Breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging — and rewarding — experiences a new mom has. From establishing a solid latch to finding the perfect hold, it’s a lot of trial and error as you get to know your baby and get comfortable with the process. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. No judgment here.

Whether you’re looking to celebrate or commiserate, experts agree that having a supportive tribe surrounding you is crucial to your breastfeeding success — whether you choose to breastfeed for the entire first year of your baby’s life as the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, and even if you need reassurance that it’s okay to supplement with formula or throw in the towel altogether.

In honor of August being Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we polled some experienced moms about what they wish they’d known about breastfeeding before they tried it. If you don’t have a breastfeeding support group, you do now!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months, and continuing to breastfeed in addition to offering solids for the first year. Image: Aurimas Mikalauskas via Flickr CC 

What is one thing you didn’t know about breastfeeding that you wish you had?

“Be patient and don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work for you and your baby. And cold cabbage leaves are the BEST for engorgement!”
— Ashley Smith

“That it hurts at first. Every time my daughter latched on, it hurt. She had a great latch, but my body was not used to having a tiny human feeding off of it. But I persevered. I was determined to try at least one month. Two weeks later we both found our rhythm. I nursed her for 12 months and nursed my next two children for 12 and 15 months. So glad I went with my gut instead of all those people who said why bother. Be proud of it. We were designed to feed our babies. That is what boobs are for! Don’t let others shame you. Do not hide away in public restrooms, hot cars and dingy hallways. Breasts are designed to feed your children. That does not mean they are not attractive or a proud part of your body. In fact they’re just another amazing thing that the female form is capable of. Own it!”
— Christa Williams

“Assure analgesia is reversed enough to allow the baby to latch right after delivery. Don’t fall asleep and send the baby to the nursery. And when mastitis develops, use a breast pump to pump the breast completely dry.”
— Cassie Benge 

“I wish I knew before how it can take much more time than expected to get the latch right, for you and/or your babe …  and when it’s not going well, it can be emotionally soooo hard, painful, heart wrenching and frustrating for both of you. Second thing is the best advice I got after a few weeks of sporadic latches and pumping and feeding: it’s okay if you need to stop, but it’s also really worthwhile to keep trying because once you get it, there is such relief and ease knowing that when almost all else fails and your babe is upset, a boob in the mouth fixes almost everything. In my case, that turned out to be true — it was worth it for me to keep at it because it eventually did work out wonderfully.”
— Maureen Welch

“I wish I would’ve know how unnatural it truly was. At least for me. And how painful my nipples were the first week. But how after both of us finally figured out how to do it, how amazing it was too.”
— Elliott Eddy

“When I first started breastfeeding, I naively expected the ‘special bond’ to be immediate (maybe even confetti to fall down and angels to begin singing). But when you’re learning how to do it, and your baby is too, it’s like the blind leading the blind — it’s frustrating and can be discouraging. Sore or blistered nipples in the beginning don’t help either. Persevere and have patience through those first few weeks — they’re challenging! But in the end, breastfeeding is so worth it, and the bond WILL come.”
— Laura Guthrie

“It HURTS the first baby, no matter what the lactation expert says. It was the most painful, yet beautiful experience of my life.”
— Katherine Brown

“It’s okay to try it and say ‘this is not working for me.’ The world will not come crashing down. Your baby will eat and thrive. What’s important is enjoying your time with the baby. If it is so painful and stressful you begin to resent it, stop. They won’t take away your woman/Mama card.”
— Tricia Herzfeld

“It’s okay to breastfeed and do formula! Babies won’t get confused!”
— Michelle McDermott Reeves

“I wish I could go back and tell my first-time-mom self that IT IS OKAY. My daughter had a bad latch, and I didn’t have enough professional support, so I pumped for 8 months. I wish I could go back and tell myself that the decision to stop pumping for my child at 8 months was enough … that I was a good mother and that in my case, formula would be perfectly fine for her. The agony that I put myself and my family through was immense. I wish I could take that back. I later went on to nurse my son for 15 months from the breast with zero issues and have never been prouder of what my body could do.”
— Melissa Threatt

“Be easy on yourself. Take the pressure off.”
— Lee Anne Alvey

“I wish I had known more about the very beginning milk that comes out that is been named ‘liquid gold’ that the babies need in the very beginning. There was so much talk and pressure around getting that milk started that I wish someone had told me more about that in the beginning. I was left in my hospital room with this contraption, and no one really showed me how to pump milk to get it started, and the nurse I had was pretty aggressive putting my daughter up to me. For a new mom I would say ask a gazillion questions and do not feel like you’re being stupid because it’s your very first time. Nurses are used to this, but you are not.”
— Chandler Lamb

“I wish I’d known more about the science behind breast milk. Some of the recent discoveries are truly amazing — there’s a protein in human breast milk specifically designed to feed good gut bacteria. Also, find a good certified lactation consultant, and go early and often. Breastfeeding really shouldn’t be painful, and sometimes just fixing the smallest thing can make a world of difference. For example, I was pushing my first born on by her head, which messed up her latch. My lactation consultant corrected me by having me push her by her shoulder blades. It instantly fixed my nursing pain. And sunflower lecithin helps clogs soooo much!”
— Erin Rauk

To learn about resources available for breastfeeding moms, visit the La Leche League website at llli.org.

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