10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Breastfeeding

Before I got pregnant with my son, I had never really heard much about breastfeeding. I knew my little cousins were breastfed, but I also knew a lot of moms who fed their babies formula. In fact, I babysat a baby who drank formula. I actually thought it was really cool, and I had a lot of fun to mix it up and feed it to him and he was always very content about it.

I never believed that breastfeeding or formula was better, or gave any thought to what I would do with my child. That is, until I got pregnant.

It wasn’t that I researched which method was best while I was pregnant, I was far too busy being rushed to the emergency room every week to be able to do much research. No, I learned about the mommy war that rages on about breastfeeding and formula feeding from an online mommy group (if you know me well, you know that I’ve left nearly all online mommy group).

I learned a lot about breastfeeding in those mommy groups, but I wish I would have been prepared before I even joined them. I was bombarded and appalled by the slanted conversations and platitudes like “Breast is best” that were found in there, which added unnecessary stress to an already difficult pregnancy. The tone of the conversations was depressing and negative, and it was the tone, not the words, that made the discussion what it was.

Here are the 10 things I wish I knew before I started breastfeeding!

#1 — EVERYONE WILL HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT WHAT YOU SHOULD DO WITH YOUR OWN BOOBS

You think I’m joking? I wish! Dead serious, really. People will stop you in the grocery store and say, “You plan to breastfeed, right?” That is your cue to pull out the twelve cans of Fire Roasted Southwestern Vegetable Soup and Bubbies Pickles from out of your grocery cart and declare that you are, in fact, fat, not pregnant. They will flee for their lives, and you will laugh until you think you’ve peed yourself (Yes, I do enjoy torturing nosy people, thanks for asking).

#2 — SOME PEOPLE WILL TRY TO “EDUCATE” YOU ON BREASTFEEDING

You will probably be subjected to private messages designed to “educate” you about the benefits of breastfeeding. Unlike the unsolicited advice that often happens in the situation in #1, this is just plain ballsy.

People who are merely acquaintances sent me literature on why “breast is best” and formula is the devil in consumable form (well, you know, besides the Pitocin that saved my son and I from a painful and horrific death — it is totally the devil’s water).

Wait, hang on a sec, my eyeballs got stuck in the back of my head. There we go, fixed. Okay, let’s continue.

I noticed that these “educational” conversations, both in public and private setting, were nothing but aggression and inflammatory comments. At first glance, it was easy for a person like me to wonder why these “formula moms” were so touchy, but after the riot act I received without even asking (or divulging that I was going to breastfeed — they just assumed I need their “help”), I finally understood why.

#3 — NEWBORNS ARE AGGRESSIVE

This was something that literally no one warned me about. I guess they were too busy obsessing over the devil’s Horcruxes…

I remember reading a blog post after my son was born in which a women recounted her experience breastfeeding her newborn. She described him as a barnacle and I laughed because it is so true! When my son was born, they placed him straight up and down on my belly and he surprised me by army crawling with what seemed like the strength of a grown man to get to my boobs! It was a sight to behold. He could barely lift his head, but he was determined to find the milk. He crawled straight up to my breast and aggressively latched like a freaking barracuda No one warned me!

#4 — BREASTFEEDING CAN BE INCREDIBLY PAINFUL

Somehow, among all the things I was told about breastfeeding, this was not one of them. I guess it might not have aligned with the “breast is best” agenda to tell people that breastfeeding can be a less than stellar experience.

Now I know that in the newborn phase, pain is pretty darn normal. Cracked, bleeding, and bruised nipples are sometimes just the status quo while nursing a new baby (keep some coconut oil on hand to help ease the nipple abuse), but our pain extended beyond that time frame. Turns out, my baby had a lip and tongue tie. I was able to get that confirmed by a specialist, he went through a minor surgery to correct the ties (I talked about it here, here, here and here). After his surgery, he had to relearn to breastfeed. Thankfully the pain went away and it didn’t take him long to relearn how to latch with his freed lip and tongue.

#5 — BREASTFEEDING CAN BE AWKWARD AND UNCOMFORTABLE

Learning to breastfeed was a challenge. It caused many stiff necks and aching backs as a newly postpartum mom. I ended up with an IV in the crack of my elbow after laboring with my hand (and the original IV) behind my head, which caused my entire hand to fill with fluid. So not only was it hard to hold my newborn with a swollen hand, but I also couldn’t cradle him with an IV in the middle of my elbow. The lactation consultant, trying to be helpful in light of my giant hand and a sore arm, suggested I use the football hold position to nurse my newborn. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that well, because my arms are short and my baby was long. It was uncomfortable, I was leaning over to try to make it more comfortable, and to top it all off, I spent around three days in a chair in the NICU refusing to sleep and curled up in a ball. Fun times.

The thing that most helped me with the lack of length in my arms and working with the limitations I had with injuries from the IV was my Boppy Nursing Pillow. It was a lifesaver in the NICU. I was able to just latch my son and then my husband would position the boppy to support my arms and our baby so that I didn’t have to do anything but relax. It is crazy how much one little pillow helped my neck and back so much!

#6 — EVEN IF YOU PLAN TO EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEED, YOU SHOULD GET A PUMP.

A breast pump is a necessary evil for a lot of breastfeeding moms. It is good to get one, even if you don’t end up using it. My recommendation is to get one by going through your insurance if it is possible for you.

I hated my pump for a long time, but I had to use it when we were discharged from the NICU. The lactation consultant sent us home with orders to do supplemental bottles of breastmilk a few times a day after regular feedings. She mentioned that we could rent one from the hospital, but we ended up buying a Medela Swing Breastpump at the store. I’m glad we did because I ended up using it (even after we stopped giving our son supplemental bottles) for days when our son is biting from teething or when I just need a break from nursing gymnastics and baby dental exams. Now I can just give him pumped milk in his sippy cup and let him run around the house and move as much as he wants while eating.

#7 — YOU WILL CONSTANTLY WORRY ABOUT YOUR MILK SUPPLY, AT LEAST AT FIRST.

“Am I making enough milk? Is the baby dehydrated and starving?” These are the thoughts I had on a daily basis when my son was younger. I think most moms go through this stage. The best advice that I received (and haven’t taken *facepalm*) is to go buy a baby scale to put your mind at ease. Pumping is not an accurate way to determine how much milk you make, so buying a scale for at home is really the most accurate way to tell if your baby is getting enough.

#8 — THE SHAME SURROUNDING BREASTFEEDING DOESN’T STOP WHEN YOU DECIDE TO BREASTFEED.

Oh no, are you kidding me? It isn’t enough to decide you are going to breastfeed. We have to milk (see what I did there?) this hot topic in mommy wars for ALL it is worth. It isn’t enough to decide that “breast is best”. You see, you have to breastfeed a certain way to be accepted into the cool club of “real breastfeeders”.

If you breastfeed directly than the majority, prepared to be told you are wrong. Use a cover? You’re brainwashed by the patriarchy! You don’t post pictures online? How dare you not show your tits for the whole world to see to help normalize breastfeeding — I mean — how selfish can you get? Oh and let’s not forget those phony women who say they exclusively breastfeed when they really just pump and give their kids bottles. I mean, any sanctimommy can tell you that pumping isn’t really breastfeeding.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you know someone who does these things, you better book it. Save yourself! These people aren’t your friends, they are insecure trolls who like projecting their neediness for validation onto others. In the worlds of Toy Story, “Run like the wind, Bullseye!”

Listen to me for a sec, okay? Find people who support you no matter how you feed your baby.

#9 — SUPPORT IS REALLY IMPORTANT

When we were in the NICU, our lactation consultant said something I’ll never forget. “Husbands are one of the most crucial people in your breastfeeding journey.”

I remember thinking, “What? I’m the one with the boobs here, lady!”

She was right, though. On nights when I wanted to throw in the towel (sleep deprivation is a powerful motivator to stop breastfeeding), my husband was the one reminding me that it wouldn’t be that way forever and that I could pump and he’d take a feeding if I wanted to sleep. He would remind me that I could quit if I wanted to, but also made me remember my reasons for why I was in the first place. Without his psychical, emotional and moral support, breastfeeding would’ve been impossible for us. My husband is an amazing father and I don’t know what I’d do without him!

#10 — BREASTFEEDING IS FILLED WITH SWEET MOMENTS

The one thing I think people don’t really tell you about with breastfeeding is that it is filled with sweet moments. There are all of these political discussions surrounding it because of mommy wars, but all of that is just to distract you from what really matters. Those things are there to steal the joy from your family — don’t let them!

Having your baby fall asleep in your arms while nursing is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. Take lots of pictures because it doesn’t last forever (I have a private camera roll on my computer of our crazy nursing moments). I’ll probably cherish these pictures forever. Particularly the ones where I have accidentally dropped food on his face.


Oklahoma native Rebecca Lemke grew up in a tiny conservative homeschooling community. She has learned firsthand that the manner in which we approach modesty and purity can be the difference between life and death, both spiritually and physically. As the result of her deep-seated belief in holistic living, which includes holistic spirituality and sexuality, she strongly advocates for Christ to be our ultimate focus.

Rebecca has written a book entitled The Scarlet Virgins about her experience with legalism, spiritual abuse, and Purity Culture. She also releases podcasts on the same subjects at scarletvirgins.com. Rebecca now lives with her husband and toddler, enjoying the simple things in life with them, like root beer and bacon.