Before having kids, feeding never crossed my mind. I thought about whether I would have girls or boys, their health, and what motherhood was going to be like. But whether I would breastfeed or formula feed never fazed me. My mom breastfed my sister, brother, and me, so I assumed that's what I would do too.
I tried not to put pressure on myself. When people asked me if I was planning to breastfeed or formula feed (I was asked this question a lot even though it's no one's business), my response was, "I'm going to try and breastfeed and see how it goes. If it doesn't work out, I'll go from there."
I'll admit, I had a relatively smooth breastfeeding experience. That's not to say there weren't engorged breasts, chapped nipples, or frustrated feeding sessions; in fact, I needed the help of a lactation specialist while nursing my second because. However, the overall experience was one I will cherish forever, and four years post-breastfeeding I can look back and smile on the memories.
I can smile because I'm now pretty far removed from the experience, with my daughters being five and six years old. Breastfeeding is challenging and it didn't always go according to plan. There were times I felt alone and overwhelmed because I had some preconceived notions I should have taken with a grain of salt. I would still breastfeed again, even knowing these truths, but it would have been nice to know the following to feel a little more prepared.
That breastfeeding is easy
First and foremost, breastfeeding is hard! It's work—like, a lot of work. In fact, one full year of breastfeeding equals approximately 1,800 hours of a mom's time. Breastfeeding basically is a full-time job. Combine that with other responsibilities, like insane amounts of laundry, actual jobs, other kids, spouses and cooking and it's no wonder finding the time to commit to breastfeeding can feel unmanageable. Breastfeeding is a commitment and is anything but easy.
That breastfed babies shouldn't use pacifiers
One of the biggest misnomers in my opinion is the idea of nipple confusion. I'm not a lactation consultant, however, from my experience, nipple confusion is a lie. When I was in the hospital with my oldest, the lactation consultant basically made me sign my life away when I asked for a pacifier. She told me if I opted for a pacifier, it could make latching to the boob more difficult. Both my daughters ended up using pacifiers regularly as a soothing mechanism and both my daughters breastfed to the one-year mark. They had no problems going back and forth between a pacifier nipple, a breast nipple, and a bottle nipple, so using a pacifier was an unnecessary worry in my situation.
That you can eat whatever you want while breastfeeding
This lie was two-fold. First, I was always told breastfeeding burns calories. While that may be the case, it didn't mean the baby weight melted away. Second, when I was breastfeeding my second child, I had to cut out dairy and soy for a few months because of an intolerance. I had no idea I would have to change my diet in order to accommodate the needs of my daughters. For me, cutting out dairy and soy wasn't a big deal, but it meant I couldn't have that extra bowl of ice cream or eat whatever I wanted!
That breastfeeding is painless
I was unaware of and unprepared for the pain of breastfeeding, especially in those beginning days. Between the engorged breasts filled with milk and the chapped nipples that felt like knives stabbing into me every time my daughters latched, the beginning of breastfeeding was one of my more painful experiences. And the second time around, in those first couple days, no one told me it would feel like I was having contractions every time my daughter breastfed. Apparently, that's a thing for second-time breastfeeding moms: breastfeeding helps the uterus contract down, which in turn creates some pain. Eventually, the milk supply does even out so you no longer feel engorged, your nipples callous over, and your uterus goes back to its normal size, so breastfeeding does become painless. But, in those first few weeks, nipple cream and heating pads are your two best friends.
That middle of the night feedings are the worst
I loved the middle of the night feedings. Was I exhausted? Yes. Did I get woken up constantly to feed? Yes. Was my husband able to help? No. But, thinking back on those middle of the night feedings, all I remember is the stillness of the night, when everyone was sleeping and I was holding my infant, listening to her little gulp, with her delicate palm resting gently on my chest. It was our time together; just the baby and me. Sometimes, I watched a television show while feeding, sometimes I sat in a daze and sometimes I dozed off. But those middle of the night feeds are some of my most special memories and the main reason I never wanted a night nurse, even after knowing the amount of exhaustion that came with a newborn. Now, someone to help during the day so I could nap: that's a different story!