Your Boobs Will Never be The Same Again...
That’s it. I have to get something off my chest (no pun intended).
I have a conspiracy theory and it has to do with breast-feeding. And nearly every mom I have spoken to agrees with me on some level or another – so I think its’ time to share.
I think the breast-feeding community does a great job informing mothers-to-be about the health benefits of nursing, the wonderful bonding that takes place between mom and baby, and how amazing the female body is at providing nourishment for our offspring. And I am really very grateful for all of that knowledge.
But there are a numbers of details that have been conveniently left out of those lactation classes and pamphlets, because I believe, there is fear that if women knew the truth about how hard breast-feeding is, they’d be turning to the bottle in a heartbeat. The baby bottle, that is. And perhaps the beer, wine, and vodka bottle too.
Full disclosure - I breast-fed my daughter exclusively for about 6 months and part-time until she was about 9-months-old. I cried the last time I nursed her.
And I cried many, many times about nursing her over the course of those 9 months. I felt totally unprepared for what a commitment this part of mommy-hood is. Breast-feeding kicked my ass. And because I don’t want anyone else to cry over spilled breast milk, here are some of the things I wish someone told me:
1) Those first couple months are brutal.
B-R-U-T-A-L. You will feel like you are always breast-feeding. You will be lucky to get more than a few hours of sleep at a time, because after you get into a breast-feeding schedule, even if baby randomly sleeps through the night – your boobs will sure as hell wake you up with a puddle of milk or the pain of engorgement. Or both.
2) Newborns do a little something called cluster feeding.
What’s that you ask? It’s a form of maternal torture. It is when babies cram in a number of feedings, in a very small window of time – with sometimes only 30-45 minutes between feedings. Usually it’s in the evening or in the middle of the night. It’s totally normal. And it will test every bit of patience a new mom has, make your nipples bleed, and it will very likely make you cry. But it will pass.
3) Nipple confusion-shmipple confusion.
In my very informative lactation class they drove home the importance of breast-only feedings in the first month or so. The reason being, if an artificial nipple is introduced, baby might learn how to suck from the fake nipple, and turn down the breast. But they didn’t discuss the fact that the reverse can be true too, and that baby then might only accept the breast, and refuse the bottle – therefore skipping feedings and making mom even more stressed about leaving the house to do very luxurious things like grocery shop, or go to the doctor.
4) Aw…that’s nice, someone offered to watch the baby so you can go out for a bit. Lovely. Start thinking about a place to pump while you are out. If you are exclusively breast-feeding, you and the baby are tethered together by that feeding schedule. If you skip a feeding you risk, decreasing your milk supply, causing mastitis, or looking like a stripper with DDD breasts.
5) Speaking of those DDD breasts. That rapid expansion can cause really ugly stretch marks. And when they you stop nursing, your breast go back to their pre-baby size, with stretched out skin – and they probably will look like deflated balloons. Your boobs will never look the same again. It’s sad. So sad.
6) Be mindful of either you or baby favoring one side or the other when breast-feeding. I am not sure exactly how it happened, but at one point, one breast produced about 3 times as much milk as the other. And I would want to relieve it, so I would pump or nurse more on that side, only making the problem worse. Finally I said enough was enough, and gave the girls equal time, and ended up with mastitis in the over-achieving boob. And what’s the best remedy for that? Sometimes antibiotics and…yep…more breast-feeding to drain the breast. And the problem starts all over again.
7) If you plan to work outside of the home, start stocking up milk early, which can be tricky because if you add in a pumping session during the day to accumulate milk, your body gets used to it. But you have to start storing up or you will have milk-supply anxiety, along with all of the other anxiety you will have when you return to work.
8) Speaking of returning to work…here is a wake-up call – the world is not going to stop because you are pumping. It would be so nice if it did, but it won’t. Meetings will be scheduled, deadlines will be set, customers will come in, and phone calls will need to be answered – even if you need to pump. And you will likely do what you need to do professionally, while worrying that two huge wet-stains will be appearing on your shirt any second. Every day that you are breast-feeding and working outside of the home will be fraught with time management problems that have no solutions. But the reality is, sometimes the boobs need to bring home the bacon as well as the milk, so do the best you can without needing an anti-anxiety medication.
And this is where I need to get up on my soapbox for a bit.
Have you ever been on Space Mountain in Disney World? It’s a rollercoaster in the dark. The ride is made much wilder because you can’t anticipate where you’re going to be swept off to next. If you rode that same rollercoaster in the light, it wouldn’t be half as scary.
And that’s my point.
Even if someone could tell a mother-to-be every last thing there was to know about that transition into motherhood, it will still be a very wild-ride, one with many moments of fear and doubt and guilt and anxiety. So let’s not add to it by keeping moms in the dark.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to know where my rollercoaster is headed so I can at least figure out the best way to brace myself.