Coming from a pro-breastfeeding family, the concept of breastfeeding was nothing new to me. I watched my mother nurse my siblings, my sister nurse my niece and nephew, my aunt and cousin nurse their children, etc. They made it look so easy and simple!
So when I got pregnant, breastfeeding was the one topic I didn’t do much research on. Why would I do research on something I was basically an expert on? I figured nursing was the least of my worries. Boy was I wrong! Turns out I highly overestimated my breastfeeding knowledge.
Below are the 5 things I wish I knew about breastfeeding BEFORE I started breastfeeding:
1. Your baby might not like your nipples.
I am going to risk over-sharing here for the sake of relatability. Are y’all ready for some TMI? Okay, here it is…I have one inverted nipple. And guess what? Turns out babies don’t like those.
I honestly thought all I had to do was put Lily on my boob and she would eat. Had I done my research, I would’ve known getting babies to latch is hard, and having trouble with it is not uncommon at all.
Because I was having such a hard time getting Lily to latch, the lactation consultant at the hospital (who was the most unhelpful person ever) recommended I use what they call a nipple shield. It’s basically a silicone nipple that suctions to your breast. It sticks out enough so little baby mouths have an easier time grabbing onto it.
Having the nipple shield was seriously a lifesaver. It allowed me to nurse Lily from both breasts and not have to resort to pumping and bottle feeding. It also saved me from having some seriously lopsided boobies.
Knowing how much of a struggle latching could be (especially with the inverted issue) before I had Lily could’ve saved me a lot of stress and emotional drain. At least I could’ve done my research and prepared myself for the best solutions.
2. Your milk does not come in right away.
I kept hearing people say “When your milk comes in..blah blah blah” over and over again throughout my pregnancy. Yet, somehow it never fully sunk into my little head or prompted me to look into it further. I blame it on the pregnancy brain.
I truly had it in my mind that as soon as Lily was born the milk would come in within a few hours and the colostrum was what she would eat before that. Anyone who has done any efficient research would know that it could sometimes take many days for your milk to come in fully.
Well, because I was struggling with getting Lily to latch, she wasn’t getting enough colostrum. So the mean lactation consultant scared the poop out of me saying Lily was losing too much weight. She said we would have to supplement with formula.
Long story short, after bursting into tears at the thought of having to use formula, when I was hell-bent on breastfeeding, I finally decided to supplement with formula. I really wanted to make sure Lily was getting the nutrition she needed. You know what they say: fed is best!
I still wanted Lily to get used to eating from my boobs though. Per the lactation consultant’s recommendation, I did this by using a syringe with a tube to feed the formula into the nipple shield so Lily would still be eating off of my breast. It was a complicated process and a two-person job. In the end, I am glad I did it because Lily’s health is way more important than my need to master breastfeeding right off the bat.
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3. When your milk does come in it feels like your boobs might explode.
Turns out, I didn’t have to use the formula for long. Because one day after I was discharged from the hospital my milk came in! I remember being so excited when I heard Lily swallowing when I wasn’t even pushing any formula through the syringe. I was like, “Woah, I think there’s milk coming out of my boob!”.
However, holy crap when your milk comes in! Can you say ouch? I swear my boobs tripled in size and turned into stone. And it felt like it came out of nowhere. Why didn’t anyone warn me about this?
Yes, I did hear my mom and other people say that my boobs would become engorged. In my opinion, that is far too tame of a word to explain what it feels like when your milk comes in. If I could warn new mothers about anything, I would warn them about the moment when their boobs will turn into gigantic boulders of pain. Luckily babies tend to eat pretty often, so that hard boob thing doesn’t happen all the time.
4. Breast milk does not like to stay inside your breasts.
Before experiencing it for myself, I was not aware that breastmilk would constantly be leaking from my boobs. I thought it was more of an on-demand type situation; like when the baby starts sucking the milk comes out.
That is just not the case. Especially in the beginning. You will probably need to double up on the breast pads and definitely make sure to nurse or pump frequently. At least every two hours. Or you might find yourself changing your shirt more often than you’d like.
The good news is that this leakage does start to slow down. As your baby develops a routine, your body is quick to pick up on it and tailor milk production to match their needs.
Still, if Lily is having a day where she eats less than normal, I will end up covered in milk at some point. And if I don’t use the manual pump in the shower, milk will be squirting from my boobs when I get out. Breastmilk leakage is just something you have to get used to if you want the privilege of breastfeeding your baby. You just have to learn to find the humor in it.
5. Breastfeeding a baby is a messy job.
This one kinda goes along with number 4, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Breastfeeding a baby is one messy job. Don’t even get me started on breastfeeding in public.
Like I said before, I watched a lot of family members breastfeed their babies. They made it seem like you could just pop out a boob anytime, anywhere. And while that may, in fact, be some people’s experience, it has not been mine.
Maybe it’s because she has had some latching issues, but Lily has always been a very messy eater. I think only 80% of the milk coming out actually ends up being swallowed. The other 20% is running down my stomach. That is why I always use a receiving blanket tucked under my boob while she eats. That way the excess milk doesn’t end up all over the place.
When it comes to breastfeeding in public, just imagine having that mess to deal with all underneath a nursing cover! Not easy. And definitely not fun. I would love nothing more than to be able to nurse Lily in public areas using a cover (because I’m pretty modest and going coverless is not an option for me), but I always end up hiding away somewhere. Which, side note, I have actually grown to love. It’s great Lily and mommy time.
There it is!
The 5 things I wish I knew about breastfeeding before I started breastfeeding. I hope that helped to shed some light on the surprisingly complex ins and outs of breastfeeding. I hope soon-to-be mamas gained some useful information. Or maybe it helped some other moms feel less alone in their breastfeeding struggles. But even though the process of nursing has been hard, I have found that the struggle is so worth it.
Comment below what you have found most surprising or troubling about breastfeeding! Or what you’re most afraid of if you haven’t started breastfeeding yet!