I decided at a very young age that I would breastfeed my future children. My childhood experiences lead me to the conclusion that breastfed children were healthier. I had no scientific evidence nor had I read any books about the benefits of breastfeeding. However, my mom breastfed my brother and he never got sick growing up. I was the complete opposite, I was sick often and had allergic reactions to everything.

When I had my first son, there was not a doubt in my mind that I was going to breastfeed him. Little did I know it would be so hard. When it comes to breastfeeding, here are 5 things I wish I would have known to help me prepare.

Getting started is hard.
When I gave birth to my first child, the nurses in the hospital were very supportive and helped me feel confident in learning to breastfeed. Mason seemed to have latched on pretty well and although my milk had not come in at the hospital, he was being nourished and seemed content. Once we got home, he began to frantically cluster feed. My milk had come in so he was happy and very hungry. He had dropped some weight before we left the hospital, so I was focused on feeding him to get his weight back up. After about 3-4 days of nonstop intense feeding sessions, my nipples hurt like HELL, they were sore and began to crack and bleed. I was in pain, but at the same time I was determined to breastfeed him. The lactation nurse at the hospital had suggested that I exclusively breast feed Mason for 6 weeks before introducing a bottle. This would provide him a solid foundation and avoid any nipple confusion. This meant, I couldn’t go anywhere without him for longer than 2 hours and no one could help me feed him. Add a crying baby and sleep deprivation, it was all very overwhelming in the beginning. There were many times, I wanted to give up, but with a little time and a visit to see a lactation consultant, I got the hang of things.

There is an emotional and physical impact.
The pressure I put on myself to breastfeed caused several emotions. My child would cry even after being fed and I couldn’t understand why. He wasn’t wet and he wasn’t sleepy. Perhaps he was getting accustomed to the world outside of my womb, but as a first time mom, I just couldn’t understand and this made me feel sad and a bit rejected. After very little sleep and a lot of sacrifice, the feeling of not being enough is not a good place to be. My husband saw that I needed a break and a little pampering so he sent me to an all day spa. I remember being so excited that I would get to relax and be served. However, that excitement didn’t last long. The moment the facial technician put me under the light she commented how bad my skin was and asked about my regimen. Truthfully, I didn’t have a regimen anymore, I had a baby and I was still adjusting to this new role and that’s what I told her. She then proceeded to tell me that breastfeeding my child was the reason my skin was so bad. My nutrients were going to Mason so I needed to ensure that I was taking vitamins to replace those nutrients. I took my pre-natal vitamins when I remembered. I definitely missed a few days. As a result, my skin suffered, my nails and hair were dry and brittle.

Pumping at work is not quick and easy.
When I returned to work after maternity leave, I was prepared to be a working mom. I had my own office so thankfully, I didn’t need to use the pumping room and schedule time in coordination with other moms on my floor. There was a refrigerator nearby for storing my milk. I blocked out time on my calendar twice a day to keep me on a schedule to ensure my milk supply would stay up. What I didn’t account for, was having to wash the pumping equipment after each use. The bathroom was far from my office. The kitchen was close, but the first time I used that my male colleague asked me what kind of tupperware I was using because he had never seen that before. Another time, a different colleague shared his memories of hearing his wife pumping at night. He complained how he didn’t get any sleep because the pump machine was so loud. He ended his story with sound affects while I stared with a blank face thinking about how sorry I felt for his wife.

There were days when I had meetings that ran over and my scheduled blocks of time didn’t matter in that moment. On a few occasions, my breast pads didn’t matter and I had leaked through my shirt. I always kept a blazer handy.

The second time around is easier, even with twins.
I breastfed Mason a full year and then told myself with the twins, I would not pressure myself into trying to breastfeed that long. The second time around, I allowed the nurses in the hospital to feed the twins baby formula. Due to their weight, the nurse suggested we start with breastfeeding followed by formula and I was completely fine with that. We continued the same routine at home and it actually worked for us. My husband and my mom were able to help me feed the twins and I was able to get rest. Buying formula with twins was expensive, but worth it for my mental health and wellness. My children were still getting nutrients and supplementing with formula made my life easier.

Breast milk may take a very long time to leave your body.
Nothing compares to the bond you feel when breastfeeding. This is why for some women it’s hard to stop. I choose to stop at 6 months with the twins. They are now 16 months old and I still have milk in my boobs. Yes, 10 months later, I can still squeeze milk out. I’ve had 3 children in in less than 2 years all of which were breastfed. My body has been a baby making machine and my guess is that it’s holding on to the milk thinking that I may need to feed another child. I’ve tried home remedies such as cabbage and sage tea to dry it up, but I know that with time it will go away. Unfortunately, my husband is impacted most at this point, but thankfully, he’s unbothered by it.

As mothers, we all have different experiences. What are some things you wish you had known before you began your motherhood journey?