As natural as breastfeeding is, sometimes we can be a little confused on what to expect or what that journey will look like for us.
Although people are making progress on their attitude toward public and workplace breastfeeding, there's still a stigma around it.
Celebrity mums have been more open about their breastfeeding struggles and stories, whether it's pumping during a photoshoot, not being able to supply enough milk or just choosing to stop because of pain.
According to the Centres for Disease Control, more than 80 percent of mothers breastfeed, but there's still a lot that surprises new mums about the whole process.
Here are some common things about breastfeeding that you probably didn't know.
Breastfeeding takes work
Some people might think breastfeeding just happens naturally. The baby latches on and there you go! But that's not necessarily the case.
"New mothers assume breastfeeding is autonomous and automatic," says Stacy Davis, the executive director of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Colour Partners. "Breastfeeding is like riding a bike or learning to read. There's a process, and within that process are the occasional setbacks until the skill is mastered."
Every mother has a unique anatomy and milk storage capacity, and you don't really know what breastfeeding will be like for you until your baby arrives. Even for second-time mothers, nursing can be different because the baby is different.
Formula is not the same as breast milk
There's a reason why breast milk is often times referred to as "liquid gold."
"Breast milk truly is designer milk," says Norma Escobar, the chair-elect for the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. "Science is still discovering the amazing properties found in breast milk. It is a living fluid that is dynamic, changing from morning to night, changing according to the age of the baby and adapting to the environmental exposures the mother or child may have encountered."
Davis adds that a lot of new mums are unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding, which don't only extend to the baby. She says it can also help the mother by lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
You're going to breastfeed a lot
While every baby is different, expect to be breastfeeding often. Escobar says that while scheduled feedings may work for some infants, others may need to feed more frequently.
Depending on the mum's storage capacity, some babies will feed less often than others because they're able to get more milk in one sitting.
"Babies nurse when hungry or thirsty, but they also nurse when they are hot, cold, lonely, sleepy, in pain or overwhelmed," Escobar says. "So just like we don't schedule cuddling, we should freely breastfeed whenever baby needs us."
There are no 'rules'
What works for one mother may not work for you and vice versa.
"Breastfeeding is a relationship and as such the 'rules' may be different from family to family," Escobar says. "I do encourage parents to feed early and often, in the first hour after birth is ideal, trust their instincts, read their baby and not the clock and call an IBCLC if they have any questions."
Davis says some of the problems with breastfeeding education is that it has the tendency to impose too many rules and although there are guidelines one should follow, they're not hard and fast.
Education - it's OK to ask for help
Even if you read all the books and watch all the YouTube videos, it's still really hard to fully understand what breastfeeding will look like for you.
Davis recalls desperately seeking out help when her fourth son arrived because she was struggling with "latching him" and had she not found a lactation consultant she says she would've failed.
"It's imperative for mothers to find their support network both in person and online," Davis says. "It's also imperative for the family members and friends to receive support and education so they are aware of challenges and barriers so they can be equipped and prepared to be the cheerleaders when times are difficult and the mother becomes discouraged."
Escobar recommends finding a group of nursing parents nearby or a and informed peer-peer support such as "La Leche League, ROSE (Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere) or Breastfeeding USA."
Experts recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant to help you on your nursing journey.