Everything I Wish I Read Before Breastfeeding

‘I thought when it’s time to breastfeed it just starts flowing’ my Instagram friend dmed me just after I shared a little about my breastfeeding journey. ‘Haha’ I laughed. 

I wish it were that simple.

It’s incredible how something so natural, can be so complex at the same time. 

Breastfeeding. What a difficult, yet easy thing it is. 

Breastfeeding. One word that can rouse different emotions in different women. 

My nurse shared with me how many years ago, she tried so hard to breastfeed but every time she pumped, the content in the bottle was consistently grey. Yes grey. Ever heard of grey breastmilk? 

She sat on the edge of my bed and shared her story with me, encouraging me to carry on breastfeeding as I had very good supply and quality. “I saw your milk in the fridge, it has the right fat and water content. I didn’t get that in my time, mine was grey” I was speechless. I had heard many people share their struggles with breastfeeding but never had I heard of someone pumping grey breastmilk.

“It took my mum mixing some SMA Gold to wake me up to the fact that I just could not breastfeed. The moment she fed my son formula, I saw him transform right before my eyes. He became a brand new happy baby. I realised that my son was just hungry” 

The mixed emotions she felt at the time still felt tangible more than 20 years later.

Breastfeeding is such an emotional thing. I kept thinking about my nurse long after she shared her story with me and how she must have felt at the time. The feeling of making your child suffer or letting your child down. These were emotions that were completely alien to me prior to having a child. 

Like my Instagram friend said. I thought milk just flowed. Well, it’s more complicated than that. 

My breastfeeding journey was a little bit all over the place. Here’s my story.

Pre Baby

I was advised by my midwife to harvest colostrum in order to stimulate a contraction. It didn’t work but what I noticed was that I was able to produce more colostrum every day. So I continued to do this for about two weeks from 39 weeks. 

(It’s not safe to do this before 37 weeks in case it triggers a contraction.)

After Baby

I have reason to believe that harvesting colostrum really helped my breastfeeding journey and helped me produce a lot of breastmilk. 

I had a C-section, and even though most C-section mamas get their milk late, mine came in on day two. I was extremely cold and engorged coupled with the pain from my C-section so I asked for a pump. 

In this case, the pump was a double-edged sword. It offered me so much relief but the midwife on duty had concerns that it was going to make me overproduce milk. Overproduction and engorgement are not really where you want to be as a new mum trying to figure out breastfeeding.

Getting home from the hospital (The start of my feeding issues)

When I arrived home from the hospital, I began using my pump. Boy was I tired! I was exhausted beyond words, my scar was so painful and the engorgement was real! My baby had a posterior tongue tie and his latch wasn’t perfect. So my mother-in-law suggested she take over for the night in order to allow me to sleep and she would feed him what I pumped. 

This sounds like an excellent idea right? 4 months later, I have now come to realise that it’s the biggest mistake you can make if your plan is indeed to establish breastfeeding. 

My mother-in-law comes from a different generation and has raised many happy and healthy children. But at the time the information available to them was not quite as advanced as it is now. 

For instance, she is a strong believer in bottle feeding as it’s easier to calculate how much a baby eats but research shows that as long as the baby is getting a good number of wet and dirty nappies and hasn’t dropped his birth weight, then the baby is fine. It’s also normal for breastfed babies to feed little and often. 

Remember how I said allowing me to sleep through the night was the biggest mistake? I later discovered through a lactation consultant that milk is made at night so if you do not feed at night you have a greater chance of your supply dwindling.

This was precisely what began to happen to me and I had no clue how to fix it. Read more about the effect of separating mothers and babies at night time here

Want to know what else she shared that blew my mind? If you keep up not breastfeeding constantly (especially at nighttime) for the first 6 weeks, it has the potential to affect your supply for the entire breastfeeding journey.

You will not reach what is known as full milk production and might not be able to carry on breastfeeding. Can you believe that?

There is so much research that the older generation is not privy to and they give advice based on what worked for them. 

We had switched to formula temporarily in order to get me back on track and for 3 whole months, my milk supply dwindled and I was clueless about how to fix it. It was so difficult but I was extremely determined to breastfeed.

Then I finally found the solution, but it got worse before it got better. Here’s what I wish I knew:

What I wish I knew before breastfeeding

Here is a list of things I wish I knew so that hopefully you are empowered and can have the most amazing breastfeeding journey.

1. You are going to think about your supply more than anything: It will dominate your thoughts. Your mind will calculate your baby’s last feed and it will become front and centre. 3 hours will fly by so quickly and you’ll have to feed (or pump) again, but I promise it gets easier. The Huckleberry app is amazing for timing these feeds by the way, download it once you have your baby. 

2. Choose your supporting cast: Having a support crew is critical for establishing breastfeeding. Remember how I said my mother-in-law was pro bottle feeding. She prioritised the health and wellness of my baby and the only way she knew how was to calculate his feeds in milligrams.

I needed support from a lactation consultant and family members who understood my desire to breastfeed and supported that.

The statement ‘happy baby, happy mama’ rings true when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be a very deep desire that needs to be filled. So choose your supporting cast, those who understand and can relate to that desire.

If your family members don’t support you, it doesn’t mean they love you less, they just might not relate to your desire to breastfeed or even understand its benefits.

3. Introduce the bottle early: I know this sounds like the complete opposite of my previous point but if you plan to share the feeding, introduce the bottle before 4 weeks otherwise the baby might never accept the bottle. Trust me, you want your baby to be able to accept the bottle just in case you need to leave the house or you just need a break.

4. Breast milk is made at night: I know I mentioned this before but I have to say it again. Breastmilk is made at night so if you offer the baby the breast as often as he wakes up throughout the night, it ensures that enough milk is made.

If you stop feeding at night, you might experience a lot of issues with supply like it did. This is why you get the most milk in the morning – because milk is made at night

5. You have about 6 weeks: Yes, you have about 6 weeks to reach full milk production, if you don’t breastfeed prior to 6 weeks and you want to try breastfeeding, it might be too late or might take a great amount of work to get your supply back but even at that it might not reach full capacity.

6. The more bottles a child has, the more bottles he will have: I wish I knew this early as this is another thing that could affect your breastfeeding journey. The more bottles you offer baby, the more bottle he might want to have simply because it’s an easier way to feed and breastfeeding requires more work. 

7. Always reach the hindmilk: It’s important to feed on one boob for a minimum of 15 minutes (preferably longer) so that baby gets both the fore and hindmilk. The foremilk is what refreshes them and the hindmilk has a higher fat content that keeps them full.

8. Breastfed children have more self-regulation: So if your little one accepts a bottle feed after feeding on the boob. It’s not always an indication that he is hungry. Just like you would have a snack after a large meal, the baby can drink a top-up feed after breastfeeding even if he isn’t hungry.

I really advise against top-up feeds because they upset the balance of demand and supply and could affect breastfeeding. It means baby feeds on the boob less and that does not signal to your body to make more milk. 

9. Breastfed children drink sporadically: Breastfed children cannot be compared with bottle-fed children who might feed more on a schedule e.g. every 3 hours. 

Breastfeeding must-haves

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here are the top items I purchased that made breastfeeding a little easier:

1. Freezer bag and ice pack: If you do not have a refrigerator in your bedroom, this works amazingly to cool your expressed milk if you plan to pump at night or bottle-feed at night. I love love love this stuff

2. Bra: I honestly cannot imagine pumping in anything else. Gone are the days of holding the pump to your breasts. 

3. Milton bucket and steriliser: I tried different sterilisation methods and this was by far the easiest. I only wash the pump bottles once a day. I simply rinse after use and pop in the sterilising liquid (as advised my my nurse in hospital).

This is particularly useful if you pump milk several times a day. If it’s good enough to just rinse in hospital, it’s good enough to replicate at home.

4. Freezer bags: This is self-explanatory as I use them to store breastmilk in the freezer.

5. Cart: This particular cart is so spacious and sturdy. I love it for storing and organising all my breastfeeding accessories

6. Sharpie: I always have this on hand to label my breastmilk. It’s so handly and glides on much easier than a pen.

Increasing Milk Production

If you have had trouble producing milk so far, I know there’s tons of advice on the internet but here are the tips that worked for me. 

1. Use a hospital-grade pump: In my case, the Medela Symphony pump changed the game for me. I visited the hospital when my son was ill and requested it because I was engorged. I had almost given up on breastfeeding at this point and had resorted to formula milk.

The moment I turned on this pump I remember my reaction being “Is that it?” That’s because I felt no pain at all. I own several pumps and I always feel a tiny amount of pain. I expected nothing until I looked down after only 15 minutes and I had pumped 150ml – I was shocked. The nurse on duty told me that it was available to rent on the Medela website so I rented it straight away.

This pump helped me produce even more milk and breastfeeding is so much better than it used to be. Here’s the site for renting it.

2. Vitamins and iron: When I was low on my vitamins and iron supplements, I produced less milk. It makes sense, milk is produced from the blood so consider upping your intake of nutritious foods and increase your supplement intake as well. 

3. Pump on a schedule: If you are having trouble producing milk and want to increase production, pump after every feed or every 3 hours if you can manage. This empties your breast and signals it to make more milk. 

4. Oatmeal: I don’t know why but oatmeal seems to help increase the volume of milk produced. Here’s a recipe for creamy oats that I really enjoy.

5. Mother’s milk tea: My friend introduced me to Mother’s Milk tea and I drank about 5 times a day. I think it’s the combination of fennel and fenugreek that makes it effective in increasing the volume of milk, but remember that regardless of whatever tea you buy, having a regular pumping or feeding schedule will make the most impact on your milk production.

If you do not have access to Mother’s Milk Tea you can also try fennel tea as that’s available in most shops.

Resources That Might Help

Here are some resources I found super helpful on this journey

1. National Breastfeeding helpline: I called this free helpline whenever I had any questions to ask. It can be very difficult to get through though

2. Cleo app: The consultants on this app offered me personalised guidance when I needed it the most. From sleep experts to lactation consultants, they have it all. Plus you have a personal guide who will be available to chat with you on demand. I cannot tell you how useful that has been. Find out from your employer if they offer this benefit.

3. La Leche: The articles on this site are so well researched and written by real professionals. It is one of the best breastfeeding resources out there.

4. Medela blog posts: I also found the articles on the Medela site extremely helpful.

Final Thoughts on Breastfeeding 

If you are in a tough situation and you came upon this article because you have finally decided to give up on breastfeeding, I hope these tips encourage you to just try one more time.

Just one more time before you finally give up.

The research on breastfeeding isn’t as extensive as it should be (because who wants to sponsor research for something that is free) but breastmilk is so much more than food. The bond it brings mother and child is beyond anything you could ever imagine and I am so so glad I did not give up on it. 

If you are genuinely tired and don’t want to do it, I applaud you for even trying, but if you want to and it seems like nothing you do is working, just try one of these tips. At the very least, rent the Medela pump or any hospital-grade pump. 

Lastly, remember that you are not defined by the milk that comes out of your boob. You are an amazing mother who is doing more than enough for your baby. How do I know? You made it to the end of this post! You are truly amazing. Never forget that!

Let me know how you get on!

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Hey you, I’m Torera

I am super intentional about elevating my life and home. The question I always ask is, how can we do this better? I bet you are just the same! Here’s hoping this blog becomes your go to place for relatable, fuss- free home, cleaning and entertaining ideas.

Leave a Comment

  1. 4.27.22
    Bukola Edgar said:

    Saving this for when I have a baby

    • 4.27.22
      Torera said:

      I did this a lot too pre-baby and everything I saved proved really valuable. Happy you consider me a resource.

  2. 4.27.22
    Jennifer said:

    The article on your journey with breastfeeding is a blessing. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to get the sterilizing pills.

    • 4.27.22
      Torera said:

      This makes me so so so happy! My hope was that it touched at least one person.