Breastfeeding is serious business for a new mommy. I wanted to give up many times. It’s hard and time consuming and stressful, and makes you feel like a dairy cow. There are things doctors, nurses, birthing classes, and lactation consultants won’t tell you, it’s one of the hardest things that a new mom can do.
1. Getting a good latch is hard for some moms.
Right out of the gate E seemed to latch well. And that all stopped, on day 3 she seemed to have a vendetta for my nipples. No form of lanolin or caressing seemed to heal the cracked nipples. I would literally tear up when I heard her cry for food, because I knew it meant that I would have to attempt a latch on one of my bloody cracked nipples. I wanted nothing more than to give up and just feed formula and be done with bfing. With a good support system (husband, mom, and mother in law) I stuck to it. It actually helps to continue feeding on the damaged side because milk has ‘natural healing properties’. It also brings blood to your nipples and that helps the healing process.
2. Milk supply can be an issue
Some mothers have a full milk supply come in and never have an issue with a low supply or no supply. A low/no supply can be caused by a bad latch, your baby being tongue tied, breast surgery, early birth, c-section, nipple pain, or a hormonal disorder. I was induced at 39 weeks which causing my milk from coming in fully for about a week after E’s birth. She was not getting enough milk by day 4 that I had to supplement with formula for about a week. I was very upset that my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing. I was a failure at something that every mother is supposed to be built to do and I wanted to do. At E’s 2 week checkup I was relieved to find that nursing was doing some good as she was gaining weight and we could return to exclusively bfing.
3. You are a leaky mess (at first)
As I stood there post shower brushing my teeth I felt something warm drop on my foot. I just knew I had dried off so what was it? Milk was dripping down from under my towel and hitting the floor. It was reassuring that my supply had come in but wasn’t I wasting this precious gold?? This is something you can’t really train your body to understand. Your breasts don’t know that you are feeding a single baby and not twins. So as the letdown (that tingly feeling) occurs milk will leak from the opposite side. When I went too long between feedings I would become engorged and my breasts would get hard and were painful to touch. When this happened I would often leak, this is where nursing pads and breast pumps came in handy. No one wants to stand in line at the store with a wet circle around her nipples. Past probably the 4 month mark you don’t leak as much, your body works it out. The only time I really leak now is when I only feed once at night and sleep for 6 or 8 hours between feedings. While I nurse on the first side the second may leak. *Helpful tip* use your forearm to put pressure on the side opposite you are feeding on.
4. As a bfer you are the only one who can feed the baby.
No one is going to wake up with your crying bundle of joy for you and feed her (unless you pump, which is another whole story). And even if you do pump, you are often discouraged to introduce a bottle until your breastfeeding routine is established between 6 and 8 weeks. This was probably one of the most annoying things in the world to me. My husband would often get up to her crying, change her and pass her off to me, falling back asleep in minutes. He was sound asleep and I was trapped in the glider feeding her for 45 minutes or an hour. We introduced a bottle a little sooner than recommended so I could get some sleep and all turned out fine. Don’t worry though, as time goes on your baby will get more efficient at the age of 5 months it started taking her 10 to 15 min max to feed, and I am free again!
5. You will feel like a woman in menopause.
I have had the worst hot flashes of my life. You go from being freezing cold to sweating bullets in a matter of minutes. The first hot flash that happened to me I thought I had the flu, I was convinced I had a fever of 100+ degrees. Literally I was convinced this was the end and just put me out of my misery. It passed and I lived. It happens because of low estrogen levels, prolactin a hormone used to support breastfeeding, competes with estrogen and typically wins. The good news about this is that a lack of estrogen equals minimal or no menstrual cycle for the duration of bfing. This doesn’t happen for everyone though, I started my period around 4 months of age, BUT I no longer had hot flashes so I appreciated the trade off!
6. Nursing in public can be awkward.
In theory I never wanted to have to nurse in public. Ever. Nursing in the car was similar to nursing at home because I didn’t have to worry about people staring me down if I parked far enough away from the entrances. Then at a doctor’s visit I had to nurse, ok I could do that, it was a clinical environment and my pediatrician was very pro-bfing. I pulled out an oversized blanket and set to work. No one stared; no one even seemed to give me a second look. Ok I thought I’ve got this. Then my hubbie insisted on a dinner date, and I was hesitant the baby hadn’t been fed in a few hours and eating a dinner out could take hours. We went out and as per my worst fears, she was hungry during dinner. So there I am in the middle of a restaurant with a screaming baby, and it happened I just pulled a blanket up over my shoulder whipped out a boob and nursed her into a happy bliss! It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and people were not staring! Oh happy day! Hubs reassured me no one cared or noticed and got me through that first awkward nursing in public episode. Now I feel like I can do it like a pro. I no longer need to throw a blanket over my shoulder we have a system figured out where she covers my exposed skin with her body on the bottom and my top covers the top half. After a point you will figure out what works for you.
7. Weaning can lead to depression
I experienced this slightly when I regained my period, and have read about a few mommies that have gone through this severely. PPD was bad enough and now I might have to deal with this. I am kinda terrified honestly, I hate the feeling of depression (as most people do) and I don’t want to have to go through this again. There is obviously a link to the hormones that your body produces during lactation (prolactin) and suppresses (estrogen). When weaning it reverses and causes an imbalance just like when you gave birth; which can cause a bout of depression. There is not a lot of research on this phenomenon, as doctors are just now beginning to accept it as a real possibility. I just want to put it out there because this is one of those things that really no one talks about, and I want you to be fully aware of what you’re getting into.
8. It makes you all cuddly inside
Along with all the unlikable things about breast feeding I have to mention the overwhelming good thing. It makes you warm and fuzzy and oh so snuggly. The ability to be able to feed your baby something nutritious and filling from your own body; something you made yourself is awesome. Not just that but the snuggles E gave during feedings when she would fall asleep skin to skin with her arm lapped over her head and my breast just made it worth all the pain and crying. There are times when she was having a feeding and she pulls back and looks up at me with a huge smile on her face and I know I am doing something right! Even now during a feeding no matter how exhausted I am, I feel so happy and warm inside, it really made all our struggles worth it.