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We’re dishing on what surprised us about breastfeeding, so you’re better prepared to start your journey
Everyone likes to talk about pregnancy symptoms and birth stories, but what about everything that comes after your baby arrives? If you choose to breastfeed, it’s a huge part of those first days and weeks postpartum—and, for most new moms, there are some aspects of breastfeeding that can be surprising. We’re here to give you a sneak peek of what’s to come by sharing our real-life lessons learned.
“I had no idea what would happen when my milk ‘came in.’”
Right after delivery, your breasts produce colostrum, a thick, yellow substance that will sustain your baby in the first few days after birth. After that, your milk will “come in,” either somewhat gradually or all of a sudden. When this happens, your boobs might feel warm, swollen and rock hard (Let’s be real, the size will shock you, try and have a good sense of humor about it.). It’s normal and temporary! To calm the engorgement, apply warm compresses, gently massage your breasts and nurse or pump often.
“You can get clogged ducts.”
At some point, you might feel a tender, firm spot in one area of your breast. To clear the clog (and prevent an infection like mastitis), warm your breast with a heating pad or hot shower, firmly press and massage the spot from your chest wall toward your nipple while nursing or pumping and nurse or pump as much as possible. For stubborn ones, hold a vibrating electric toothbrush against it or use gravity’s pull by “dangle feeding” (get on all fours with your baby or pump underneath you, yes, for real).
“I learned that milk output from pumping isn’t an indication of supply.”
When you’re nursing, you really don’t know how much your baby is taking in. Often, when moms are away from their baby or back to work, they may not get a full feeding’s worth in one pumping session. But a baby is usually more efficient and effective at removing milk than a pump is—unless the baby has a condition that affects milk transfer, such as a tongue-tie. With time (and a few deep breaths!), you’ll start to respond to the pump better and likely see a boost in your output. If you need to have a couple more ounces on hand, try pumping a bit after a nursing session. The first time you pump after a feeding, you may not get any milk because you’ve just fed your baby. By continuing to pump, it is telling your body you need more milk at that time and your body will learn will start to produce more. Stick with it, and don’t be alarmed or discouraged.
“Exclusively pumping is a thing.”
When you hear the word “breastfeeding,” you probably think of nursing. But breastfeeding can also happen via exclusively pumping. Some moms choose to exclusively pump because they don’t want to nurse or it fits their lifestyle better. Others may have to exclusively pump due to a medical condition, premature birth or a latching or transfer issue. Between around-the-clock pumping sessions, washing parts and storing milk, it is a big and admirable commitment, but giving your baby breastmilk is awesome, whether it comes by way of a pump or straight from the tap.
“D-MER can trigger really uncomfortable feelings while breastfeeding.”
For some moms, feelings of sadness, anxiety or even anger bubble up during breastfeeding. This condition has a name: dysphoric milk ejection reflex, or D-MER. Moms who experience D-MER have negative feelings, often described as a hollow pit in the stomach, right before letdown, usually lasting 30 seconds to two minutes. The intensity can vary from a mild reaction to a very extreme one, but the feeling passes fairly quickly. D-MER is believed to be tied to dopamine activity. It usually presents within the first couple weeks of breastfeeding and for many, it ends by the time their baby is three months old. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Resources like the Lactation Network are here to provide you with expert advice and personalized care and compassion for all things motherhood and breastfeeding.
“Flanges come in different sizes—and it’s important to replace pump parts regularly.”
To maximize comfort and milk output while pumping, it’s crucial to have well-fitting flanges and well-functioning parts. Your best flange fit will depend on the diameter of your nipple, not the size of your boobs. Pumps typically come with one or two standard sizes, but plenty of moms need a smaller or larger size (or sometimes different sizes for each breast!). If you notice some of your areola is pulled into the flange or your nipple is rubbing as you pump, it may be a sign that you need to try another size. As for parts, you will want to have as many sets as your pumping schedule dictates. Also, the plastic can start to break down with time and wear, especially membranes and backflow protectors that are made of a softer material and are key for proper suction. If you see signs of wear or you’ve been using the parts for three months or more, get in touch and our Ashland Breast Pumps team can help you order new pump accessories.
“Lactation consultants are like breastfeeding fairy godmothers.”
Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally, especially in the beginning. You may be struggling with latching, nursing positions, nipple pain or other ailments. But never fear, a breastfeeding expert (aka an international board-certified lactation consultant) can help you out. Set up a one-on-one, in-home or in-office consultation where you can get information, support and hands-on help from someone who knows her stuff. Many insurance plans will cover a 90-minute visit, which means there’s no out-of-pocket cost to you.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all breast pump.”
Manual, single electric, double electric, hospital-grade, open system, closed system, portable, rechargeable, discrete ones that hide in your bra—who knew there were so many options when choosing a breast pump? Your perfect match will depend on your lifestyle and preferences. To make it easy, we have a short-and-sweet breast pump quiz you can take. Or give us a call and we’re happy to chat through the different features. Ashland Breast Pumps offers the largest selection of breast pumps available, so you’re sure to find one that’s just right for YOU.
“I don’t have to pump and dump.”
Yes, it’s true, you don’t have to dump that liquid gold. While we may joke about pumping and dumping after a girls’ night out, less than two percent of the alcohol you drink will make its way into your milk and blood. Alcohol leaves your milk the same way it leaves your bloodstream, so you don’t have to “get rid of” it. And the alcohol from a glass of wine or beer is typically metabolized in two to three hours. Of course, you know your body and your baby best, so consider the facts and your comfort level when it comes to alcohol and breastfeeding.
“I’m so proud to be able to give my baby breastmilk.”
The benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom are amazing. But nourishing your baby with breast milk and helping him or her grow is also incredibly fulfilling. Your body is sustaining life and directly contributing to your baby’s development! Breastfeeding isn’t always easy. The sacrifices you make—loss of sleep, sore nipples, cluster feeding, pumping at work, and so much more—allow your baby to grow and thrive. No matter how long you do it, breastfeeding is definitely something to be proud of, mom.
Whatever you encounter during your breastfeeding journey, we’re here to help. Get in touch with our Ashland Breast Pumps team. We’ll set you up with an insurance-covered breast pump and a personalized lactation consultation, plus answer any of your new-mom questions!