Babies and Breastfeeding: What Did You Wish You Had Known?

In my next article for the Israeli environmental blog Green Prophet, I want to write about the lack of a breastfeeding culture here in Israel. Women enter motherhood with an unprecedented lack of knowledge about breastfeeding and babies, and they don’t even know what they don’t know. Here women commented that they didn’t know that they could pump to supply breastmilk for their babies and keep up their supply after returning to work.

Mothers, and fathers too: What do you wish you had known about breastfeeding or mothering when you had your first baby? Please share in the comments. As usual all readers, parents or not, are welcome to join the conversation.


  1. I’s not something I really researched. I’m not sure that would have been relevant. I never issued statements about my nursing; I just did it and kept it up for nearly a year with the first one (the only one willing to take a pacifier or bottles at all — though I tried to express milk for when I was at work), and for over two years with the rest. An interesting experience was the milk I had for my preemie was distinct from the usual — evidence that mother’s milk is customized for the baby’s needs. I had to express for her to be fed it, as she could not nurse at first. Once she was able to start nursing, I came to the hospital to do it at least once a day. But while I was very encouraged to continue as long as necessary, for it could take quite aq while, the nurses who wanted to stick to a strict schedule would cut off the activity.

  2. First I will point out that I have nursed 3 children to the age of 10 months, the next 2 to the age of a year and 10 months and the last nursed with supplements and finally EPed (exculisevly pumped) to the age of 11 months and a week.
    What do I wish I knew when I nursed my first child (or second or third or fourth etc)
    When she was born it was clear I would nurse, but it was not clear that nursing was a long term thing. My mum always told me that she nursed me till the age of 6 months, when I bit her and then she stopped. Her “Help” when I came home from hospital was to take the baby and give it water during the night, which was something i would never have done during later births, where I was one of the people in the maternity ward who always asked to be woken if baby cried!
    Well, actually nursing the first one went quite well, she gained nicely etc. and I nursed her till the next one was expected.
    However I was studying and did not know that when I was not there I could give her expressed milk, rather than formula (which she vomited up!).
    I did not know that rather than it being an advantage that she slept through the night at the age of 6 weeks, it would have been much better for spacing the children if I had nursed her during the night more (number 2 was born when she was 16 months old) .
    I did not know about the problems of giving formula at an early age.
    I also did not know that when I got pregnant when she was 10 months old I did not have to wean her immediately (the shocked gynecologist told me to bind my breasts and stop nursing immediately).
    When the second one came along I did not know that even using the mini pill can still cause a reduction in the amount of milk.
    When the nurse in the clinic said he was not gaining I did not know what to do to increase the milk supply and he was in fact really underweight for a long time (also did not know when we started solids he should have been eating yams and avocado rather than squash and carrots, and bananas rather than apples!).
    When number 4 stayed in hospital after birth, and I was sent home the hospital did not give me correct information about expressing milk.
    I did not know that you could use a good pump not the rubbish ones from yad sarah which express blood at some point. And how to give him and maintian the milk etc
    I think I was just not aware enough of the whole issue of nursing to dedicate myself to having it succeed, and to only give them MM and not let formula cross their lips, or of the damage to nursing supply of me giving a supplemental bottle of formula here and there, in the way that I did with the last 2 children.
    I was not aware of the possiblity as well as advantages of long term nursing with the first 3 children (numbers 4 and 5 nursed till the age of a year and 10 months which is really quite respectable).
    I think I only really got good info about nursing from the internet, and I cannot give enough praise for the Tapuz forums of n

  3. I think I wrote too much before.
    I wanted to correct that I meant that with the last babies I was more educated and dedicated and did not give a supplemental bottle (not that I did )!
    These are the other things I did not know
    I will not even talk about the problems I encountered with my sixth child; When I was at a point where I thought I knew all about nursing and found I knew nothing about real problems that can occur.
    Did you know a nursing baby can starve itself to death?
    I did not know that a nursing baby can have real problems that can be solved with appropriate professional help.
    I did not know (and can now quote) how to know if the nursing baby is getting enought food!
    I did not know that if you have to give some sort of supplement in a bottle (either Mother’s milk or formula) there is a special way to do this so the baby will not prefer the bottle!
    My baby was put back in hospital as she did not regain her birth weight.
    The hospital had no knowledge of how to help and encourage the nursing mother, how to tell me to pump milk, where to get a pump from, or to tell me about IBLCs.
    They kept poor baby and me in hospital for 8 days and did not manage to find out that she had not gained weight because of a nursing problem. The hospital had no nursing professionals on its staff and did not know how to refer me to one.
    I will not detail the rest of the things I should have known then as I am sure I have written too much.
    I am sure that what you write will help people build successful nursing relationships.

  4. sylvia_rachel says

    I actually think I had most of the necessary facts; what I mostly needed was for someone to tell me to calm down and not worry about how long or how often the baby nursed or whether she was getting enough milk. B”H my mother was there to say, “Look at your diaper pail! If it came out, it must have gone in. Put away the notebook and relax!”
    The other thing I wish I had figured out sooner was how to nurse lying down, because once we learned that, the whole family got MUCH more sleep at night. The postpartum nurses and breastfeeding classes and LCs at our hospital were great, but if they would spend some time teaching new mums the “side-lying” nursing position, as well as the sitting-up holds, that would be even better!

  5. I wish someone had told me HOW to know that my baby was getting enough to eat. He wasn’t, and cried all the time, and eventually I needed to supplement in addition to breastfeeding. As a new mom, I really had no clue. You can read my breastfeeding story here

  6. I wish I had known with the first that sleeping with the baby in bed with you is the way to go.

  7. I agree with Tamiri that sleeping with the baby is helpful, especially in that it gets the mother more sleep.
    I nursed 6 kids, and the kid 4th I did not give any formula or bottles at all. It turned out he had a milk allergy and remains allergic to this day, so it was truly a blessing that I never supplemented him. The others received only minimal supplementing.
    Two of my kids, however, had trouble gaining weight at around 5-6 months. It was enough of a problem that the pediatricians got very, very upset. At those points I put each of them on solid foods, while continuing to nurse, and they gained at least a pound in the first week of solid foods. I imagine they weren’t getting enough calories from the nursing. It’s a mystery to me why the other 4 kids gained weight satisfactorily while nursing and these 2 didn’t.
    What I didn’t realize about nursing until I weaned the kids was the hormonal effect on emotions, similar to pregnancy. Although nursing itself was very calming, I felt a physical responsibility to the baby and got very agitated when I was away from the baby for too long. I nursed each kid for an average of 1 year, and I must admit that I felt a freedom when I stopped. However, I would not have wanted to stop earlier because nursing was so great for the baby.

  8. There are two big things I wish I had known.
    #1. I wish I had known that there were places to turn for help BEFORE the babies were born. I knew there were support groups, but I didn’t know you could go to meetings before the baby/babies were born. We took a bfing class, but I had no idea a support group would be so very different. I never again saw the parents from our labor or bfing classes. The women I met a year later at the bfing support group became life-long friends. I found that even when new moms came to the group, the members were willing to drop everything to help them. That even included going over to their homes to help clean so mom could get a break. I could have used friendships and support like that with my first pregnancy. It would have prevented a lot of the nursing problems.
    #2. I wish I fully understood that the parents are in control. Even though I’m strong-willed, I didn’t realize that I have more say than doctors, nurses and parenting books. I have since found other parenting books that encourage you to be the expert on your child, but those were NOT the books everyone recommended when I was pregnant. We got lots of bad advice (that almost ruined our nursing relationship and actually put my daughters at risk) from the medical community. I fought it, but only later did I realize that I didn’t have to stay in those situations. I didn’t have to explain myself to the NICU nurses. I didn’t have to stay with the Ped who wasn’t nursing friendly. We were put under a lot of unnecessary stress because we didn’t realize the full range of options.
    One thing I did know, but I wish more parents did is that you can do your own research. When our doctor questioned us on something, I could either cite statistics or bring in printouts of research and oh boy did I ever!

  9. I wished I’d known what to do when my breasts got hard and painful – and wished I’d known whom to turn to.

  10. mother in israel says

    Thank you for sharing your thought-provoking and often painful stories. I need time to respond properly, which I won’t have until sometime tomorrow.

  11. I wish I had known how long it would take and that it wasn’t the “every three hours” like they said at the hospital and in books.
    I wish I knew if there were special foods to eat to enhance or increase the milk

  12. I read every book I could to solve my sore nipples 14 years ago. Turns out a large part is positioning the baby properly. I went to La Leche meetings, but by the time I went, I had already solved my nursing issues. The meetings were a good bonding with other moms experience.
    Last month I was able to help a friend with her soreness after she gave birth to her first baby. She said I was more helpful than the $150 lactation consultant.

  13. I wish I had known that when the breasts are engorged, the nipples are engorged and hard too, so that it’s hard for the baby to latch on. All it takes is to express a little milk and the nipple will soften…such a simple thing, but it caused Baby and me much anguish. Luckily an experienced friend came by, saw the problem, and helped me solve it.
    If I were to give one piece of advice to nursing mothers, I’d say, “Don’t allow people who make negative comments to keep talking. Change the subject, excuse yourself, do what it takes. Unsupportive friends, parents, and nosy parkers have no place in your life when it comes to breastfeeding.”

  14. mother in israel says

    Keren (Now I know who you are!!:)
    I don’t believe research has shown a connection between the minipill and lowered milk supply, although many people believe there is. Some mothers report lowered supply at around 4 months even if they are not taking the minipill.
    I do not think that a baby would starve itself, but simply has no physical way of getting the milk. Some babies get apathetic when this happens. All new mothers need to know the signs that a baby is getting enough milk.
    Ariella, I’m sure your previous experience helped with your premie, if only for the motivation.

  15. mother in israel says

    Sylvia-Rachel, nursing lying down is a big one. There was actually a study showing that mothers who use that position get much more rest.
    Adena, your story is painful, and I experienced something similar with my first. You don’t say how you felt about the doctor’s attitude and advice–most of the information she gave you was incorrect and misguided.

  16. mother in israel says

    Tamiri and Tesyaa, sleeping with the baby (once I got used to it) makes such a huge difference in lifestyle. I wonder why everyone thinks that going against anti-co-sleeping recommendations is criminal but going against bf recommendations is no problem–oh wait.
    Tesyaa-thanks for stopping by! Sometimes babies do need solid foods at six months, if other means of increasing supply don’t work. The hormones are a big factor and some suggestions put the mother to work against hormones (like telling her not to nurse the baby to sleep, or putting the baby on a schedule so mom wants to nurse but “can’t).

  17. mother in israel says

    Reiza–YES! Everyone should go to a support group like LLL before birth,unless you already spend a lot of time with nursing moms who love what they are doing.
    I like to explain that medical professionals can give advice based on their knowledge and experience, but we are the ones who have to live with the consequences if the advice turns out to be incorrect.
    Klara–another vote for having a support system in place.
    Miriam–having a good book is important! The only food that has been show to increase supply is fenugreek (chilbah). Diet is not a big factor in milk supply–effectively and frequently drawing milk from the breasts is.

  18. Tired of Arguing says

    Sylvia_Rachel–Not only do hospital nurses not teach about breastfeeding lying down, they aren’t ALLOWED, at least at Hadassah, to let the mother lie down with the baby. Legal fears of being sued should the mother fall asleep and roll over on the baby or the baby fall out of the bed. Never mind that in years of nursing 4 babies, I was always acutely, maybe too acutely, aware of exactly where they were in the bed. Being drugged or drunk probably distorts this natural sense of proprioception (where parts one’s own body are).
    Admittedly, this does solve the problem of the mother falling asleep and rolling over on the baby, as the mother simply never falls asleep. Mother falls asleep nursing in a chair, and baby falls on the floor. Hospitals postpone this problem by assuring that no mother has a comfortable chair in which to nurse.
    I wish I had known the extent to which nursing hormones would turn me into a paranoid, weepy, sentimental fool in the first few weeks. I never had PMS or emotional upsets connected to my cycle, and besides being tired, I was relatively sane all through pregnancy. A day or two of breastfeeding, and BAM–Jeane Kirkpatrick turns into Andrea Yates. Damn, that was scary. I wish I had known that it would pass and that my body would acclimate. My driving ability was seriously impaired during early postpartum nursing. No healthy aggressive instincts, no balls whatsoever. Couldn’t step on the gas.
    I deliberately did not nurse baby #2, because I was tired of the emotional rollercoaster, and absolutely “touched out”. Too many people were critical of my decision without inquiring of my personal situation. (The Nursing Police do exist.) Anyway, none of the emotional side effects occured postpartum, no weepiness, and no problems with driving. Baby #2, incidentally, was and remains, bli ayin hara, the healthiest of the bunch, with no ear infections, no allergies, and a robust constitution. She just finished walking Shvil Yisrael (the north-to south Israel trail), but we all know that anecdotal evidence means nothing. If I’d breastfed her, no doubt she’d be immortal.
    Breast pumps, way back when, were really awful and incredibly expensive. Plus, we didn’t have the internet then, and could only start fires with two rocks.

  19. mother in israel says

    Leora, you were a good friend.
    Mimi, another friend saves the day! Avoiding negative people is just as important as finding successful support.

  20. mother in israel says

    Mrs. S. :
    I just heard a doctor say that the haredi women have many fewer breastfeeding problems, or at least they don’t get to such a bad state, because of the family support. Lucky you!

  21. When my oldest was born, the nurses warned me not to nurse more than a few minutes on a side – to prevent soreness. They neglected to tell me (or maybe they DID tell me, but I misunderstood) that the 5-minute-on-a-side rule only applied that first time.
    So, when I came home with the baby, I wondered why the baby kept crying even after I had supposedly “finished” nursing! B”H my mother was there to set me right…

  22. Having read this, i think that i am lucky i had 6 children in England! I had excellent breastfeeding support both in hospital and afterwards for No1, including the loan of an electric pump, from a gemach ( we were living in Gateshead then) when i became so engorged that she couldn’t feed. i nursed all the children, including twins, for between 6 month and a year. What no-one told me the first time, which i now tell first time mothers, is how much the whole thing hurts – not during the labour, because one expects that, but afterwards, including the feeding. if i hadn’t seen lots of friends nursing their babies with out any obvious discomfort, i would not have been able to persevere. i have never been prevented from feeding lying down when in hospital, and i’m pretty sure that the books i have recommend it, although sleeping with the baby in bed with you is not encouraged now. feeding the twins was a challenge at the beginning, as there is no chance to give one side a rest by starting on the other side, but there is some excellent literature which suggests positions for accommodating 2 babies at once.

  23. I don’t live in Israel, but will add my two cents.
    I wish that someone would have told me that some women are just physically not capable of nursing. I nearly went mad after my first baby was born. I couldn’t understand why he would nurse for (literally) hours, doze off, then wake up SCREAMING the minute I put him down. The lactation consultants in the hospital just told me to let him nurse as long as he wanted, which made me feel as though I was somehow doing something wrong. It was pure misery.
    Well….thank Gd I found a normal lactation consultant who, after only a few minutes, broke the news to me that my body just didn’t have enough glandular tissue to produce enough milk. We did the whole nursing-weighing thing just to confirm it, but that was the case. I ended up doing the nursing then supplementing with a bottle thing. It was pretty time consuming, but I kept it up until 6 months.
    You have no idea what a relief it was to hear that it wasn’t my fault, or something I was doing wrong. Interestingly enough, most nursing books gloss over this condition. They make it sound as though you just need to try harder with your latching, position, calming down etc.
    I was especially upset when the lactation consultant told me that my doctor should really have warned me that there might be a problem with nursing, based on the physical characteristics. When I asked my doctor, she said that they didn’t want to worry me….Thanks a lot! I nearly went crazy.
    And…some people can pump for 45 minutes and just barely get 3 ounces.
    (and if anyone is still reading this, thank Gd that by my second child I was able to scrape by on just nursing until 6 months, thanks to fenungreek and bitter thistle. And by scrape by, I mean nursing every 2 hours-almost all the time. But that fact itself is a pure miracle.)

  24. mother in israel says

    End of World: There was a period when breastfeeding helpers believed that all women could produce enough milk. They saw so many women “without any milk” whose problems could be solved easily. But there are women with hormonal or physical problems–as the LC told you in most cases there is generally some clue in advance. The breasts may not expand during pregnancy or have a distinctive shape known to be associated with problems.
    Breasts develop more ducts during each pregnancy so many women with low milk supply do better the second time around, and of course knowledge and experience helps. A brand-new book just came out on this subject. (For the record–I presume you meant blessed thistle.)
    There is so much incorrect information and horror stories. We shouldn’t hide the fact that some women will have serious problems no matter what. But women are too quick to put themselves in the category of people who can’t.

  25. For EndofWorld and other people who had simlar problems, this is a special website with useful info and support on the subject

  26. I wish someone had let me know that you leak. Trying to leave the hospital without any protection was an adventure. And I was in no shape for my plan of stopping by Target to get necessary stuff. Oh well.

  27. On nursing lying down: I discovered that already with my first. But hospitals really do not want it on the premises. When my third had to be hospitalized because she was running a fever at 3 weeks old, I came in to stay with her. It’s nice that we had a private room with a bed for my use, but the hospital staff did not want her to be placed in the bed next to me –only the crib.

  28. I experienced increased milk supply with tea of nigella seed. I took it to help soothe a cough. It didn’t help the cough, but it re-started lactation at a time I was actually trying to wean.

  29. mother in israel says

    Keren, thanks for the resource. I’m skeptical about some of the nutritional information, but I don’t know everything.
    Orthonomics, leaking or not, running errands on your way home from the hospital with a new baby is not advisable.
    Ariella, when I had to take a newborn to Schneider Children’s Hospital with a fever, they were fine with me sleeping with him on my little fold out bed/chair. Attached to IV and everything.
    Interesting story, Mimi.
    Ariela, many mothers find the Spectra to be just as effective for this purpose (even though it is technically not “hospital-grade.” It is much cheaper, and also available to borrow through Yad Sarah. Of course many women do fine with the mini-electric by Medela or the equivalent (but that should be bought new).

  30. I have successfully nursed 5 babies and only one of them ever received supplements, even though I had to go back to work after a 3 month maternity leave each time. Important pumping info:
    a hostpital stregnth pump like the lactina makes a world of difference. For my first three babies I used hand expression and the pump-in style. I never got a full meal out of a pumping session and had to do many make ups. I also got many breast infections.
    We lived in the states when my 4th was a baby and the lactation consultant at the University where I worked convinced me to try out the hospital stregnth pumps. I was reluctant to give up on the pump in style, but am so glad I did. With the lactina I always got more than a meal from a pumping session and almost never got breast infections.
    When #5 was born I called Medela in Israel and they gave me phone numbers of lactation consultants who rent out lactinas. It cost me 190 NIS a month, but was totally worth it! How much does formula cost?
    The other advice I would give new mothers is to pump a bottle a day from about 6 weeks to when you go back to work. That way you have a backup supply of milk.

  31. mother in israel says

    Commenter AR wrote:
    Your question hit a still-raw nerve and I am thankful for the opportunity to write about it and maybe exorcise some old pains. Once I started writing, all kinds of things started spilling out…and I didn’t want to overdo it in your comments space – feel free to edit/publish as you see fit. [I left it all in. Some things need to be told.]
    What I didn’t know was ever so much more than what I did.
    I didn’t know how clumsy and awkward I would feel trying to manage baby and breast at the same time.
    I didn’t know how much it would hurt.
    When my nipples cracked I did not know how to treat them and got a million different answers and didn’t know which advice to take.
    I didn’t know how much patience was required. Or that if I kept trying maybe I would figure things out.
    I didn’t know how stupid and hostile some doctors, even women, are to breastfeeding moms. Worse, even IBCLCs can be hostile and stupid, and
    lecture and preach and bully instead of listening and encouraging and teaching (I didn’t try LLL, don’t know why). I tried 2 LCs and consider them both to have betrayed me and their profession. My OB, when I came for help with raging mastitis, actually sent me to a breast surgeon to rule out cancer before she gave me antibiotics. At around 8 weeks old my first born, a baby of very pleasant disposition, ended up in the hospital, dehydrated and malnourished. Once he was on formula (which he truly needed by then) I stopped breastfeeding, feeling that I had been a total failure. The way I saw myself as a mother, and my relationship with my first child, did not benefit from the mess. Maybe subsequent children did.
    I wish I had known that I could stop breastfeeding, heal, and start again, although I am not sure I would have been brave enough to do that if I had
    I didn’t know the “football” hold or that it, as with any hold, is perfectly fine to use if it works for mother and baby. There isn’t One Right Way.
    I didn’t know how hungry I would be, for food and for company, and how little time or energy I would have to arrange either for myself.
    I wish I had known better how to ask for what I needed.
    I learned how much some of us need a support system of experienced women around us and how hard it can be to manage when we don’t. I learned the hard way to put food in the freezer. I made friends who visit and bring food. I learned that if my breast is bright red and I spike a fever to take tylenol immediately and get in bed and do nothing but drink and breastfeed for at least 24 hours and that it will get all better. (and to go to my family doctor, who supports breastfeeding, if it doesn’t. Mind, I am not giving anyone health advice, just reporting my experience)
    I am thankful to have learned, practically and spiritually, from my traumatic early experiences. I used to be harder on myself for mistakes I made and am trying to make peace with my imperfections. I am interested t

  32. mother in israel says

    I see AR’s comment got cut off. Continutation:
    I am thankful to have learned, practically and spiritually, from my traumatic early experiences. I used to be harder on myself for mistakes I made and am trying to make peace with my imperfections. I am interested to see what other parents will write and hope my contribution will enlighten someone, somehow.
    I want to add that most of my religious friends, and many “hiloni” friends breastfeed, and that many of us breastfeed in playgrounds, cafes and our local mall, which is full of breastfeeding moms, few of whom restrict themselves to the tiny “cheder hanaka” provided. I have never been harassed for it except by women who for some bizarre reason find a “football” hold unacceptable and insist to me that I am holding the baby “hafuch”.
    (Sent in email by AR)

  33. mother in israel says

    Tired of Arguing: I apologize for missing your comment before.
    Both breastfeeding and bottlefeeding mothers can have postpartum emotional trauma. After your frightening experience, I can see wanting to try something different with the next one. I’m sorry that people judged you without listening to your story. Unfortunately I’ve met many mothers who were so traumatized by a failed breastfeeding experience that they don’t want to try again.
    I wish you a lot of nachat from all your children.