Are you getting ready to have your first baby? Want to know about breastfeeding and pumping? Here are some basics – plus all of the things everyone forgot to tell you. Note: This post contains affiliate links.
I had my first baby almost 4 years ago this month. If you’ve been following me at all, you know that I just had baby #2 a few weeks ago. And let me tell you – I’ve learned a heck of a lot.
Becoming a mom to two kids made me realize how much of a total ROOKIE I was until the second baby showed up.
I thought I knew everything when I became a mom. You see, when you have your first baby, you adjust quickly. Your maternal instincts kick in and you survive. But once you have your second kid (or any subsequent kids) you are completely different as a mom.
For starters, you’re way more chill about everything. Those little things that seemed like life-threatening issues become, “no big deal.” (You know what I mean?) Secondly, you are much better at figuring out how to keep your baby rested, loved, and fed.
Still, there are so many things I wish I’d known the first time around.
Particularly about breastfeeding and feeding in general.
If I’d known more, maybe I’d have been able to successfully breastfeed or pump without ever having to supplement.
That’s why I’m writing this post.
It’s surprisingly difficult for many women to breastfeed. It’s not because they are lazy or don’t want to give their baby breastmilk, but because the bodies we have and the support we receive is always different.
Many of you know from my breastfeeding tips post that I am breastfeeding, but also pumping and supplementing. (Yep, doing all three!) My hope is to build enough supply between breastfeeding and pumping to totally ditch formula altogether.
But that feat may have been easier had I known a lot more about what to expect about breastfeeding and pumping. Because it’s okay if that’s what you end up doing!
I have never personally had enough supply (with either baby) to solely breastfeed. The lactation supplements truly help but I am still only pumping a few ounces out per day.
In this post, I am sharing the things that I wish someone would have told me about breastfeeding and pumping. Heck, for starters, I wish someone would have told me it was okay to do both! If that’s the situation you’re in, this is for you!!
11 Things No One Tells You About Breastfeeding and Pumping
1. You will become totally cool with your boobs being out.
Like all day. Between pumping and breastfeeding, everyone in my family is used to me being half-naked all the dang time. Luckily I have some great nursing shirts that keep the exposure minimal so that people don’t have to see my belly, too.
2. You could potentially spend 6+ hours pumping or feeding daily.
This is a tough one. When I was recovering from my c-section (see my tips for recovery in this post) it was fine to sit and pump. I needed to rest. But now that I am trying to lose weight, I hate having to be stuck to a pump or baby all of the time. (It sounds selfish, I know.) My latest trick is to pump standing up at the kitchen counter while I watch Netflix or write blog posts. But do know that when your baby is still learning how to feed and your body is still learning how to produce milk, you could be spending a LOT of time sitting or laying down.
3. Just because you’re breastfeeding and pumping doesn’t mean you’ll have enough supply to skip formula.
This one is tough if you have your heart set on breastmilk only. With this last baby, I did nothing but pump and breastfeed for three weeks before the doctors and lactation consultants started to get worried. My little man dropped a bunch of weight after birth and hadn’t been gaining it back. So I gave him formula. Just remember that if you do that, you can always keep working on your supply and eliminate formula later. Recover, keep your baby fed, then focus on rebuilding/building your supply.
4. You will become a pro at pumping in the car.
If you go on trips at all, even just day trips, you’ll want to get an adaptor or battery pack for your pump. If you go more than four hours without feeding in your first few months postpartum, it can hurt your supply. I sit in the back seat while my husband drives, and I use my hands-free pumping bra to pump, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes. Don’t forget to pack an ice pack!!
5. You will feel a little bit like a slave.
Because you’re spending so much time between the pump and the feedings, your first few months breastfeeding and pumping might be exhausting. I used to think, “Oh this is so convenient because I can feed wherever I go,” but you’re still physically attached to another human! Being needed in a physical way like that can make you feel overwhelmed. But once your baby gets better at feeding, it will get better for you, too!
6. Dropping even just one pump or feeding session a day might drop your supply.
Breastfeeding or pumping consistently is important in your first several weeks postpartum. It needs to be done every 2-3 hours. If you skip a session, your body won’t receive signals to make more milk. So until you figure out how much milk you need to keep your baby growing, try not to drop a session. When you’re ready to drop a session, try to make it a night feeding.
7. Just because you are breastfeeding and pumping, doesn’t mean you won’t get your period.
A lot of people think that breastfeeding will keep your from becoming fertile again. This simply isn’t true. I have had my period again after three months postpartum with both babies. I also know people who have gotten pregnant several months postpartum despite breastfeeding AND not getting their period yet. So don’t get too excited about potentially skipping out of that time of the month. You’ll likely get it back pretty quickly unless you are 100% breastfeeding, and then it will return once you start dropping feedings.
See my tips for working out on your period.
8. Pumping will help toughen up your nipples for less painful breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding hurts – sorry. For the first several weeks, you’ll likely feel pain when feeding. It’s not always on both sides, but chances are you will experience some. To give yourself a break from any poor latches or botched feedings, pump. Start with lower suction and work up to more intense intervals as you feel more comfortable. After pumping, be sure to put some lanolin on to soothe your nipples.
9. You might have pump sessions that are great one time and terrible the next.
Typically, your best pumping sessions will be in the morning. That’s when your body has had plenty of time to produce more milk, assuming your baby isn’t up eating every 2 hours. After that, you might have milk taper off throughout the day. But that doesn’t mean you should quit pumping later in the day. In fact, if you want to boost your supply, you really need to keep a pumping session or feeding in the evening, even if you know you’re empty. You want to trigger your body and tell it to make more milk!
10. Heat helps everything.
If you take a hot shower while breastfeeding and pumping (especially in the first few weeks), you might notice your boobs dripping a few minutes in. That’s because the heat helps the ducts unclog and release milk! So I suggest feeding or pumping after a hot shower to tap into those hard-to-empty ducts. Or, as I recently discovered, they make boob heat therapy pads that are SUPER handy pre-pumping session or feeding. (They are also super soothing if you’re engorged.) I heat mine up, wear them for about 15 minutes, then pump! I think it helps reduce my pumping time and helps me get more milk out.
11. You still might need lactation support.
I went to the lactation consultant twice with both babies and still felt like a rookie. I think that if I’d kept going I might have been able to adjust more quickly. So just because you’re doing it all doesn’t mean you might still need help! The quicker you get over the, “I can do this myself” attitude, the easier things will be for you as a new mom. Trust someone who knows! 🙂
Are you a veteran mom or new mom? Tell me below and let me know if you have any other things to add!