10 things no one tells you about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is beautiful and awful, controversial and natural. It gets a bit of attention in that early postpartum phase, more than most other aspects of postpartum life, and even having had one kid already I felt like I had to learn and re-learn so much with baby #2. While this is all still fresh, I wanted to share and bring awareness to the things no one tells you about breastfeeding.
1. It hurts. It hurts when your milk comes in, it hurts when baby is first latching because your nipples aren't used to it, and it hurts if they latch wrong. I feel like every lactation consultant and nurse kept repeating "if it hurts you're doing it wrong" but in the beginning...it hurt...and they all checked and said I was doing it right! During those first late night feedings crying every time baby latched I finally read an article that said "it takes 7-10 days for you nipples to get used to feeding and then, if you're latching correctly, things should stop hurting". That really got me through that first week, and, it turns out it was exactly right. By day 8 things calmed down and I kinda got the hang of things.
2. You, likely, won't lose weight. I know, such a bummer. For some reason we've been taught to think that breastfeeding makes you drop the baby weight when, for most women, it doesn't! In fact, we retain the weight or even gain as our bodies work to ensure we can provide nutrition for our growing babies. It's annoying but...it's temporary. Even though you're not losing weight, don't throw in the towel on fitness/nutrition. You can still keep those habits, maintain muscle mass and strength, build endurance, etc. which are HUGE.
3. It requires a lot of gear! Pumps, pump bottles, storage bags, nipple ointment, shields (more on this in #4), breast pads, nursing bras, nursing tanks, nursing friendly clothes, etc! And, having high quality breastfeeding supplies is so important! There's nothing worse than a crappy pump so make sure you do your research and get quality items to make things easier. I loved my medela tanks, spectra pump, and lansinoh soothie pads!
4. Nipple shields. I've discovered people have either never heard of them or thought they were for people who couldn't handle the pain or had a bad latch and destroyed their nipples. Not the case! Some people, like myself, have small boobs and flat nipples which cause baby to become infuriated as they try to latch. My baby girl would get so upset shaking her head around trying to find something to latch we'd both just end up in a crying fit. So, we had to use a nipple shield every single feeding so she could find something to grab onto. It's incredibly annoying and inconvenient but it worked. On a side note: Most people don't use shields correctly. You actually have to roll it halfway inside out and then put it on so it sort of suctions said flat nipple up into it and actually stays put. There are youtube videos on it.
5. You'll feel you need to justify your feeding choices. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not and for how long is all 100% your business but you still somehow end up feeling guilty about it at some point. Everyone's circumstances are different, so it makes sense that feeding would be too. Some have to pump more or exclusively, some people have huge supplies and some have barely enough to get by, some can't breastfeed, some want to breastfeed for years while others only weeks. I'd love to just say don't stress it, but, you will. Just know that we've all been there and ultimately you've gotta just choose whatever is right for you.
6. Covers are dumb. My first baby refused to breastfeed after the first week because I ended up with a postpartum uterine infection that put me in the hospital so I was pumping and dumping due to the antibiotics, and used formula an bottles until I was well again. That being said, I didn't really have the experience of needing to breastfeed in public until baby 2. I attempted to feed her under a cover once, not because I was concerned about covering up for myself, but because I was worried about other people being offended. It was hot, uncomfortable, and baby and I hated it. Halfway through the feed I ripped it off. I decided then and there I would do what felt best for me which was to just feed my baby! I typically wore a light t-shirt over a nursing tank so I could just pull up the shirt, drop the top of the tank, and I was mostly covered. You do you and don't worry about other people's comfort, just feed that baby.
7. Milk smell/milk sweat. I swear milk seeps from your pores when you're breastfeeding. I felt like I constantly smelled of milk and there was nothing I could do about it. Even after just showering I could still smell it. It seemed I was the only one who noticed the smell but putting on a nice smelling body lotion helped.
8. When you stop it can totally mess you up! Especially if you go too quickly. I have a pretty weak supply so my body stops making milk as soon as it gets any signal it's not needed. I was planning for engorgement and discomfort and had been told to watch for signs of mastitis which I'd had before so I felt ready. No one really talks much about weaning, how to do it, and the potential side effects!
I dropped one feeding the first day, two the next, three the next, and basically quit in 6 days. I never got engorged, didn't have mastitis, and felt pretty good at first so I just dove in. That's when I got hit with nausea, fatigue, depression, and overwhelming emotions fueled by the hormonal changes. I wasn't anticipating any of these side effects!
Even if you have a small supply, take your time dropping feedings slowly over sevearl weeks so your body can adjust.
9. You'll miss it even though you'll love the freedom. I feel like switching to bottles and formula gives you something back, not that anything was taken in the first place. Breastfeeding is time consuming and hard because you're the only one who can do it. I never had enough milk I could pump extra to save and have someone help with feedings. Even if I did, I'd still have to take time to pump so I didn't get over full. It makes you feel like a slave to your milk! You only have 3-4 hours before something has to be done! When you stop breastfeeding that schedule goes away, you can get more help, and it's amazing! But...you'll miss that quiet snuggle time with baby. I try to make sure feedings are still snuggly, I put down distractions, and I take those moments to just chill with my cute little one which helps me to not miss it so much.
10. Things are changing. Breastfeeding is being normalized and people are excited about it. I had several occasions where I was feeding in public and women approached me to thank me for openly feeding, helping to show that it is a normal part of life, and doing my thing. I've also not had a single person condem me for formula feeding as I've supplemented or weaned which was really refreshing too. I haven't felt judged whether I was breastfeeding or formula feeding and I definitely didn't feel that way with my first. That's kind of an incredible thing and I'm really grateful that's the direction things are going.