This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Bodily, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.
There’s a fine line between being honest about the realities of motherhood and outright scaring moms-to-be. I remember resenting every time a more experienced parent would tell me stories of how harrowing the next stage would be. “Oh, you’re not sleeping well now? Wait until the baby is here.” Comments like this weren’t actually helpful. And when the next, more difficult stage did finally arrive, I felt alone in the midst of it. I knew I’d be met with the same sardonic responses instead of real, thoughtful advice. So, after over two years of breastfeeding two kids, I thought I’d provide others with what I wish I knew from the start.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, I need to preface a few very important things. I was incredibly lucky that my body was able to feed two little humans for an above average amount of time. Seeing my kids grow because of something I could provide filled me with an immense sense of pride. Nursing them provided me with more opportunities for connection and taught me so much about my body and its capabilities. It made me appreciate my body in ways I never had before. So not only did I watch my children grow, I watched myself grow too. However, beauty doesn’t come without its challenges. These are the five things I wish I knew before I started breastfeeding.
The different stages of breastfeeding
This is something I didn’t realize until I discovered pregnancy and postpartum-focused brand, Bodily. I recently started using their (unbelievably comfy) bras and learned that their bras are broken up by three breast feeding stages: 1-3 months, 3-6 months, and 6+ months. I can attest that my boobs changed drastically throughout each of these periods, and when I look back, I was not prepared for it. The first stage was the most shocking and painful of all. I was very engorged after my milk supply came in a few days after birth. It felt like I was carrying two bags of rocks on my chest—and that’s also the best way to describe how they looked. I could literally see each individual milk duct protruding through my skin. I remember cringing at even the most feather-light of touches.
Stage 1: 1-3 months
Comfort became my number one priority during this period and the right clothing made a world of difference. I couldn’t stand regular nursing bras because they always felt too constricting and I resorted to non-maternity bralettes—but those also didn’t provide the best support. I wish I had known there was a way to marry the two with bras like the Everything Bra from Bodily. Since Bodily took each breastfeeding stage into consideration when they created their bestselling maternity bras, so their products are my top recommendation for new-to-breastfeeding moms.
Bodily's Everything Bra was designed for Stage 1 nursing, so it provides ultra-gentle support and is perfect for those first months when your sensitivity is heightened. Since your breasts are also constantly shrinking and expanding as your baby feeds throughout the day, they also built in easy-to-reach strap sliders for extra adjustability.
Stage 2: 3-6 months
My milk supply leveled out significantly by Stage 2, so nursing felt more relaxing during this time. Even though engorgement was less of an issue, my babies were still nursing day and night. My bra needs transitioned from gentle support to comfort and ease of use. Bodily’s So Easy Bra would’ve been my go-to back then because of its sleek design and smooth fabric. I actually got one recently and, even though I’m not breastfeeding anymore, it’s still one of my favorite bras.
The ideal nursing solution for those late-night feedings when you're too tired to mess with clip closures. Its chic pull-down access make feeding (and dressing yourself) effortless.
Stage 3: 6+ months
After the six-month mark, nursing both of my kids was finally smooth-sailing. They were introduced to solids, so feedings lessened throughout these months and I could finally regain some freedom. I felt more comfortable leaving them for longer periods of time, but this also meant I needed new solutions for pumping milk. Pumping while caring for multiple kids or working requires a hands-free pumping and nursing bra like the Do Anything Bra.
Developed in collaboration with a lactation consultant, this hands-free pumping bra was meticulously designed for parents on-the-go who need to be able to pump, nurse, and stay active.
Yes, lactation consultants are worth it
Most hospitals offer parents who choose to breastfeed a visit with a lactation consultant after the baby is born. I knew we’d have this option when I was pregnant with my first, but I naively thought that the 15-minute consultation at the hospital would be enough. I went on to struggle so much with breastfeeding when we went back home that I decided to exclusively pump instead.
I salute any mother who chooses to exclusively pump long-term because it was such incredibly hard work. After two weeks, I knew it wouldn’t work for me or my mental health. So I tried breastfeeding once more and endured my newborn’s painful latch for weeks instead of reaching back out to a lactation consultant. I grew accustomed to his latch over time, but I wish I would’ve asked for help. When my second baby arrived 20 months later, I didn’t make that same mistake. I scheduled several sessions with a local lactation consultant immediately after birth and it made a world of a difference.
Breastfeeding requires mindful nutrition
If you think about it, your body doesn’t stop growing and nurturing a separate human being once pregnancy ends. I spent nine months pregnant with two children, then over one year each breastfeeding them. That’s 45 straight months of sustaining someone else’s life. I was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained by my second kid’s first birthday. The intense hormone fluctuations dramatically impacted my body, and I wish I had taken better care of my nutrition.
Plus, in order to make milk, it’s important to eat and drink well. It’s like that popular adage: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I wasn’t nourishing my body properly during this time, so it started negatively affecting my skin, hair, and overall health. So, take it from me: drinking tons of water, eating the right foods, and choosing the right supplements will only help you and your baby in the long run.
The process of breastfeeding is not actually ‘free’
The most common misconception about breastfeeding is that it doesn’t cost any money. In my experience, that’s entirely false. Yes, formula is more expensive, but nursing isn’t cheap. While you don’t need to break the bank to be successful at breastfeeding, there are so many things that make the journey much, much easier. And of course, all this stuff costs money.
Breast pumps are free only if you have insurance, but if the ones you pick don’t fit your needs, you could spend hundreds more on different ones (like I did). Then there are breastmilk bags, nipple shields, nipple cream, nursing pads, nursing supplements for low supply, breastfeeding-friendly clothing, nursing pillows, coolers for transporting breastmilk, deep freezers for storing breastmilk—the list just goes on and on. That’s not even mentioning the impulsive online purchases during 2 a.m. nursing sessions.
If your LO has trouble latching, lactation consultants are rarely covered by insurance, so that is an out-of-pocket cost as well. My second was diagnosed with a tongue and lip tie that needed to get surgically revised for her to nurse properly, which was also not covered by insurance. So while breastfeeding may be the more affordable option, it certainly isn’t free.
It’s not the ‘best’ choice, it’s just a choice
It’s so easy to get caught up in the pressure to breastfeed. Medical experts encourage it, friends and family applaud it, social media broadcasts it. But as someone who breastfed for as long as I did, I will never say it was the best choice. It was just the right choice for me and my family. I was fortunate enough to produce a high amount of milk so it worked out long-term. But as I’ve mentioned, it wasn’t easy or free. If I could have prepped myself for how breastfeeding would affect my health (and bank account at times), I might’ve had a bit less of a culture shock.
Yes, it did get easier over time and provided me and my kids with sweet bonding opportunities. However, I don’t believe that choosing not to breastfeed would’ve made me any less of a mother. There is no right or wrong way to feed your child. There is only what is right for you as a mom, whatever that may be.
This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Bodily, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board. We only recommend products we genuinely love.