If you’re a pregnant mom-to-be, chances are you’ve done the whole Pinterest-binge of breastfeeding how-to’s. By now, you should know everything there is to know about the subject. Like you, I too was swallowed into the Pinterest wormhole. And you know what? Come gametime, there were just a few things that shocked me to my core.
1. It’s yellow!
That’s right! I knew colostrum, aka Liquid Gold was a dark yellow color. What I did not know was that your breast milk graduates from colostrum to “mature” breast milk in a matter of days. I did not recognize my breast milk was in for almost an entire day because of it’s golden hue. Personally, I just thought I was pumping waaaaay more colostrum than I was before. I went from like a teaspoon to an ounce and really should have known better.
2. Engorgement will shock you.
No one can prepare you for the level of weirdness that is the entire mass of your breasts changing texture, consistency, and…buoyancy??? The morning my breast milk came in, I woke up completely unprepared for how full I was going to be. It felt like I put two ½ lb dumbbells in my bra. They were heavy! I experienced for the first time, what everyone referred to as engorgement. What I didn’t know? I would feel like that for the next feed, and the next one, until, eventually, your supply is depleted and you’re left with saggy, super-empty breasts that feel completely weightless.
3. Your other breast may leak.
I know you have probably heard this before. Breasts leak. I was able to experience this only briefly, and it ended before I returned to work. Why is this shocking, then? Because it will happen unexpectedly. It’s not common for a woman to leak colostrum, so, you’ll convince yourself that you’re among the rare breed of women who are lucky enough to never leak. Then it happens. Not at home…but publicly…at the pediatrician’s office…three days postpartum.
4. Your uterus will HURT!
OK, so you may have heard this one already. I did, too. The stimulation of your nipples during breastfeeding causes your uterus to contract. This helps you deliver your placenta in a timely manner… not that many of us get the opportunity to deliver the placenta unassisted in modern American hospitals. It’s also supposed to help your uterus shrink back to normal size. What I was not prepared for? The fact that this would go on for almost three weeks postpartum. Every. Single. Time.
5. The bonding might not come right away.
By now you’ve probably heard all the hype on how breastfeeding releases oxytocin, and you’ll feel a hormone-high of rainbows and unicorns. Well, I’m not here to stomp on that dream. Even I experienced that at one point. But for me, that happened 5 months into my daughter’s life. For me, it was an Aaahh-my breasts-were-unbearably-engorged-and-now-she’s-relieved-the-rock-hard-pain kind of feeling. Truth is, I did not feel that breastfeeding helped me bond or get to know my daughter. I did not truly cherish that time with her until she was about 6 or 7 months old.
6. Pumping is a necessity.
Many moms are blindsided with this little nugget. You may (or may not be) exclusively breastfeeding, but pumping will be pushed on you immediately. Most nursing moms will meet a lactation nurse or consultant at the hospital, have some problem or other, and will be recommended to pump. If you’re like me, you’ll have been completely unprepared for that. I owned a pump, but had never thought to learn how to use it. When I was told my nipples were so blistered, I should try pumping, I felt unprepared. I’ve heard it enough from friends, family, and bloggers. Seems to me almost all nursing mothers regret not bringing or using a pump in the hospital. It has so many benefits to offer the postpartum mom. My advice? Learn how to use one before you go into labor. My sleep-deprived brain could not remember how to get all the parts together.
7. Chances are, you’ll have to supplement.
Supplementing is when you give the baby formula, in addition to breastfeeding. GASP! I know! I’ve heard so many posts from “experts” on this subject. “Formula will destroy your chances of forming a solid supply,” they say. Well, I think that one-size-fits-all, breast-milk-or-starve approach is archaic. I didn’t know it was possible for babies to grow hungry waiting for breast milk to come in, but ours did! After 24 hours, colostrum simply didn’t hold her over. We fed her formula until my milk came in, and our lactation nurse was amazing! She created a plan to get me off the formula by 2 weeks. With her plan, I ended up with so much oversupply, I ended up becoming a milk donor.
8. Breastfeeding Moms are still eating for two.
There are so many people who are going to fill your head with the notion that you’re going to pop a baby out and drop 40 lbs! Yes, you can lose weight breastfeeding, especially if you make healthy choices. However, if you thought you were eating a lot more than usual when you were pregnant, think about how much more you are going to need to eat to produce enough milk to feed a much larger, rapidly-growing munchkin that is still expecting you to provide their nourishment. Trust me, losing weight is hardly any of our first concerns as nursing mamas. This blew me away when I was nursing. I couldn’t believe how much stronger my cravings were after she was born, and how little I cared about my weight.
9. There will be setbacks.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is one big moment of trial and error. So much can go wrong: blocked ducts, pain, poor latch, lip or tongue ties, nursing strikes, infection. You name it, we’ve got it! The fact is, babies do have natural rooting instincts, but they aren’t born to be great at nursing. We both learn how to make breastfeeding work at the same time. Add bottles, pacifiers, and work-life balance to the mix, and there’s a whole slew of new issues modern mamas face. The important thing to know is that a network of supportive breastfeeders – like you – are there to get you through this incredibly challenging and rewarding journey. And if the setbacks are too much for you, keep in mind that ultimately you come first.
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