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As soon as you mention the word “breastfeeding” and you will suddenly be bombarded with a million suggestions and advice from every mother you’ve ever known! Yet still, there is a whole bunch of facts that nobody mentions to you; so read on to discover what you did not know about this wonderful and gifted period of motherhood.

1. It’s not always easy; but it’s instinctual

Newborns that are held skin-to-skin in the first couple of hours may push themselves toward the mom’s breast and start feeding instinctively; and you might feel pain when you start breastfeeding either because you have never experienced that degree of stimulation or it might be a problem with your baby’s latch. So make sure to consult a lactation specialist, if needed.

2. You may feel abdominal cramps

The same hormone responsible for triggering milk letdown; oxytocin; causes your uterus to shrink back to normal; so although it is uncomfortable, cramping is actually a sign that your body is healing properly.

3. It does not look like Cow’s milk

In the first few days, you'll produce a sticky, yellowish colostrum rich in protein. Between the 3rd and 7th day after giving birth, your milk supply comes in containing two parts, which might separate in the fridge: Foremilk is thin, and may appear pale blue; Hindmilk has more fat and will be slightly thicker and creamier in texture.1,2

4. It is uniquely designed for you baby

Did you know that your milk composition differs if you deliver prematurely than if you deliver full term? Preterm milk is higher in protein, fat, free amino acids, and sodium in the first few weeks after birth.3

5. You may be a righty

Approximately 2/3 of moms produce more milk with their right breast, and it has nothing to do with being right-handed.4

6. Bigger isn’t necessarily better

The amount of milk you produce has nothing to do with your breast size; it’s a combination of several factors some of which are frequency of breastfeeding and your overall food intake.

7. You actually have a distinctive scent

Breastfed babies can pick up their moms’ scent from a crowd of people based on smell only!

8. The “breastfeeding joy” you mom told you about is true

After you find your way with breastfeeding your baby and once the pain reduces, nursing actually triggers a hormone called oxytocin which helps both you and your baby relax and puts you in a good mood.

9. You don’t need to sleep in the gym

It take energy to produce and maintain your milk supply! Consistent breastfeeding burns about 500 calories per day; so a moderate 30 minute activity should be enough.

10. YES! There are foods that fuel your milk production

Knowing that you may need to have about 400 kcal more everyday during breastfeeding, go for protein-rich foods such as lean meat, eggs, legumes and dairy products and choose wholegrains and fresh fruits and vegetables to help increase both the quality and quantity of you milk.

11. Hydration is “Crucial”

Make sure your fluid intake is maintained if not increased during this essential period. So make sure to drink water frequently, ideally before you start feeling thirsty and have a glass of water closer to the time of breastfeeding. Don’t like the taste of plain water? Chop some fresh fruits of vegetables to create your own flavored water!

12. You are what you eat

Your baby is more likely to try new foods if you have been eating them during breastfeeding. So make sure your diet is as varied as possible; keeping in mind to watch out for gassy and spicy foods that may irritate your baby as well as minimizing your caffeine content. Eventually, every mom may have a different experience with breastfeeding than the other; so it’s ok to listen to different opinions and advice; but at the end of the day you are the only person who understands and knows your baby’s needs, so follow your instincts and always consult with your health care professional for guidance.

Breastfeeding is by all means the best way to nourish your baby from the day he/she’s born. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to two years or for as long as possible.

References:

1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. Kleinman RE, ed. 6th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009.
  
2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics 2005; 115:496-506.

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3508468/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17661579

5. https://www.womenshealth.gov/its-only-natural

6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby--for-mom

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235588/

8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breastfeeding-nutrition/art-20046912