Breastfeeding is an instinctual and natural act, but it is also an art that is learned day by day.
The reality is that almost all women can breastfeed, have enough milk for their babies and learn how to overcome problems both large and small. It is almost always simply a matter of practical knowledge and not a question of good luck
La Leche League
What Was Old is New Again
Breastfeeding in American culture is kind of a new thing. Well, not really. It is a very old thing that was forced out of style and is now being appreciated for the immense benefits it can offer babies, mothers, and families.
But because of its period out of the spotlight much of the women’s wisdom regarding breastfeeding has been lost. So now we have to re-learn much of the wisdom and skill that our ancestors knew.
Unfortunately, we are faced with a lot of conflicting information and it is hard to discern what is normal and what is not. I am here to help you with that.
- It is normal for your milk to take some time to come in. It can take longer if you had a caesarean section or an epidural. Your baby will not starve to death. Allow your baby to meet all of his or her sucking needs at the breast- this will encourage your milk to come in.
- It is totally normal for your baby to want to nurse a lot. Really, I mean a lot. You may feel like you live on the couch or wherever you choose to nurse I hypothesize that this has a good reason: By making you sit and nurse your baby can make you sit down and rest- forcing you to let your body recover. Childbirth is like running a marathon, you need to recover. Your baby is helping you take time to do that. All of the suckling is also helping your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size.
- If you really have the urge to clean/be active that much, I promise you will have plenty of time later, as of writing this; no one has come up with a self-cleaning house.
- It is normal for your nipples to be sore at first. Some people say nursing should not hurt at all. I disagree. In my experience it is normal to have some amount of discomfort. This is a new thing for your breasts. There are some great nipple creams out there, I love the Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, it is toxin free, and feels delightful.
- It is normal to continue nursing beyond a year. The World Health Organization currently states that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. This meaning- no other food or beverages at all for 6 months, after that introducing complementary food while continuing to breastfeed is normal. In fact extended breastfeeding (until a child is 3 or 4 years old) is normal the world over.
- Breastfeeding a toddler will not make them clingy. It will make them secure in their independence.
- If you choose to go against the norm in any way- using cloth diapers, breastfeeding for a longer period of time, you will get questions. How do you use cloth diapers (this is an excellent time to show off how cute cloth diapers can be- Charlie Banana has some great prints!)? Why do you do that? Why is your baby still nursing?
- It is normal for your supply to dip when your monthly cycle returns. This is temporary. Your milk production is largely tied to hormones, as your hormones shift, your milk supply will shift as well. Your milk may change in taste during this time. Some babies don’t like this
- It is normal for your breastfed baby to gain weight at a different rate than formula fed peers. Make sure your doctor is using the WHO Breastfeeding Growth Chart.
There are many variations of normal in life. Breastfeeding is no different. Babies are individuals; no two babies are exactly the same, even twins. Respect and embrace the differences. You can do this. As Ina May says, “Your body is not a lemon”.
Christobel is a London resident and grandmother. She like any mother has opinions on everything from diapers for babies to breastfeeding. Thankfully, she also has tact and expresses her opinions in a kind way meant to encourage the new mother to make eco friendly and baby friendly choices.
Editor’s note: While we agree that breastfeeding is best, there are cases in which it’s just not possible. This article is not intended to be critical of any woman who chooses to formula-feed, especially those who have no choice.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want healthy babies.