Updated: Oct 7, 2020
In past cultures, breastfeeding was a normal thing and often took a village, literally. Moms, grandmas, aunties and other women would teach new moms how to do it. Girls would grow up watching breastfeeding - it was a normal part of their lives. They saw moms up all night nursing their babies. They witnessed women helping a new mama with her latch. It was just a part of life.
With the advent of formula and its push into our society as a better option for babies, breastfeeding became less and less normal. Now, we know better, but we’ve lost the “village.” Women don’t grow up surrounded by other women breastfeeding, and this has led to lots of confusion & difficulty. (This is changing, which is amazing, but the changes will take some time to become normal).
Also, men are wanting to be involved with babies more & more as our society challenges the norms of women at home & men at work, which is also AMAZING. But again, can lead to some confusion & difficulties.
So, here’s a short list of things that you can expect that are NORMAL & NOT NORMAL with breastfeeding.
👍 Baby seeming hungry all the time and wanting to breastfeed OFTEN. The idea that babies only eat every 3-4 hours is outdated and not true, especially in the first few months of life. It’s not uncommon for a baby to nurse every 1-2 hours for the first few months.
👍 Pain - SOME pain for mama can be a normal part of getting used to breastfeeding, especially if it's her first time. Engorgement (when the breasts become super full of milk) can be painful, and the nipples can be sensitive those first few weeks as breastfeeding is established. (more on what's not normal below)
👍 Milk not "coming in" for a few days after birth. Some mamas panic thinking that they cannot make enough milk - but this is totally normal. Keep nursing - this will signal to her body to make more milk. If you're an economics mind, it's the idea of supply & demand. The more demand = the more supply. Also remember that we often cannot see how much a baby is actually drinking from a breast, which can be hard. Look for signs of satisfaction from the baby rather than your perception of how much milk was drank.
👍 Baby losing weight in the first week or two of life - this is SUPER normal! Don't get discouraged by this. Breastfed babies don't tend to follow the exact same growth pattern as formula fed babies. When in doubt, ask a lactation consultant instead of supplementing with formula because "baby isn't getting enough."
👍 Dad wondering what his role should be - feeling left out. This is normal - dads want to bottle feed the baby to connect, but there are many other ways to connect with a baby! Try playing on the floor, going for walks, changing diapers, getting all the supplies set up for mama to breastfeed, clean the house, make dinner... the list goes on!
❌ NOT NORMAL (& call lactation consultant to help)
👎 Painful nipples, bleeding, cracks, blisters. All of these are not normal & can be signs of a poor latch or lip/tongue ties.
👎 Stools that are black, red, bright green or mucousy 🤢 All of these can be signs of underlying conditions or issues with digestion.
👎 Feeding literally all day and all night and never seeming satisfied. This may mean that baby isn’t pulling enough milk and may have a latch issue. (Again, it is VERY RARE that mom cannot make enough milk).
👎 Baby fussing at the breast - latching & unlatching over and over. This can be a sign that your letdown is too intense or a bad latch.
👎 Mama feeling lost, hopeless, or always sad. Contact a care provider and remember that mama's wellbeing is very important - more important than the way she chooses to feed her baby.
What would you add to this list? Comment below! We’d love to hear.