The Truth About Breastfeeding

As a lactation specialist, I find that many new moms don’t know what to expect when they start nursing. First and foremost, women need to stop judging other women when it comes to breastfeeding. Motherhood has enough challenges, so let’s all agree to eliminate the stress associated with feeding your baby! Always do whatever works for you and enjoy your baby, whether it be bottle feeding, breastfeeding uniquely, pumping or nursing.

Below are 8 facts every nursing mother should know.

1. Breastfeeding is not easy

Despite how some mothers can make it sound, breastfeeding is not easy: engorgement, mastitis and bleeding nipples are common. At first, it can be tough and may feel like a chore. Many mothers are anxious and do not enjoy nursing.

2. The bond may not be immediate

There is more to breastfeeding that milk; the act creates a bond with your baby. But, that bond and the enjoyment that comes from nursing may not be immediate for every mother — and there is nothing wrong with that. Once babies are 2-3 months old, they smile more and start to express themselves. It is common that, only then, do mothers start to enjoy nursing.

3. Pumping is a helpful tool

Make sure you learn how to pump, and invest in the right pump for you. Pumping can also be helpful for moms who want to see exactly how much milk their babies are getting. See my previous post for more tips on pumping.

4. What works for her may not work for you

Don’t compare yourself to other moms. Be patient and open to trying unconventional nursing positions for you and your baby (such as the straddle) and understand it may take time to figure it out. Be open to using a lactation consultant — many will do home visits.

5. One breast often produces more milk

It’s true. Almost 75% of women produce more milk from one breast and it is more commonly the right breast. This is completely normal.

6. Your baby needs additional vitamins

It’s important to note that the pre and post-natal vitamins you are taking may not provide all of the nutrition your baby needs. I recommend that all breastfed babies also receive a vitamin D supplement.

7. It helps to eat low FODMAP meals

FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. Cutting down on these foods while nursing can help with gas, fussiness and irritability in your baby — and that can potentially result in more sleep for everyone!

8. This is not the time to go on a diet

While you may have an urge to start cutting calories for weight loss, don’t do this while you are still nursing. It’s important to remember that you can burn up to 2,000 calories a day by breastfeeding. This is not the time to go on a diet.

Dr. Canale is the founder of Lactation Lab, which provides innovative and proprietary breast milk tests for mothers. She earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from McGill University. She completed her residency training in Family Medicine at UCLA. After medical residency, she joined the teaching faculty at the UCLA Family Health Center, before joining the Santa Monica Parkside office. She enjoys seeing patients of all ages, especially families with young babies. Dr. Canale is a Member of the American Board of Family Medicine.

photo credit: Kyle Nieber