’s the truth: you may have a lower libido while breastfeeding. And even if you are in the mood, hormones are to blame for “down there” dryness. A good lubricant can help with the problem but let’s face it: there are plenty of other libido killers in your life right now. You’re exhausted and have to drag yourself out of bed to feed baby in two hours. Your boobs are heavy and you can’t bear the thought of them getting jostled around right now. And you’ve been giving one (very little) person full access to your body, so for the time being you’d like to keep it for yourself. Don’t feel bad for saying no to sex – this is a temporary phase of life and you’ll get back on track – but seriously consider saying yes from time to time. You might actually enjoy yourself.

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9. As gross as it sounds, you’ll taste your breast milk.

Baby clearly loves it and it’s only natural for you to wonder what the heck it tastes like. Honestly, there’s nothing weird or sketchy about it, so go ahead – whether it’s out of curiosity or to make sure it hasn’t spoiled, take a taste! This is food, after all – made by a human for a human. (If you think about it, it kind of makes more sense to drink it than something made by a cow.) So if another mum tells you she never tasted her own milk, she’s lying. And while you’ll never admit to anyone, your milk tastes sweet and not half bad.

10. You may think it’s never going to work but it will.

In the beginning, you may be frustrated. You won’t understand why your baby doesn’t know how to eat. You’ll swear. You’ll cry. You won’t know what you’re doing wrong. But hang in there. Chances are, it will work. In truth, only two to five per cent of women are physically unable to breastfeed, so the odds are in your favour. Be persistent and get help. You can do it!

11. Breastfeeding may make you ravenous.

Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 to 800 calories per day, which is why many mums – including Beyonce – swear that nursing is responsible for their post-baby weight loss. In fact, right after a nursing session, your stomach might start growling. You may even have more cravings (and more midnight snacks) than you ever did while you were pregnant. After all, there’s no longer a baby in there, crowding your stomach and your metabolism is in overdrive. Just eat but lay off the junk food. Get plenty of fibre, calcium and iron and ask your OB if you should be taking a vitamin (she may tell you to continue to take prenatals).

12. You will be jealous when your husband gives your baby a bottle.

“You’ll be jealous when your husband gives your baby a bottle.”

At some point, your partner will likely give your baby a bottle. After all, you guys are equal partners in this parenting thing – why shouldn’t he get in on the feeding/cuddling action? You’ll probably even happily pump and prepare the bottle and leave the house with a feeling of freedom. But when you really think about what’s going on without you, you’ll feel a tiny bit sad. You’ll ask your guy a million questions: “Did he like it?” “How fast did he drink it?” “Which way did you hold him?” And if your baby rejects the bottle, you might even be secretly smug about it.

13. You’ll feel a little guilty if you supplement.

There’s no denying that nursing is the best way to feed a baby. Numerous studies tout the benefits of breastfeeding – especially breastfeeding exclusively for the first four to six months. Seeing a headline about nursing’s magical properties will make you beam with pride. Unless, of course, you’ve chosen to supplement. Then, you’ll (again) feel guilty. Just remember, any breast milk your baby has consumed will help her immediately and plenty of healthy adults (including lawyers, doctors and presidents) had formula as babies. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re supplementing. If you’ve done what works best for you and your family, then you’ve done the best thing for your baby.

14. You’ll breastfeed in public.

If you’re shy, be sure to invest in a nursing cover, because you will breastfeed your baby in public – even if you never, ever imagined you would. It’s simply unrealistic to rush home every time your baby gets hungry. After you do it a few times, you’ll get bolder about where you do it. Who knows, you may even get brave enough to forgo the nursing cover altogether!

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Yeah, so breastfeeding doesn’t always look as serene as Miranda Kerr would have us believe.

15. You’ll wish you had started pumping sooner.

Yes you might be scared to bust out your breast pump for the first time – we know, it kind of resemble a torture device – but we wish someone had told us to start pumping sooner. The reason: it can help you stockpile breast milk in your freezer to have when you go back to work.

After you and your baby have hit your nursing groove (probably after the first week), break out the machine and give it a try if you haven’t already. Yes, it makes a weird whirring sound (you might even think it’s talking to you) and yes, you’ll be amazed (and kinda repulsed) that your nipples can stretch that much. The best time to pump is right after that first morning feeding. You have the most milk in the morning, so it’s likely that after your baby has eaten, you’ll have extra milk after you pump. (And this way, you don’t have to skip if you don’t want to.) And when it’s time to go back to work, you’ll feel great about all those bags of milk hanging out in the freezer.

16. You’ll have a love-hate relationship with nursing bras.

Ah, nursing bras – how do we love thee? Let us count the ways: you’re uber comfortable. If we forgot to take you off at night, who cares? You’re practically pyjamas. You’re easy to unclip with one hand while holding a screaming kid in the other. And when we have to pump at work, you make the process so much quicker.

However, you can be extremely ugly; you give our spectacular breastfeeding knockers little to no shape or lift, and we’re dying not to have to deal with you any more. Plus, you’re pricey! Still, while we’re nursing, we are your devoted followers – you’re the only bra for us.

17. Your boobs will become baby’s property.

The first time your husband tries to touch your breasts, you’ll do a double take. How dare he?! Your boobs have become milk vessels – they’re property of the baby and no longer are for sexual purposes. You may even (mistakenly) think that because there’s milk in there, your guy will suddenly find them asexual. (He won’t.) They’re boobs and they’re probably really nice and full. He’ll find them sexy. Trust us.

18. You’ll pump if you skip a feed.

We know you’re tired and that the whole point of even using bottles is so you don’t have to do every feeding. But if your baby is taking a bottle – whether it’s breastmilk or formula – make sure you pump.

The reason? It’s important for maintaining supply and demand. Your body has to learn to keep up with baby’s appetite – if your boobs release milk every time she needs to eat, they’ll keep making enough milk to keep her satisfied. Plus, you don’t want to risk painful plugged ducts or worse, an infection called mastitis, which can occur if your body isn’t getting rid of milk as fast as it makes it. So just pump. You can sleep afterwards.

 This post originally appeared on iVillage and has been republished here with full permission.

What did you wish you’d known before you started breastfeeding?

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