What’s your #1 Breastfeeding Question?

Nursing my older son at about 4 weeks old, 2007. Last good hair day.

I attended a Breastfeeding Preparation class last week as part of my DONA doula certification requirement. An important part of the doula role is supporting new moms in breastfeeding, and even though I nursed one son for 14 months and am three months into nursing baby #2, I knew I’d pick up some good tips to help other mothers. I was also interested to see how the class was set up and how the information was presented.

Before we started, the instructor had us introduce ourselves and share our most pressing questions about breastfeeding. All of the moms-to-be wondered most: When can I supplement with formula and/or a nighttime bottle? While this was an exceptionally small homogeneous sample size of just four expectant mothers, I thought this was very interesting– both the question itself and that they all shared it as their most burning question on breastfeeding.

Does it mean they’ve heard breastfeeding is really hard and they will have to supplement or resort to Plan B? Have they heard sleep deprivation horror stories and want to be sure their partner can help with feedings? Probably. It also came out later in the conversation that one of the moms was concerned about her partner having a chance to bond with the baby through feedings. A friend of hers feels like he hasn’t been able to connect with his newborn since the mother is exclusively breastfeeding.

I can’t recall now what my most burning breastfeeding question was before that adventure began. I’d like to think it was ‘what can I do to ensure a successful breastfeeding relationship?’ I’d heard the stories from my friends and knew it could be really rough in the beginning. I wanted to be ready to tackle the challenges and make it work (a la Tim Gunn). I think I also assumed it would be mostly fine, as my mother breastfed four children, it’s as natural as can be, I’m committed, so what could go wrong?

Well, that’s a long story for another post– but we did figure it out after a grueling few months and I don’t regret a thing. When I was struggling, a friend told me, “breastfeeding goes from being the worst thing in the world, to the best thing in the world.” This piece of advice helped me to stay committed and see it through until we were on the other side.

So, what about you?

What was your number one question about breastfeeding before you began?

What is your number one tip to mothers-to-be who are planning to nurse?

8 thoughts on “What’s your #1 Breastfeeding Question?

  1. This is such a great post! I think I was just worried about how it was going to work, could I do it, especially when I went back to work. Once I had the baby, I realized that nursing is challenging at first- whether it’s baby number one or two. Best advise is to ask for help and support. Ask ask ask. There are no stupid questions. Lactation consultants, friends who nurse and great, trusted books are key. And on that note, friends should be checking in! If you’ve nursed a baby, take a moment and ask your friend with the newborn (even if it is her second or third or fourth) how nursing is going and how she is feeling.

    Love your blog. xo

  2. worst to best indeed! I am so happy I got to breastfeed for so long. My biggest worry pre-birth was whether I would like it or think it was weird.

  3. A friend and I were just discussing the other day the number of people we know who are not nursing or are supplementing at night. We were wondering the same thing – what is this trend?
    My number one question was how I was going to be able to pull this off when I lacked all maternal insticts. Luckily I had read so many stories from a lovely online group that gave me the confidence to do it. 😉 My advice to anyone is stick with it, and it will get better. Ask questions of drs, nurses, LC, friends, online groups, Google.

  4. Hello, great post. Not sure if this goes against everything you’re saying but can’t help but think there should be a little element of ‘if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you for whatever reason or you only manage to do it for a little while, don’t beat yourself up about it’ Probably more of a thought for Mums rather than mums to be, but I have too many friends who spent the first few months feeling a total failure when breastfeeding didn’t go as well as they’d hoped.

  5. Interesting. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by all the information. I was lucky to have lots of support – but I wished I’d asked more questions about nursing with larger breasts. I found it very challenging, and most resources had limited information. As for advice – tell moms to be patient, relax and let nature work, because it will!

  6. We took a class, and I remembered my most pressing questions were about _how_ to breastfeed, i.e. how to hold the baby and in what position. I remember practicing the “football hold” and never using it with my actual infant!

  7. Thanks for the great comments! This also shows how different our personal perspectives and experiences can be, and how that colors the advice we give. No one should feel a failure, especially in that raw ‘new mom’ phase, AND the support we give new moms is abysmal so it’s no wonder so many struggle. Here’s a great post about why it can be so challenging, how we let new moms down: http://www.bestforbabes.org/what-are-the-booby-traps. There were also come great comments on the FB site, and if I figure out how to link to it, I will. Thanks for reading!

  8. Great post, Rachel!

    Like Nicole, we took a class and I can remember really wanting to know how I would know when the baby was full. You always read those guidelines of 4 oz every 2-3 hours but that’s typically with formula fed babies. What about breastfed babies? I was clueless and nobody in my family has actually breastfed outside of my grandmother (who nursed 12 kids-what, huh!) but was pretty modest in talking about these things. Thank God I quickly got the hang of it thanks to the help of a wonderful group of friends;)

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