10 Things Nobody Told Me About Breastfeeding

10 Things Nobody Told Me About Breastfeeding

Very useful tips for mums-to-be and very funny story for mums who have gone through it!

By Corrie Pikul of Babble

I was one of the last of my friends to have a baby, so I felt like I'd heard everything there was to hear about new motherhood, and specifically, breastfeeding. I'd been warned about mastitis, thrush, forceful letdowns that cause infants to startle and sputter, and the frustrating inability to produce enough milk. On top of that, in my third trimester, my husband and I took an actual breastfeeding class and I perused whole books about nursing. Still, despite everything I thought I knew about this "womanly art," I felt woefully unprepared when my son was born. What I didn't realize -- what no one made clear -- is that even when breastfeeding goes well, many aspects of it feel wrong. The uncensored truth wouldn't have dissuaded me from breastfeeding my baby (the benefits are just too compelling), but it would have helped me cope with the seemingly endless barrage of challenges.

Here's what I wish I'd known:
1. It's relentless.
Newborns need to eat around 10 to 12 times a day, which meant I was nursing around the clock. And now, even if my baby sleeps for four hours, my engorged or leaking breasts (or my obsessive fear of a decreasing milk supply) will wake me up after two or three. On the nights when my baby takes a long time to soothe back to sleep after eating, I feel like I barely have time for a catnap.

2. It's messy.
It took me a little while to figure out that the mysterious Jackson Pollock splotches that were suddenly all over our wooden floors were coming from me. I was also slow to realize that my leaking breasts, not my son's leaking diapers, were responsible for wet patches I found on his onesie after each feeding. Fortunately, I'd purchased a box of absorbent bra pads to wear when I went back to work, so I broke open the box a few months early. Which brings me to my next point...
3. It's expensive.
True, the milk doesn't cost anything, but everything else adds up: those sessions with a lactation consultant, the new nursing wardrobe of peep-teat bras and drop-front dresses, the pump (that alone can cost $400) -- not to mention the medicine cabinets full of I'll-try-anything comfort measures like lanolin emollient, gel pads, nipple shields, breast shells, protective pads and ibuprofen. I already had a hand-me-down breast pump (sharing is not recommended by professionals, by the way), and I still spent over $500 on nursing-related gear and services that first month.
4. It's not instinctive!
Tigers, pigs and cats don't need lactation consultants. But while hapless human babies come out of the womb knowing how to suck, they don't necessarily how to suck efficiently enough to gain weight, or in a way that doesn't cause their poor mothers to curse and curl their toes in pain. While I was pretty proactive in seeking information before giving birth, I still believed that breastfeeding would come somewhat naturally to my baby and me. When things didn't work out, I waited longer than I should have before seeking professional help.
5. Nor is it guaranteed to burn off the baby weight.
I'd gotten it into my head that breastfeeding is as effective at helping the pounds melt off as, say, Weight Watchers (thank you, Sex and the City). But while experts say nursing helps burn 300 to 500 extra calories a day, I've found that it also makes me desperately hungry. I can't resist snacking almost every time my baby does, and as a result, I've actually gained some of the weight I lost after coming home from the hospital.
6. It can turn you into a couch potato.
This is literally true when babies hit their growth spurts. Mine went through one after about three weeks, and another at six weeks, and for a few days each time, he wanted to eat just about every hour. I felt like I barely had time to walk to the bathroom, never mind to take him for an invigorating walk. During these periods, I recommend downloading a couple of e-books, queuing up a season of Friday Night Lights and setting up a command center among the couch cushions.
7. Or an exhibitionist.
I'm the kind of person who likes to wear a bathrobe to walk the thirty or so steps from my shower to my bedroom closet -- or I used to be. But when even the light touch of cotton irritated my shredded nipples and I found myself preparing for another feeding before I'd even had a chance to get dressed after the last one, it seemed easier just to walk around topless. All modesty went completely out the window after I was advised to heal my open wounds by holding shot glasses full of salt water on my nipples (breastfeeding burlesque!).
8. You will be surprised to find...
...your milk is a mild laxative. I started noticing this on day one of breastfeeding. Yes, tiny babies who are breast-fed usually poop immediately after -- or while -- they're eating. The description on a package of Lanisoh wipes confirmed this for me, as did several other websites. While this laxative effect makes constipation a non-issue, it also means it's best to wait until after mealtime to change the diaper.
9. It will probably make you cry. 
This is how my friends described breastfeeding before I gave birth: "It can hurt." After I joined their ranks: "It hurts like a mother&*^%#@!" "It feels like drawers slamming repeatedly on your nipples." "When I pumped, the milk would be too bloody for me to even think of giving it to him." "Thinking about breastfeeding her would cause me to shake in terror." Not everyone suffers like this, but I've never met a new mom who didn't experience major discomfort while mastering the all-important latch and dealing with her stretching nipples. When all the lactation literature says that pain means you're doing something wrong, it'd be reassuring to hear that everybody hurts -- to various degrees -- in the beginning.
10. It will definitely make you weep -- in the best possible way.
"Mommy, you're feeding her from the heart." This is what a friend's toddler said after watching his mom breastfeed his baby sister. The little dude was wise beyond his years. During more than one feeding, I've been moved to tears by the sight of my sweet baby nursing blissfully away. Maybe it's my post-partum hormones. Maybe it's the fact that it's 3 a.m. and I am very, very tired. But, I maintain that this exquisite intimacy must be one of the reasons why new mothers ignore, overcome and forget about the pain, inconvenience, embarrassment, expense... And focus on the wonder of it, instead.



Emma Chrysoulis on 09 October 2012 15:43
In the first few months it feels like all you do is sit down to feed and everything else goes out the window. Oh and your so focused on making sure your baby is feeding well- you often forget to eat meals yourself!


Niki Kahukiwa on 09 October 2012 15:41
I wish I had of stuck with it now but at the time I struggled and was scared of getting post natal depression as I spent too much time worrying about all the bad things associated especially being embarrased :/


on 09 October 2012 18:54
And that it is one of the most rewarding feelings to know you are providing everything your baby needs in one go: nourishment, comfort, closeness, security, and love.


Julie-Anne Llewell-West on 09 October 2012 16:48
How the emotions can range thru a feed, even after 3 months I still haave days where I cry at how beautiful it is to provide for our baby girl this way, then how peaceful she looks as she nods off, or I get fits of the giggles sometimes when she's mucking around & smiles at me when I ask what shes doing! All within one feed some days! But I love it all :)


Caroline Faulkner on 09 October 2012 16:39
That after 6 months and finally getting it right i.e 'without pain' that your beautiful baby will develop teeth to test out on your nipples!!


Kym Moore on 09 October 2012 16:16
Its important that new mums know that baby will cluster feed, that it takes a while for your milk to come in. That disposable breastpads are a life and clothing saver in the beginning and that lanolin will be your friend - use it immediately after each feed.


Samala Franklyn on 09 October 2012 16:09
I didnt know that your boobs would go from real hard to soft, when they went soft I thought I wasn't making enough milk and I didnt have anyone around me to tell me what on earth I was doing. I also didn't know and wasn't told that you could can and I did end up with such a big sore split on the side of my nipple that now I have a big scar. I also dont think there is enough information and support on stopping breastfeeding... I was still demand feeding my daughter every two hours and sometimes less when she was 1 1/2 years old. she was lactose intolerant so couldnt put her on normal milk and the alternative milk powder that was lactose free cost way too much. So when I finally did try and stop I stopped cold turkey, angry little girl for one night and very sore boobs for me for two weeks.


Laura Howard on 09 October 2012 16:08
That it is okay to bottle feed if your baby can't get enough nutrients from you despite whatever you have tried. There still seems to be a stigma around this, much more so than breastfeeding.


Tania Riddell on 09 October 2012 15:58
It is soo hard in the beginning, but later on its actually easier than bottle feeding (no rushing around getting bottles etc ready!)


Kate Fairhurst on 09 October 2012 15:53
I agree with all of the above, but I also found it very peaceful and relaxing for baby and myself after I had learnt to accept the above points. Quite often it was the only time during the day that I could relax, was when I was feeding, that is when I found I did not mind feeding 20 times a day :)


Aimee Padman on 09 October 2012 15:53
I wish someone had told me it's next to impossible to feed a baby with a complex posterior tongue tie! Now that we've got that sussed, DD is feeding like a champ!


Sarah Hetherington on 09 October 2012 15:49
When my daughter was first born she had a feeding tube in. I felt like I never had a break from having something on my breasts as I would feed her every 3 hours/ish and top her up with expressed milk in her feeding tube. So after eachfeed I would pump milk for her next feed (to put in her feeding tube) which took about an hour to feed her and another hour to pump both sides. I would get a tiny break and have to do it all again (even in the middle of the night). Was glad when that was over :) Still enjoyed breastfeeding though


Coralie Glover on 09 October 2012 15:49
That the first two weeks hurt! after that it was beautiful. I breastfed for 17mths but yea the first couple of weeks sure are tough!


Keryn Young on 09 October 2012 15:43
What I wish someone told me was that you can get thrush on your nipples, it isnt surpose to be that sore!!!


Vikki Ooink on 10 October 2012 11:59
It isn't easy to give up, although baby eventually grows out of it, and it makes it difficult when baby prefers once side more than the other. But perserverance allowed me to get past the belief that it couldnt be done.


Vikki Ooink on 10 October 2012 11:59
It isn't easy to give up, although baby eventually grows out of it, and it makes it difficult when baby prefers once side more than the other. But perserverance allowed me to get past the belief that it couldnt be done.


Tonya Bristow on 10 October 2012 09:47
How much it hurts to begin with, like rubbing your nipples with sandpaper for at least a week!


Tonya Bristow on 10 October 2012 09:45
How much it hurts in the beginning, even when you are doing it right. It is so painful for at least a week that you think about giving up but it does get better!


Luci Gravatt on 10 October 2012 09:08
just after you have sat down and gotten started, the two year old will go mysteriously quiet.....


Michelle West on 09 October 2012 21:25
That when they are so full they hurt and leak so much. We put like a bed wetting sheet on the bed as I would wake up with the bed soaked.


Aimee Findon on 09 October 2012 21:00
Reading this brought back all the memories of an horrific time - it still makes my toes curl! Something everyone must read in preparation.


Haley Mclaughlin on 09 October 2012 20:45
It's addictive for mum aswell as bubs.


Bella Hill on 09 October 2012 20:22
It is hard at the beginning but it becomes better eventually, just need to be confident and calm if things go out of control. Being relaxed helpes me to understand what actually is happening and what are the ways to deal with it. And the last one I'd say enjoy every moment-literally! Its hard when nipples are so damn sore and your baby wants to be on them 24/7 but when I tried to enjoy it seemed to help better than when I was upset with him to be soooooooooooo hungry!


Lorena Pollock on 09 October 2012 19:38
How hard it is to give up breastfeeding, and finding information to do it in a safe way and what to watch out for.

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