Six Things I Wish I Had Known About Breastfeeding

When I had my first baby, I had no idea how much of a skill breastfeeding truly is. While I wish it had felt instinctual and easy, it was anything but that. From latches to clogged ducts, and knowing when to feed, breastfeeding felt like learning to fly by being put in a plane alone and being told to “figure it out”. Here are six things I wish I had known to make my journey with breastfeeding a little easier to navigate.

Make sure you are draining each breast of milk.

When I first started feeding my daughter, I would do a few minutes on one breast, then put her on the other one, and keep switching back and forth. The result was that my baby did not nurse long enough on each side and had an imbalance of foremilk vs hindmilk, giving her painful gas. Additionally, my breasts were becoming engorged easily. 

While how much and how often you need to feed on each side VARIES WIDELY from person to person, I found that I personally needed to let my baby nurse for 15 – 20 minutes on one side before switching. Usually, nursing on one side filled her up and she rarely fed from both breasts in one nursing session. Her gas quickly disappeared, and my breasts felt better.  

Find a system to track which breast your baby needs to feed on.

Many nights I found myself sitting in the dark with a screaming baby, trying to remember which breast she needed to feed on while feeling so groggy and sleep-deprived, I could hardly sit up. You might think who cares which side they feed on, but as many moms can tell you if you miss a feed or two on a breast, you might soon find yourself painfully engorged. 

What worked for me was to have a small bracelet or hair tie which I would put on the wrist of the side that I needed to feed her on next (but of course I still had to remember to move it each time – which was a challenge all its own).

Scan for lumps or sore spots.

I learned early on from other mothers to take seriously any lumps that were sore or not going away. Usually, they were the start of a plugged duct (which can lead to mastitis). Whenever I noticed one I would immediately get to work removing it. What I found most effective was to:

  • Massage the area (moving inward towards the nipple) either while my baby nursed or while taking a hot shower
  • Have my baby feed a little extra on the painful breast that day
  • Switch up our breastfeeding position (La Leche League recommends you feed with the baby’s chin pointing toward the sore spot)

Avoid underwires or tight bras in the first few weeks or even months of breastfeeding.

For me, a more fitted or tight bra always resulted in sore breasts or painful lumps for the first 12 weeks of breastfeeding. I soon learned I could only wear loose cloth nursing bras or shirts with a shelf bra built in. Painful lumps and sore breasts are almost non-existent when I wear no bra or very loose, unstructured bras. If you want to still have a little shape or support while not wearing a bra, what I find works great is to have removable cups that easily slide in and out of a loose cloth bra.

 Be prepared for the possibility of a lot of leaking.

Your breasts may never leak at all, but for me, leaking was an around-the-clock challenge for nearly four months. I was caught off guard by this, as I found myself constantly washing my minimal (and insufficient as it turns out) supply of 4 reusable breast pads.  I had no idea you could have a let-down of milk when the baby wasn’t nursing or that as the baby feeds, the breast they are not nursing from, can release A LOT of milk. 

After many soaked t-shirts, I went ahead and invested in a large arsenal of breast pads which I stashed in every bathroom in the house, as well as my purse, my car, and our diaper bag. After several weeks, I thought the leaking might never get better, but finally, at around 4 months, I found I only had to wear them at night. By 8 months, I didn’t need them at all. But it was a nuisance I was not prepared for.

When your baby gets too upset to latch, try a pacifier.

I was surprised to find that my baby, who was normally a nursing pro, could get too upset to latch. This of course made her more upset, and things would spiral downward. The lifesaving trick I got from another mom was to first give my baby a pacifier (easier for her to latch on to) to help calm her down and get her suckling, and to then pull it out and switch my baby onto the breast. This trick has saved me on many occasions.

Ultimately, breastfeeding is a “learn on the job” experience, and it simply involves a lot of trial and error. Remember to laugh over spilled milk and give yourself grace as you learn this new skill.

25 comments

  • Brittney Gearheard

    I am only a couple of months away from the delivery of my fist child and I’m so glad I ran across this!

    I have high hopes of breast feeding for a year, though, I know that’s an incredibly ambitious statement for a first mom 😆 we’ll see what I think at my first set of sore nippies or a clogged duct!

    Than you for sharing all of this info!

    • You can totally do this, Brittney! There may be some rough patches here and there, but you can totally work through them and get to the other side. Get in touch with an IBCLC (or the Latched Mama crew!) if you suspect anything is “off” and need some suggestions or encouragement. Just about everything can be adjusted if any issue arises so that you can continue on to have a wonderful nursing journey for as long as you and babe are interested.

      – Mom of two, one of whom is 3yrs old and nurses at least once a day still

    • I had such high hopes with my first… he didn’t/couldn’t latch, when he did it was a constant struggle to keep him there, and then after 2 weeks and crying myself to sleep every night I developed mastitis putting me in the ER and the nurse telling me to feed through the pain that I finally let go – and exclusively pumped for another 3 months. It was crushing but once i accepted that it wouldn’t happen with him, it made it easier to adjust my expectations for my second. He however- not one issue, not one chapped nipple, not one clogged duct, not one latch issue…

      My advice as far as breastfeeding goes is, hope for the best, anticipate the worst and know it’s ok – I anticipated absolutely nothing from my second and it’s been the most wonderful experience…

      Good luck mama!

    • I breastfed for a year and three months for my first one. I struggled the first three months because of my daughter having a tongue and upper lip tie. So i pumped! Then she had a procedure done and was able to breastfeed right away after that. It took two weeks before the procedure to get her used to trying to breastfeed, all she could do was chomp on me instead of sucking but it was the idea being brought to the boob. Worst two weeks of my life breastfeeding but I was determined and it was all worth it to be able to do so.

  • What if your baby doesn’t do pacifier’s?

  • FTM dealing with a clogged duct and had no idea how to keep it from turning into mastitis, here’s what I have learned: hot showers and warm compress/heating pad on the sore boob help! Goldenseal tincture 5 times a day to heal from the inside. (It’s gross but it works).
    Always empty it even if you have to pump a little when baby falls asleep and won’t finish. Don’t wear breast pads all the time because it allows moisture to be around the nipple and can encourage bacteria to form. Only use when needed.
    And last:
    LatchedMama hoodies are amazing because you can hide the non-bra squished boob under the super butter soft material to help it “air” out after feeding.

    Hope this helps other boob milkin mama’s!

  • This is so helpful! Thank you for sharing these tips!

  • My baby was born 15 days ago, I couldn’t have her with me the first week and now I have no milk. I been trying to latch her to see if the milk comes but nothing yet and my nipples are so sore. Any advise??? Thank you

    • Try to take a warm shower to help and massage. If you also have an electric pump handy try using the let down mode to help. I would even make use of a lactation consultant.

  • I am currently breastfeeding myself…it’s hard when your little bundle of joy was in the nicu for the first 3 weeks after birth so all I did was pump…had a supply going…now that she is home she wants to feed almost every hour at times and I’m not even producing enough for her…and latching has been a bit of a challenge. As a last ditch effort I have gotten pills to help with production and saw the pacifier trick on this blog and will need to try that trick out.

    • Hi Lizz. I had same problem. I could not produce enough milk. May i ask what kind of pills your taking to increase your milk production? Thank you

  • With my last child I know with let down milk while feeding I used a Hakka and it was great it captured all the milk from my other breast while I nursed on the opposite you can find them for cheap on Amazon it’s a great investment I think helped me a lot I lost my last one and will be buying one for my up coming 1st baby girl in March after 3 boys yay

  • I have to use a nipple protector. It makes latching very easy because now it’s like a bottle. Trying to wean her off it, though.

    • Me too! Getting her to take boob without it is proving to be challenging though… any luck on your end? If so- what advice!

      • It took my preemie until 4m to nurse without the nipple shield. One day she just figured it out when I offered her a stimulated nipple.

  • I’d also like to add even if you can’t get your baby to latch or etc. you can still exclusively pump to feed your baby that way they are still getting the breast milk that’s what I did with my second who was in the nicu and then we realized a tongue tie and couldn’t latch. I pumped for the whole 13 months. I hope to be able to breastfeed my daughter but if not I’ll pump again for her as well.

  • I delivered my first baby 10 days ago and just got home. I had to pump while in the hospital with her because she’s a 35 week preemie and had some struggles. I’m trying to go back to breast now that we’re home. How do I know if she’s getting enough milk

    • Hi Mama! Congratulations on your beautiful new baby! Transitioning from hospital to home takes some time and we would love to help you with your breastfeeding journey! Please sent us an email at sales@latchedmama.com and a Certified Lactation Counselor will get back to you ASAP 🙂

  • Thank you for this. I’m really struggling with my breastfeeding journey. My baby is 5 days old and I’m so engorged he can’t latch unless I pump 4-6oz out. My let down is to fast and chokes him. He has a good latch and suck but can’t handle my output. Any suggestions? The more I pump the more I make it seems having to pump every few hrs because they litterly are like lumpy boulders and hurt so bad. I don’t want to give up breastfeeding but I don’t know how to help him successfully feed with out it choking him.

    • HI Abigail! I am so sorry you are in pain from feeling engorged. Likely your supply will adjust in a few days! We would love to help! Please reach out to us at support@latchedmama.com to be connected to a CLC for one on one suggestions!

  • I definitely noticed lumps and sore spots this morning trying to nurse. I was so engorged I wanted to cry and it literally hurt so bad I couldn’t life my arm. Im saving this article for future use. First time mom and I definitely want to continue breastfeeding. Thanks so much for this!

  • Day four of baby being here and still no milk. She has lost quite a bit of weight and doctors want me to supplement. It took seven days for my milk to come in with my first and that whole journey was a struggle even tho we made it 15 months! Any tips on how to get your milk supply in?? Thank you!!!!

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