Like most pregnant women, I was peppered with questions for nine long months. Would I breastfeed? How did I feel about natural birth? Would I consider co-sleeping? Would I do the “cry it out” method of sleep training? Was I planning to start giving her solid food at four months, or would I wait until six?
My answer to all of the above was “I don’t know,” and looking back, I think not putting too much planning into what that first year would look like was a good move for me from a mental health perspective. I didn’t know how I would feel, and I didn’t want to plan for something only to have it not work out and feel like I’d messed something up.
So I went into breastfeeding with the mentality that if it was natural for both of us, we’d do it. If it wasn’t, I was open to formula. I was lucky: My daughter Emma latched on easily, and my milk came in within a few days. Breastfeeding was a breeze!
… Except it wasn’t. I won’t get into too many details, but it was painful. Every time Emma latched on, I would wince in pain. You’re supposed to feed the baby every two to three hours in those early weeks, which meant I was in a constant state of dread. I started pumping so I didn’t have to feed her as much, and I cried a lot.
It all worked out: My daughter is now a year old, and we’re still at it. But I wish I’d had a little more guidance around breastfeeding in those early days, so here’s a guide to help make your breastfeeding journey just a tad easier than mine was.
Have The Phone Number Of A Lactation Consultant Before Your Baby Is Born
If you plan to make breastfeeding a game-time decision like I did, have the number of a lactation consultant should you need it. I did a virtual visit that was covered by my insurance (and these were in pre-COVID times!) and it made a world of difference.
In just 45 minutes, the lactation consultant informed me that Emma had a shallow latch, which was what was causing all the pain, and gave me advice for teaching her how to open her mouth wider. She showed me how to position her so my shoulders and back didn’t ache, and gave me advice on how long to feed her each time to ensure she was getting enough milk. I cannot recommend this more.
Stock Up On Gear
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I literally fantasize about what I would do now if someone were to say SHIT about me breastfeeding 😍 Maybe I make a scene? Maybe I unleash a biblical hellfire verbal assault? There’s no many options! Would I stand up, never disrupting my little angel’s meal, and approach them? I only need one arm to nurse and if I have my sling on? Shittttt both arms are free to square up. You’re telling me you wouldn’t back down if a mom went from lovingly feeding her baby in her arms to tightening her sling so she could bitch slap you TWICE without ever unlatching?! Ain’t no way. So I patiently await the day I witness a nursing mother getting slack. I will do that weird anime floating pose shit and fly on over with the light of a thousand suns. HADOU-CUNT ☄️
Although it has a ridiculous name, the My Brest Friend pillow acted as the perfect little shelf for Emma when she was tiny and helped get her in the right position. I was even able to prop my laptop on there and get a little work done in those early days when she tended to fall asleep while breastfeeding!
While this was by far the most helpful product for me, Ashley Georgakopoulos, IBCLC, and Lactation Director, Motif Medical recommends a few others as well.
“Cotton, reusable breast pads are always on my list,” she says. “These are great to include as gifts for baby showers, as moms sometimes leak colostrum before the birth, and will almost always leak afterward. The second must-have for any lactating mom would be a good nipple balm. Something that melts nicely into the skin to protect the skin barrier from frequent pumping and nursing sessions, but also with an antifungal property to protect from inflammation and thrush.”
And while you’ll probably have an electric pump covered by your insurance, Georgakopoulos recommends a hand pump as well. “Hand pumps are a smart investment. They can help relieve clogs, and fit into the diaper bag or purse in case an unexpected expression is needed.”
I personally loved the Haakaa hand pump, which is great for catching extra milk.
Breastfeeding Might Be Uncomfortable, But It Shouldn’t Be Mind-Numbingly Painful.
While wincing in pain every time your baby latches on doesn’t mean you won’t figure it out eventually, it isn’t normal. “Pain, as in wincing and visible damage happening-type pain, is not something that just goes away or improves without help,” says Georgakopoulos. “Lactation professionals, preferably an IBCLC credential, will be crucial in navigating that, along with helping achieve optimal comfort with positioning. Rocks in the shoe happen. What’s not normal is leaving the rock in the shoe.”
Your Baby Will Need To Breastfeed A Lot. I Mean, A lot.
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Feeding the baby every two or three hours doesn’t sound too bad, and it isn’t—but the reality is that they often need to eat even more than that at the very beginning. My daughter would go through growth spurts where all she wanted to do was nurse, and I had to just go with the flow.
“When we hear or read things like, ‘infants feed every 2-3 hours,’ we tend to want to schedule things out to that, not realizing that it’s an average, and certainly doesn’t account for cluster feedings that normally occur,” Georgakopoulos says.
The most important thing to keep in mind on your breastfeeding journey? It will all be okay. I’ll never forget the most helpful thing my lactation consultant said when I met with her, and it had nothing to do with breastfeeding positioning or latching advice: “A year from now, you’ll be celebrating her first birthday and this will all just be a distant memory.”
She was right. And as hard as breastfeeding was at the beginning, I’m so glad I stuck with it—because it ended up being just fine.
Images: Dave Clubb / Unsplash; betchesmoms, nottheworstmom / Instagram
The time has finally come. Whether you’ve always dreamed about having a family or you’re finally entertaining the idea because you’re fairly sure you want kids and can’t put it off any longer your biological clock is ticking, you’re seriously considering getting pregnant. On purpose. As beautiful as that is, the idea can be overwhelming. How do you even begin to prepare? Before you start tracking your ovulation cycle and lifting your legs in the air after sex, here are some things you should consider.
1. Your Financial State
It’s no secret that having a baby is expensive AF. Even if you’re not living in a major city where daycare costs the same as an additional rent payment, paying to clothe, feed, and care for an additional human being adds up quickly. How will this impact your current lifestyle? Will you have to move, and is that something you’re willing to do? Not only do you need to consider your income (and that of your partner, if you have one), but also your spending habits. If you spend most weeks subsisting on ramen because you blew through your paycheck or you consider withdrawing cash from the ATM your own personal version of Russian roulette, then it may be time to reassess whether you’re really ready to support another person.
2. Your Emotional Maturity
Right up there with the financial piece is whether or not you’re emotionally ready to have a child. Although we all know that having a baby changes your life dramatically, it’s important to think concretely about the ways it will change your life specifically. For example, if you, like me, are someone who likes to sleep in past 10am late on the weekends, you’re going to have to make peace with the fact that bringing a new life into this world is likely to give a whole new meaning to the word “exhaustion”. Similarly, if you’re used to going out every weekend, you’ll need to think seriously about whether you’re willing to have your social life take a back seat to bottle feedings and diaper changes. Having a baby is the ultimate act of selflessness, and it’s important to be confident that you’re in a place where you’re ready to be a little less selfish.
3. Your Support System
They don’t say “it takes a village to raise a child” for nothing. While many superwomen (and supermen) can and do raise children on their own, it’s incredibly difficult. Assuming you have a partner, it’s important to discuss upfront your expectations as far as the division of labor goes and make sure you’re on the same page. If you’re expecting to share feeding and changing responsibilities pretty equally and your significant other expects to only do, like, 10% of the work, dump that significant other it’s best to work out those kinks before the baby comes. If you’re thinking of raising a baby on your own, are there friends or relatives you can lean on when needed? The more support you have in place, the smoother the rough patches will be.
4. Your Health & Wellness
We all know that having a baby can wreak havoc on your body. But besides coming to terms with the weight gain, fluctuations in hormones, and other common bodily changes that come with performing The Miracle of Life, you should also make sure you’re prepared from a health and wellness perspective. This may mean talking to your doctor about any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes, the medicines you’re currently taking and the skin care products you use, as certain adjustments may be necessary when pregnant. If you’re concerned about passing on a certain genetic disorder to your baby, you may also want to consider pre-genetic testing for yourself, and if needed, your partner, so you have all of the information needed to make the decision that’s right for you.
5. Your Parenting Style
Will you be a regular mom or a cool mom? All kidding aside, now is a good time to start thinking about how you would like to raise your child, especially if you’re sharing the responsibilities with a partner who likely had a very different upbringing than you. Aside from the more obvious subjects like religion, are you and your significant other on the same page about the kinds of values you want to instill in your kid? Will one of you take on the role of disciplinarian, or is that a role that both parties should share? Getting aligned now can save you from conflicts down the road.
While no one is ever 100% ready to have a baby, thinking through some of the things on this list can help you to get in the right mindset and confirm that you’re on the right track. If you’re making these plans with a partner, communication is key. You may not agree on everything, but an open dialogue now will pay dividends later, both for you and your relationship. What else should someone consider before having a baby? Let me know in the comments!
Images: Xavier Mouton Photographie / Unsplash; Giphy (5)
basically everyone is either:
-cutting/coloring their hair at home
-adopting a baby animal
-or getting pregnant.
there are no other options.
— Rachel Varina (@rachelvarina) April 14, 2020
If You’re Considering Getting Pregnant
If You *Are* Pregnant/Trying To Get Pregnant
Plus, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “COVID-19 seems to have less serious health consequences for children than for adults,” and babies aren’t necessarily at a higher risk to contract it. Extra bonus? Dr. Kendra tells Betches that “The virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV2) has not been found in breast milk or amniotic fluid. This means that mothers infected with Covid-19 are unlikely to pass the virus onto their baby, while the baby is still in the womb, and that isolated COVID-positive mothers may still be able to nourish their newborns by methods such as pumping.” In addition to COVID-positive moms potentially being able to breastfeed via pump, pregnant women can obtain tests to determine whether or not they’re positive just like everyone else—no special tests are needed.
Images: Anna Pritchard / Unsplash; Giphy (2)
Once you decide to
allow a small, borderline parasitic thing to live in your uterus get pregnant, sh*t can get real, really quick. From gaining weight to being on an emotional rollercoaster, pregnancy isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, the payoff is like, neat. You have a tiny human you can dress up in super cute outfits and they can’t fight you on it (unlike my dog, Grover, who straight-up refuses to wear the sailor outfit I bought him—so rude). But it may be good to recognize that your brain on pregnancy will never be quite the same—and there’s literal science to prove it.
Here are a few of the ways pregnancy will affect your brain, beyond “pregnancy brain”. Yes, there’s a lot more to it than just forgetting stuff, and there are some silver linings to all these changes.
Bye, Gray Matter
It sounds scary, but hear me out. According to a study, a pregnant woman’s gray matter—pieces in the part of her brain that control social interactions, help understand others’ nonverbal cues, and help form attachments to people—decreases. This sounds super terrifying, especially since you’re likely trying to BUILD relationships before you’re chained to a crying infant for three months and can’t figure out how to leave the house (so fun!). But it’s chill. According to Healthline, a lot of the reason this happens is so that our brains can have more “space” to interpret and understand a newborn. So, from knowing what pitch cry means what to truly bonding with your baby, your brain is reassessing the situation and making itself useful for what’s about to happen. Science is neat.
Mommy Brain Isn’t Real; Forgetting Stuff Is
This is a little complicated, so stick with me. Many, many, MANY new moms say “baby brain” is a real thing that begins during pregnancy. They claim that they forget things way more often and just don’t feel as cognitively “sharp” as they did before their bundle of joy joined the household. According to WebMD, my daily source for anxiety, forgetting things when you’re pregnant or have just had a baby is real, but the ongoing thought that your brain actually changes to cause this is not. So, when your gray matter disappears like we stated above, that’s an actual physical change happening in your brain. There’s no such change happening that’s causing you to forget sh*t. Basically, the reason you’re forgetting stuff left and right is because of a surge in hormones and the complete and utter lack of sleep that comes with pregnancy and a newborn. So fun!
‘There is 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen marinating the brain during pregnancy,” Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, tells WebMD. “And these hormones affect all kinds of neurons in the brain. By the time the woman delivers, there are huge surges of oxytocin that cause the uterus to contract and the body to produce milk—and they also affect the brain circuits.” Again, it’s real in the sense that you forget things because of hormone surges and lack of sleep, but your brain itself isn’t actually CHANGING physically and causing you to experience memory loss. It’s just all the other sh*t that’s going on that’s making you forget you put your taco in the microwave four hours ago. In a nutshell, bitch, you’re just hormonal and tired. Such is life.
You’ll Become Uber Protective
Like my dog with his prize bone, you, too, will become animalistic in your protective tendencies once your baby is born, thanks to your brain. Surging levels of oxytocin in the few days and weeks after you give birth will push your brain to work overtime to imprint your baby’s smells, sounds, and facial cues into your mind’s eye. Even weirder, according to Shape, 90% of new mothers were able to identify their baby via SMELL ONLY just after giving birth. I mean, if that isn’t evolution and nerd-brain sh*t, I don’t know what is. High levels of cortisol will also make you super protective of your baby, so if any strangers get a little too close, you may find yourself lashing out in protection mode. It’s all part of the rewiring your brain is going through once you give birth, so no matter how weird you find yourself feeling or acting, know that it’s all part of nature.
All in all, pregnancy can be really weird, really amazing, and really scary all at the same time. By better understanding the actual physical changes your body and brain are going through, you may be more easily able to sit back and enjoy the fact that you can eat that extra taco, or that extra pan pizza, because, dammit, you’re going through a lot right now. And thanks to science, we’re getting closer to like, grasping how the brain actually prepares for (and attempts to keep us from going into shock over) that tiny human you’re about to spawn. The more you know.
Images: freestocks.org, Unsplash; Giphy (3)