Breastfeeding: What I Didn’t Know Until I Did
One of the many amazing things about a woman’s body is that we have the ability to feed and nurture our offspring. Some women opt out of this, which is fine because “fed is best”, y’all!
But some decide to give the good ole breastfeeding a try.
I’m one that did and I was not prepared for what was to come of it, so let me try my best to prepare you, new mom or almost new mommy.
It will hurt.
They say when your breastfeed it’s not supposed to hurt. But what they don’t say is it CAN hurt in the beginning.
Babies come with the natural instinct to suck. But they don’t come with a natural instinct to latch correctly. That’s a very common misconception! Ask any lactation consultant and they’ll say exactly what I’m telling you.
It’s okay if the latch doesn’t work the first few times.
Honest, you are not doing it wrong and there is nothing wrong with your baby. Yes there are such things as lip-ties and tongue-ties but we ALL have them and it’s only on severe cases when it’s too short or too long that it could really hinder their latching. But generally speaking, you and your baby are normal.
When I first tried latching and nursing in the hospital, my baby was not opening their mouth big enough. They were literally just mouthing the nipple and it hurt so bad. I had to talk with the lactation consultant who had helped me with the hamburger squeeze and to have them open their mouth wide by letting them wail for a second before shoving the nipple in their mouth. I remember thinking to myself is this what I’m going to have to do for the rest of the year? And the answer is no.
It took us almost two weeks to get it right. We fought each other going on the boob and opening their mouth wide enough. I had my mom or my husband squeezing my boob into a hamburger while I held their mouth open wide enough for them to latch. And don’t get me started on baby strong neck.
And I was in so much pain. My nipples were raw. I was putting on nipple cream all the time. They were constantly hungry and I wanted to cry.
“Was this normal?” I asked my January baby group and the consensus was resounding “YES”.
So yes, it hurts, but after two or three weeks the pain stopped and we latched wonderfully and things were going so well that I stopped feeling like my nipple was getting sandpapered.
I never heard of clogged ducts or mastitis until I got my first clogged duct. And let me tell you, you thought pregnancy boobs hurt? Well just you wait! (People are always saying that when it comes to parenthood… but this is so true.)
You wake up one morning and, oh? Your baby slept a little longer than before! Hooray! But wait… your boobs are so engorged and there’s pain on the side of one of them… oh and a small lump, you press on it and OUCH!
There’s the clogged duct!
Clogged ducts happen when the milk hasn’t been removed from the breast enough and it just builds up the fat and it gets stuck. This happens when the feeding pattern changes or if you end up wearing a tight bra for a few days. Also happens when you stop breastfeeding cold turkey so here’s a warning now: DO NOT CUT FEEDS ABRUPTLY. Absolutely wean them off boob or pump less and less every day.
Now some people get lucky and they only experience it one or two times during their breastfeeding journey. But if you’re like myself you get it at least once a month or every new sleeping pattern change.
Clogged ducts are really easy to get rid of, all you have to do is nurse/pump/hand express, warm compress, and massage. But it’s so painful and can last up to 36 hours. Don’t panic! But it can turn into and infection and become mastitis.
Possible causes are a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering the breast. It usually occurs within the first three months of breast-feeding.
But it is possible to get it outside of the first three months. The symptoms are: breast pain, swelling, warmth, fever, and chills. The main issue is the fever. I wouldn’t panic until you get the fever with the breast pain!
My clogged ducts lasts anywhere from 24–40 hours since it is first detected. I nurse, hand express in a hot shower, and massage in the hot shower. My poor baby hates it when I have a clogged duct because they have trouble getting all the milk they’re used to on the one boob and get super frustrated (especially if it started out deep away from the nipple).
Some folks swear by the supplement sunflower lecithin — but use at your own risk. It’s a fat melting supplement which is why it helps the clogged ducts but most people use it to lose weight. If you can’t chance to lose any more weight I’d hesitate on using it without a doctor approval. Actually I’d hesitate to use any drugs without a doctor approval.
Teething… biting… pinching…
Ouch. First latches hurts. Clogged ducts hurts. And teething just takes the cake.
Yes, they will bite you. Yes, there is a way you can curb that. It’s called taking the boob away. I’m serious, close up shop for a few minutes. Let your baby know that biting will not bring more milk. They’ll wail a little bit but will calm down some and then you can stick them back on and they’ll go back to nursing like they have been. It’ll probably take a few tries, but be firm. Take the boob away. Sometimes they just can’t help it if their teeth really hurt which is totally understandable and I usually reach for a teether toy to replace my boob from being one. Sometimes they’ll bite because they’re not in the mood to nurse. My baby will let me know in that way! If we’re somewhere too exciting to be put away on the boob? CHOMP. *cue mommy tears*
The pinching… I don’t know how to make that stop. It’s basically a soothing mechanism for the babies when they nurse. They get bored as they get older and they need to do something. I wear long sleeve shirts now and now I’m getting pinched on my face and neck. I’ve given them lovies to hold while nursing, or a blanket, and that never works. If you have any pointers please put them in the comments, I’m covered in tiny red marks and bruises. Seriously, send help.
Losing or gaining weight.
Most people have a real tough time post pregnancy with their bodies. Sometimes the hormones work in your favor and along with breastfeeding you lose a ton of weight! Sometimes it does not work in your favor and combined with the extra eating and breastfeeding you end up gaining more weight.
It’s a tough call to know what will happen when you start breastfeeding. But don’t compare yourself to someone else who is doing it and losing the weight. It’s not your fault. Despite going through similar experiences with being pregnant. We are all not made up of the same hormones.
Breastfeeding makes you HUNGRY. I used to eat a snack bar or peanut butter crackers while nursing my newborn just to keep up with my burning of calories. I think I ate like four snacks and three big meals a day. I’ve slowed down on the eating, but it really affected my weight and I lost more than I should so I’m back to snacking on the regular in between meals!
The “When are you going to stop breastfeeding/pumping?” question.
People have a lot of questions and opinions. This is the question I get asked a lot.
I don’t know, when they’re done? I said I was going to stop when they have teeth but they haven’t been biting and we’ve been doing so well. We’re almost to one year and they’ll be eating a lot more solids and drinking milk and water more throughout the day, they will wean themselves off. I’m not worried. If I have to nurse until 2, then so be it.
“But don’t you think it’s weird to have a 2 year old nurse?”
Sure it’s funny to see a bigger baby sitting on someone’s lap and nursing, but that’s just what they are A BIG BABY. They’re not in elementary school. The AAP recommend nursing until the age of 5! So don’t come at me with this “they’re too old to nurse” shenanigans. Let us do our own thing. Let us feed our children the way we want.
I’m most likely going to do a weaning after they turn one just for my mental health. As stated above, I’m getting pinched so much that it’s really gotten me feeling frustrated and I don’t want them to associate our bonding time with frustration. I’m so proud of getting this far on our journey. Most moms stop breastfeeding 5–10 months in due to natural drying up or mental health. I’m lucky to be able to still have enough to keep my baby going.
I want to also be there for them when they need the comfort. If they need to nurse to go to bed or wake up in the morning instead of having cow milk, I’ll be there. I’m there until they don’t need me anymore. And that’s how I am going to end our breastfeeding journey.
You don’t have to nurse/pump if you don’t want to.
Here’s the thing. Some people are like super aggressive about breastfeeding.
The “breast is best” mantra some breastfeeding fanatics use is a real mood-killer. Yes, but sometimes the latch just doesn’t happen and you’ll need to pump and bottle feed. That’s still breastfeeding! Like you’re still feeding the baby breastmilk! Don’t discount yourself if you end up having to pump. Heck that’s more work than popping the baby on the boob. I had to pump when I went back to work for three months before becoming a stay-at-home-mom and it SUCKED. Now imagine doing that every 2.5–3 hours, every single day!
All you pumping moms are rockstars!
But here’s the thing… if you’re not feeling it after a few months… it’s okay to stop. Formulas are so rich in nutrients they’re just like breastmilk. Listen, the mantra is and will always be “FED IS BEST”.
Fed is best. Say it with me, “Fed is best.” Do not feel discouraged, like a failure, or any other down feelings. You are doing what is best for you as a MOM and keeping your baby alive just as well with formula. There is NOTHING wrong with you putting your mental or physical health in check.
I hope I helped prepare you for your breastfeeding journey! Good luck!
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