Breastfeeding 101: Ten Things I wish I knew with my First Child



by Perlita Dicochea, Ph.D.

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, I’d like to share a few pieces of information I’ve learned so far on my way to becoming Lactation Educator Certified, info I believe anyone having a baby and planning to breastfeed would want to know – because here I am in my second month of this course and with each new lecture and assignment I find myself thinking, “Holy smokes! I wish I’d known that when my 14-month old was born!”

1. Newborn babies are not born hungry

2. Newborn babies are born with a high suck need

3. Sucking on mother’s breasts helps establish milk production for the long run

4. And sucking facilitates newborn’s need to get out that first poop (meconium)

My hospital stay with my first-born was incredibly stressful in part because my little boy never seemed satisfied. He cried A LOT. It made me feel as though my milk was not good enough, worried about my baby’s health, and fully inadequate as a mother.

While two lactation consultants met with me before I left the hospital, the nursing staff offered conflicting messages. Several nurses came in to my room, heard my baby crying and saw me struggling in desperation and asked, “Are you exclusively breastfeeding?” and I’d reply, sheepishly, “Yes.” To which one nurse nodded her head, another frowned, and another turned her back on me, literally.

I knew they were thinking supplement with formula and give that baby a pacifier or at least a grimacing oh, no wonder. You might be asking yourself, “How does she know the nurses were thinking any one of these specific things?” Believe me, I’ve never seen a group of people whose nonverbals had the capacity for such articulation.


Determined to breastfeed exclusively, baby and I hung in there. I did eventually cave-in on the pacifier by the third evening (cesarean birth recovery) – a well-known no-no for breastfeeding babies until after the first month or two or whenever breastfeeding and milk supply is established. Fortunately, the pacifier didn’t jeopardize my goal to breastfeed my little boy for at least a year (we did it!).

Back at the hospital, I was watching the clock because that’s what I was told to do – nurse baby every 2-3 hours. Reinforcing this feeding schedule, one nurse insisted, “Don’t let him use you as a pacifier.” To which today I would reply with a non-verbal “?!” – because now I know I should have just left my baby on my boobs as much as possible. The reasons, backed by solid research, include:

5. 2-3 hours is the MEDICAL MINIMUM nursing frequency

6. Babies may cluster feed and definitely CAN’T TELL TIME

7. I am NOT a pacifier. See points #3 & #4 above.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for me to have learned in this certification program that all the sucking a baby does on mother’s breasts during those first few days is CRITICAL for future milk production (whether he/she is taking in milk or not). The physiology of it is rather technical and, I must admit, the analogy of power outlets that some lactation consultants use – well, I kind of still don’t totally get it. But I do understand that when the baby sucks on your boobs, your insides say, “Okay, create more receptors to make more milk!” And those receptors are THE foundation for successful long-term exclusive breastfeeding.


I’ve also learned that

8. Pregnant women have milk at 10-14 weeks gestation. Thus, there is no such thing as “milk coming in” – new mothers already have milk, it’s just not high in volume until day 3 or 4 because, again, NEWBORNS NEED TO POOP

9. Mother’s milk changes along with her developing baby and, in any of its forms, it is ALWAYS NUTRITIOUS, continuing to be good for your baby’s health for as long as you two decide to nurse

Related to point #9, I hope you will never hear at any stage of your breastfeeding career that “Tu leche ya no sirve.” Yes, I heard those exact words from a well-intentioned friend when my baby wasn’t keeping on track with his growth curve for weight between months 6 and 9. One of my baby’s pediatricians said something very similar – albeit in wordy, ostensibly neutral discourse. This doctor told me, “You know, breast milk is good, it’s good to a point, but it’s just not calorie dense. Try giving your baby rice and fruit juice.” (I don’t even know how to describe the hand gestures that complemented his message.).

And, finally, point #10, I’m so very thankful to have learned that there is no such thing as a baby becoming embrazilón, which is slang for “spoiled because you held him too much.”  It is simply not possible to spoil a baby by holding him/her too much. And the reasons, well-backed by solid research, include:

10. The more a baby is held during his/her first year of life, the more his/her self-confidence and independence is strengthened

While I can appreciate creative use of language, I really struggled with this concept embrazilar, “to make one overly dependent on being held,” which I heard quite a bit during my first few months as a new mom. It never felt right to limit how much I held my little baby boy. Besides, breastfeeding on demand requires one hold their infants quite a bit. And when he was crying, I wasn’t supposed to hold him too much? Uff.

There were many times I wanted to hold my baby boy like a teddy bear to help ME through all this new mom turmoil. Was I making myself dependent on holding my infant?? Surely, I didn’t have a problem with spoiling myself, did I?

To their credit, the lactation experts who led the breastfeeding support group I attended at my hospital assured me I couldn’t possibly spoil my baby. Because of this lactation certification course, I can frame the issue in a positive way – it’s important to hold babies for their own healthy development. Mine is 14 months old now and I still carry him A LOT – that is when he’s not trying to squirm out of my arms and wobble around like a gremlin, which is so not the proper behavior of a teddy bear.

I know breastfeeding in U.S. culture is really, super hard, especially for full-time working moms and due to other circumstances. Often one must sift through a mountain of conflicting literature and navigate multiple culturally-specific words of advise from every possible direction while in a state of extreme sleep deprivation. You make your decisions based on what’s best for you and your family.

My point with this piece is that if your goal is to breastfeed exclusively for what ever length of time, it might help to know some of the things I addressed above, if only for your own self-confidence and peace of mind – both of which I sorely lacked with my first baby.

I can’t wait to share with you how the breastfeeding adventure unfolds for baby #2, coming soon in Fall 2016. 😉


  • U.C. San Diego Lactation Educator Counselor Training Program.
  • Lectures by Professor Gini Baker, R.N., MPH, IBCLC, FACCE.
  • Breastfeeding Class, Good Samaritan Hospital, San Jose, CA, July 26th 2016.
  • Counseling the Nursing Mother, 6th Edition.

Perlita Dicochea earned her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley, M.A. in Communication Studies at Arizona State University, and B.A. in Communication Studies at Santa Clara University. She has been a professor of Ethnic Studies and Communication Studies since 1997 and has published original research about Chicana feminism and environmental justice issues. Dr. Dicochea is the mother of a 9-year-old Chihuahua, 14-month-old boy, and daughter in the oven – and is well on her way to becoming your neighborhood’s favorite Lactation Educator.