Breastfeeding may be one of the most natural things in the world, but it does not always come that naturally.
When you’re pregnant in the U.S. there are over a dozen prenatal appointments and so much attention on your growing belly, however, there is barely a mention of what happens after the baby arrives.
Where is the education on breastfeeding? Who tells us what postpartum is like? The unknown can lead to isolation, depression, anxiety, and giving up on breastfeeding. Sure, you may elect to take a breastfeeding class during pregnancy or have learned bits and pieces about it from girlfriends, but there is SO much that no one ever tells you about breastfeeding. And you only find out when you’re ACTUALLY breastfeeding – when you are already overwhelmed with the birth of your child.
Well, mama. If our doctors aren’t going to do it, then WE (collectively as mothers) need to do it. We can create change. We can shine the light on breastfeeding challenges, and life postpartum, and be the support we so desperately need for each other. Remember, motherhood is not a competition, it is a community! Let’s normalize talking candidly about what our amazing bodies goes through, because it is so hard being a new mom and we should share our breastfeeding experiences.
The more we talk about our breastfeeding journeys, our struggles, and our challenges, the more women will feel secure, comfortable, and encouraged that what they are going through is normal.
We’ve got your back, mama to make sure you’re as clued up as possible, here are 8 things they don’t tell you about breastfeeding!
1. Your milk doesn’t magically appear when your baby does
Forget what you’ve seen in movies or TV shows where the baby is born (always after a straightforward labor where the woman’s water breaks in a perfect gush and she IMMEDIATELY starts contracting – please. When does that ever happen in real life?!) and the mom’s breasts start producing gallons of milk, like, right away. It really doesn’t happen like that. If you choose to breastfeed, then putting your baby to your breast right after birth is the done thing. But, there’s no actual milk for them yet. Instead, what they’ll get is colostrum, a thick, yellow substance that’s easy to digest as has everything they need for those first few days. You only produce teeny tiny amounts – because that’s all they need for their itty bitty tummies. This also allows your baby to practice feeding and latching before your actual milk arrives a few days after you give birth. You’ll know because your Boobies will suddenly look and feel very big and swollen. Milk time!
2. When your baby drinks more milk, you make more milk
Ever hear of cluster feeding? This happens usually in the first few weeks of your baby being born. And it’s when your little bundle just wants to feed All. The. Dang. Time. You’ll go through a mammoth nursing session...hours seem to pass... and just when you think you’re done, your baby starts fussing for more. This is cluster feeding, and it can be a real breastfeeding struggle. But one of the reasons experts believe cluster feeding is so necessary is because it’s your baby’s way of telling your body it wants more milk. And when your boobies get that message, they start producing more! Those chemical signals get milk production flowing, allowing you to produce more milk and sustain your babe. It’s all about that demand and supply baby!
3. Breastfeeding can drain your energy
Feeding your little one can burn around 500 calories a day mama! Especially in the days before weaning when your milk is 100% of their food source. So, although it means, it can potentially help with weight loss, it can also make you feel pooped! On top of the exhaustion of labor and giving birth, the emotional upheaval, and massive hormone shifts, breastfeeding is usually round the clock in the early days. And once you combine lack of sleep with the additional calorie burning, it can leave you feeling drained of energy. Make sure you drink LOTS of water, eat LOTS of snacks and meals when you can, and accept every bit of help offered.
4. Getting baby to latch isn’t always easy
Finding the proper position to get your baby to latch can be tricky. A good latch is vital for your baby (and for you.) For them, it’s important for getting enough milk, and for you, it’s important for keeping breastfeeding pain-free. They don’t really tell you this, but breastfeeding is a skill. It’s something you and your Boobie monster need to learn together. Very few babies and mamas nail it on the very first feed. It takes time, practice, and a hell of a lot of patience. If you are struggling to get your babe to latch, or if it’s very painful for you but you’re determined to keep feeding then speak to a lactation consultant who will be able to help. And stock up on nipple balm!
5. You will be super hungry and thirsty, too
Thought you were hungry when you were pregnant? Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Because breastfeeding burns a ton of calories daily, you’ll probably find that you are a lot hungrier than normal. And because you lose fluid when nursing, you’ll also feel a bit parched. The best thing you can do is listen to your body. Now is not the time to start a diet or be concerned about snacking and calorie control. You can always try and keep your snacks on the healthy side, but if hunger calls, you answer the phone mama. And remember to keep a bottle of water near you at all times so you can keep hydrated.
6. It can get lonely
Breastfeeding is amazing. But, it can sometimes feel isolating, and a little boring. You’ll spend hours at a time nursing in the early weeks, sometimes with just Netflix and Instagram for company. And you might feel the need to excuse yourself from company to feed if you don’t feel comfortable doing it around people. This potentially means missing out on conversations or outings if you’re feeling a little nervous about nursing in public. But, the more confidence you gain while breastfeeding, the more you will feel empowered to whip a Titty out no matter where you are. You have a superpower, and you should never feel like you can’t let it shine.
7. Pumping can be a challenge
A lot of moms choose to pump – either exclusively, because they’re going back to work, so they can have a night off, or they might not want to nurse but still want their baby to have their milk. But pumping can be just as hard work as breastfeeding exclusively. And you might end up feeling like a cow on a dairy farm! After all, you need to clean and sterilize your equipment, store it safely in the fridge and freezer, and pump as often as your baby would nurse so your supply doesn’t drop. Pumping can also be deceptive. You might pump for an hour and only wind up with an ounce from each side. Where’s the rest of it?! What you pump isn’t conducive to what your breasts actually make. And your baby is far more efficient at draining your boobs than a machine. So don’t be disheartened if what you pump isn’t as much as you hoped. Keep going, you’ve got this.
8. Breastfeeding can feel zen
OK. yes, it can be tiring and hard work. But we’ll never stop shouting its praises because breastfeeding is just wonderful. And one of our favorite things about it is how it can make you feel. Your emotions will be all over the place after giving birth and welcoming your precious babe into the world, and nursing can turn you onto a whole host of loving feelings. That’s because the act of breastfeeding itself has a calming effect on the mama. Your letdown – the release of breastmilk – is stimulated by an increase of the hormone oxytocin. Also known as the love hormone. Oxytocin increases feelings of love, bonding, and attachment and reduces feelings of anxiety and fear. Making you feel loved up and tickled pink. How great is that? The magical world of breastfeeding is a bit of a miracle. And so are you, mama.
Whatever you’ve heard about breastfeeding – the good, the bad, and the ugly – remember that only YOU can decide what’s right for you and your baby. If breastfeeding works for you then amazing. But, if you can’t make it work, then that’s OK too. A fed baby and a happy, supported mama is always best.
Celebrate every step your breastfeeding journey, whether it is hours or years. Because you deserve it!
About the author:
Jessy (she/her) is a mother and advocate for new moms, breastfeeding, breast health, and body positivity. Jessy is the Tits behind Titty City Design, a community, brand, and company created to celebrate new moms and spread self-love and body positivity with a line of
unique gifts for new moms. A portion of Titty City Design’s proceeds goes to help support postpartum people and breast cancer patients.
Find her at tittycitydesign.com
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