Breastfeeding is pretty incredible.
Think about it—you make food with your body. You not only keep your baby alive—you help them grow and thrive, mama. It's amazing.
Except for when it's not. Because let's be honest: at times, breastfeeding can also be difficult, painful, isolating, and for some, downright impossible.
It's a journey—one that's different for each mom and baby. So how can you prepare for this powerful and challenging aspect of motherhood?
Knowledge is power, mama. We recommend reading tips from experts and talking with experienced mothers. You never know where you'll find the one tip that ends up saving your sanity and breastfeeding experience.
We asked you, our readers, what you wish you knew before you began breastfeeding. Your answers are full of empathy, understanding, and information. We compiled all the anecdotes and advice so other moms can learn from our collective knowledge.
Here's what you wish you knew about breastfeeding:
1. That the second you give birth your milk will instantly come in and your child will know exactly how to latch. False! (For most!) It can take a few days and, like every other skill your little one will learn, latching can take time to perfect. -Madeline I.
2. That just because it is natural doesn't mean it comes naturally. It can be hard to get latch and position just right. It can be frustrating. Getting help doesn't mean you are a bad mother or will never bond or whatever those voices are telling you in those late first nights. -Linda B.
3. That it could be easy. I hate that I let people make me scared of it. We had and still have a great journey. -Alecia W.
4. That your mental health comes first. I stopped breastfeeding after I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and Acute anxiety. I was able to heal and bond better than ever after I stopped putting pressure on myself to breastfeed. -Eve W.
5. That if you hemorrhage your supply will come in late and you probably need to supplement. Would've saved me the trauma of taking a dehydrated newborn to the hospital. -Kate J.
6. That night #2 was going to test everything in me while I was waiting for my milk to come in. Baby #2 I managed to pump colostrum and didn't have to supplement but that night was the biggest emotional Rollercoaster and biggest test of my breastfeeding journey so far. I nursed baby 1 for 2 years 4 months and am 11 months in with #2 -Sara M.
7. That additional formula does not mean the end of breastfeeding if you struggle at the beginning, as long as you ensure you express every time you bottle feed if you intend to continue. And that if you feed with bottle as well as bf it won't mess up their bf technique. -Katie M.
8. That your milk supply usually doesn't just magically appear. You and your baby have to *demand* it from your body by attempting to nurse even when you've run out of milk. Knowing this would have meant a lot less tears from me. -Jami T.
9. That I don't need to feel emotional about stopping. I've seen a lot of posts about how emotional some get when it's time to wean and that has never been my experience and I wasted energy feeling bad that I didn't feel bad lol. It's something I did to feed my children but that's it and I'm happy when it's over. -Kristen B.
10. That it often doesn't come naturally. That lactation consultants are worth their money. That you can't just sleep through the night and let your husband give a bottle! -Rachel W.
11. That low supply is a very real thing and that not everyone can breastfeed. I had no idea that some just don't produce or produce only a tiny amount. Also that most people can't fathom or bother to understand this even if you've done everything right and been diagnosed with low supply by multiple IBCLCs. They just blame you for it. -Alexa W.
12. That it didn't work for me and it's ok. I should have stopped after the first week, but i tortured myself and kept trying for months - made my postpartum depression unbearable for way too long instead of just enjoying my baby. I knew better the second time. ❤ (And both kids are perfectly fine years later - there was so much pressure that i was harming them with formula - such a load of crap) -Nomi B.
13. It is not all or nothing. Giving your baby formula doesn't mean you failed or that you have to stop breastfeeding. I will never forget when someone told me this. So simple but gave me permission to not be perfect. -Elizabeth B.
14. That it is wonderful, but it can also be really isolating. Having to set aside time every two to three hours of the day to nurse or pump can pull you away from activities, friends, and family. Even after a year, I never got comfortable enough that I could seamlessly nurse while doing other things. -Jamie H.
15. That it's no one else business how long you choose to nurse for. It's actually pretty weird for other people to have an opinion on what you do with your body and your baby. -Jamie L.
16. It's not a journey that starts always hard and gets easier. Sometimes it's easy then hard then easier again then really hard then awful then fabulous! -Katie G.
17. Not to feel guilt when you're ready to be done, be done. Mom's mental health matters most in this situation. I nursed my boys for 14 months each and felt awful "cutting them off" and even shamed by some and myself. But I now do not care, like zero, what others think of my choices as a mommy. It was an accomplishment to make it 14 months and instead of guilt, I now feel pride. -Chelsea R.
18. What you pump is NOT a good indicator of how much you're producing. Baby is better at effectively draining the breast vs a pump. My daughter's old pediatrician gave us that misinformation and I'm still mad almost 5 years later -Jennifer M.
19. That nipple shields exist and are amazing! And to remember that fed is best, regardless of what route you take. ❤️ -Julie S.
20. That breastfeeding shouldn't cost you your sanity! And that exclusively pumping still counts as breastfeeding and it's okay to stop latching and become a pumper if latching is becoming difficult and making you and baby unhappy! Fed in any form you choose to do it is better than your pride! -Jalissa R.
21. That it's okay not to think it's the most beautiful thing in the world but still want to do it for your child. It was a huge sacrifice to pump at work but I did it and it was hard on me. I was so happy when it was over. But I will do it again for my second. -Shana C.
22. That every baby, every nursing experience, every mother, is different. Relax, and do what you need to do to raise a healthy baby. Remove guilt. -Dotty R.