In my breastfeeding journey, I have learned a few things. Here are the top five things no one told me about breastfeeding:
1) Breastfeeding is Hard
I was one of those career focused pregnant moms who never took time to consider the details of breastfeeding.
It’s “natural” so it must be intuitive, right? WRONG. The only intuitive breastfeeding notion I had was to allow my newborn to immediately nurse. Thankfully, he knew how to latch and nursed well.
But, guess what, not all babies latch easily and not all babies eat well. Some newborns fall asleep while nursing and have weight gain issues. Some don’t latch well and you end up with cracked, bleeding, sore nipples and a newborn struggling to get enough milk.
Still some babies never figure out their latch and prefer a bottle. The mothers of those newborns either choose formula or pump and bottle feed. Keeping in mind that bottle feeding breastmilk has its own challenges. Keeping a pumping schedule is highly demanding and can be difficult to maintain long term.
Not only can the process of breastfeeding be difficult, but keeping your supply up can be hard. You have to eat enough calories throughout the day and drink more water than you thought humanly possible. If that doesn’t work, some women “power pump” to help boost their supply, which makes your body believe breast milk demand is higher so it needs to supply more milk.
2) You Might Get Mastitis
I’ll never forget sitting in my living room chair, nursing my three day old, and realizing that my milk came in. I texted my girlfriend who was a breastfeeding veteran. I said, “I’m so excited! My milk came in! My breasts feel hard and like they’re on fire. Is that normal?” Her response, “You ever heard of mastitis? Don’t get it.”
Well, after a quick Google search symptom checking my 103 degree fever, chills, body aches, and painful breasts, I knew I had mastitis. It’s caused by clogged breast ducts and usually requires antibiotics to remedy. Essentially, you have the flu except your breast ducts are clogged, painful, and you’d rather cut them off. Fortunately, not everyone is graced with the gift of mastitis, but beware that it is given to a select few of us.
There are some helpful tips for deterring the mastitis gift. They include not wearing tight bras and not getting engorged. Also, if you notice a duct clog, massage and nurse or massage and pump, and take sunflower lecithin on the regular.
3) Your Nipples Will Never Look the Same
In my career-minded oblivion I assumed my body parts would eventually pop back into place where they previously resided. Most everything did . . . except my nipples.
While breastfeeding my newborn in the hospital I noticed that, once he unlatched, my nipples looked like I just walked out of a deep freezer. My husband was a bit stunned and quickly asked the nurse, “Those will go back to normal once she’s done nursing right?” We both expectedly waited during the pause thinking she was going to say, “Yes, of course!” Well, instead she nonchalantly said, “Nope, probably not.”
Unfortunately, she was right.
So if you don’t wear them already, go ahead and get yourself some lined or padded bras for after nursing. Otherwise, you’re going to chronically look like you can cut glass with your boobs.
4) The Liquid Gold
Breastfeeding mothers affectionately refer to breast milk as liquid gold. It’s because it is a hard earned, fascinating, multi-purpose, and almost miracle liquid.
Breastmilk has antibodies in it, and those antibodies change to match the baby’s needs. WHAAAAAAATTT?! Crazy, right?! So if your baby has a cold and nurses, it signals the mother’s body to make the needed antibody to fight the cold virus and includes that antibody in the breastmilk.
Because of those fabulous antibodies, breastmilk can also be used on different areas of the body to heal it. Baby with diaper rash? Put breastmilk on it. Sore, cracked nipples? Put breast milk on it. Eye irritation from clogged duct? Put breastmilk on it.
Breastfeeding mommas put that liquid gold on everything. It is essentially the equivalent of Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
5) You Might Miss It
So after all the hard work, tears, and pain of breastfeeding, pumping, and freezing milk I found myself crying when I decided to wean my baby. I thought I would gladly stop being a personal food truck, but when the time came, I found myself sobbing.
I cried because it really is an incredible bonding experience with your child and one that ends quicker than you expect. I cried because weaning made me feel like my baby was suddenly going to stop being bonded with me, that it meant he was suddenly going to stop needing me, and that he’d instantly turn into a self-sufficient child. None of that was true, but it reaffirmed that all the hard work was absolutely worth it.