As you may know, I am currently pregnant. This has resulted in my watching hundreds of hours of baby programming: Baby Stories, Bringing Home Baby, Baby Diaries, etc. There is a pattern that has really come into focus. Most of the mothers on these programs, who want to breastfeed are missing some critical information. My frequent talking back to the television certainly isn't helping, so I thought I might put down my thoughts here.
1. This one is very important. It takes your milk about 3-4 days to come in after giving birth. Your breasts will be producing colostrum. Your baby only takes about a teaspoon of colostrum per feeding. The important thing to know is: they do not need milk until your milk comes in. They are NOT hungry yet. They merely need to suckle your breast, so that your milk will come in sooner.
If you you get worried that your baby is starving because your milk hasn't come in immediately and you proceed to give him a bottle of formula, the baby will not suckle your breast enough, and your milk coming in can be delayed. This starts a very vicious cycle. You supplement with formula, which in turn means you produce less milk, which causes you to supplement with formula. Your milk can just taper off.
2. Your breasts produce as much or as little milk as they need to. As long as your baby is suckling frequently, your body will adjust to whatever your baby/babies need. If you supplement with formula it can throw off this delicate balance.
3. If you have been nursing your baby, and then you give him a bottle and the baby seems to love it and drink it down quickly and happily, it is important to know that it isn't the formula he loves. It is the ease of drinking from a bottle compared with the work of suckling your breast. He doesn't have to work for it. This results in your baby not working all those muscles in his mouth that have lifetime benefits.
(Direct from the La Leche website: They also benefit from appropriate jaw, teeth and speech development as well as overall facial development. This means that people who were artificially fed may experience more trips to doctors and dentists.)
4. Also very important to know: In the beginning, breastfeeding hurts. Now there are two different nursing pains. If your baby is latched on to just your nipple, it is going to be very painful, and your baby will not be getting milk.
The pain I am referring to, is the pain of your nipples/areolas getting accustomed to the constant friction of nursing. It makes sense that your delicate nipples are not naturally accustomed to this sort of rough treatment. It is important for you to know that this will definitely 100% fade with time. It will be hard to believe at first, but soon you will have to look at your baby to be sure he is actually latched on. For me, this took 13 weeks. I believe it varies widely between nursing mothers. Just know that as long as your baby is latching on properly it WILL happen.
5. It is very very worth all of the pain and doubt that you will experience at the very beginning. I am sure you know all the benefits to your baby and your own body, so I will not list them here.
You need to know that the lesser talked about benefits, are how much simpler it will make your life on a daily basis. The fact that you carry around with you a clean, warm, endless supply of the best food possible for your babies. You do not have to purchase, wash, sterilize, dry, refrigerate bottles of formula. You can leave your house at a moment's notice, grabbing a few diapers and wipes as you head out the door...