Finding out I was pregnant and subsequently deciding to become a mother left me open to a lot of unsolicited advice, especially about breastfeeding. I was told how wonderful and beautiful and essential and financially helpful it could and can be, and, well, that unsolicited advice was spot on. Breastfeeding was all of those things, but it was also exhausting and difficult and there were some scary things about breastfeeding that seemed to be impossible to circumnavigate or overcome.
Of course, like almost any other scary thing about motherhood or parenting, the fear and anxiety went away as I settled into my new life as a mom and got used to feeding another human being with a specific part of my body and functioning on little-to-no sleep. After a while, those fears just subsided and I started to simply enjoy breastfeeding. That doesn't mean, however, that those fears aren't valid or normal or something a new mom should just overlook. I mean, they exist for a reason, and it's important to be honest about how you feel regarding breastfeeding, so that you can voice those fears and, in turn, learn how to banish them forever and always (or at least until your next breastfeeding session).
I remember so many fear-induced conversations with my partner, when I was just convinced that breastfeeding was never going to work or never going to not hurt or never going to be something I was even remotely good at. The truth of the matter is, though, that there are so many things that are scary about breastfeeding; they're just not scary forever. Things like:
How Large Your Breast Size Can Be
I don't know about you, but when my milk came in I was freakin' shocked at the actual size of my breasts. Sure, pregnancy gave me somewhat of an idea as to how my body, and especially my breasts, were going to change, but dear me there wasn't enough warning in the world that could have prepared me for how large my breasts grew when I started breastfeeding. I was so afraid that they were irreversibly changed. Like, they would never be be able to fit in a bra that wasn't made to assist breastfeeding, ever again.
Why is this a thing? Like, body, why? This terrified me and I honestly thought that I may have breast cancer, because inverted nipples is a sign and I Google things way too frequently. No, I didn't have cancer, I just had flat nipples which sometimes made it difficult to get my son to properly latch, but wasn't something I now live with, now that I have finished breastfeeding. Things do go back in normal because, yeah, our bodies are freakin' amazing.
Low Milk Production
Low milk production occurs in approximately 4 percent of breastfeeding women, but that doesn't mean the majority of breastfeeding mothers don't fear that they'll fall into that percentage. It's such a common breastfeeding struggle that is often talked about (which is a great thing) and a new-mother's mind is prone to going to the "dark side," aka the glass-half-empty, pessimistic side. Honestly, if you're afraid that your milk production is low, there are ways to boost your milk production and, if that doesn't work, you can always supplement with formula if you feel comfortable doing so and other options aren't working.
I had no idea how painful breastfeeding would be, even though other breastfeeding mothers and doctors and nurses definitely told me that it could (and probably would) be. The first few weeks of breastfeeding, for me, was excrutiating, and I was so afraid that the pain associated with feeding my son was never going to end, and instead of enjoying breastfeeding I was going to dread it. Eventually, though, the pain did subside and breastfeeding did become that glorious, bonding moment I was looking forward to experiencing.
...Because Cracked And/Or Bleeding Nipples Is A Thing
I will forever remember the moment I looked down and watched blood come out of my already painful and cracking nipple. I did not expect that moment to be part of motherhood, but it was. Oh, how it was. The cracks eventually healed and bleeding nipples were no longer a thing, but it is definitely shocking and scary to realize that you're bleeding from that particular part of your body.
Feeling Like You Don't Know What You're Doing
I felt completely lost when I first started breastfeeding and I was so afraid (almost to the point that I was convinced) that I would never figure breastfeeding out so that my son could get the nourishment he needed. I wanted to take nurses and doctors home with me, so that I could constantly ask questions and make sure that I was "doing it right." Of course, after a while and like almost every single parenting task I felt incapable of accomplishing, I learned how to breastfeed and became a pro and all was well in my new life as a mom.
Worrying About How Much Breast Milk Your Baby Is Actually Getting
In the first 5-7 days, it's normal for a newborn to lose anywhere from 5% to 10% of their body weight. I, being the new, exhausted mother that I was, either didn't know this fact or didn't remember this fact, and subsequently freaked out when my son was weighed and he had lost weight. I started to worry that he wasn't getting enough nutrition from breastfeeding, and we would have to supplement with formula or I would have to give up breastfeeding altogether. Obviously, consult with your doctor or midwife (per always), but also rest easy knowing that your baby will regain the weight they lost when they're around 10-14 days old, and your body is (again, consult with a doctor) probably doing exactly what it is supposed to do and what you're asking it to do.
The Judgment/Shame You May Experience (Especially In Public)
The moment I experienced judgement in shame when I breastfed in public, I was pretty afraid of any other situation where I would experience it again. Even if you're all about #FreeTheNipple and #NormalizeBreastfeeding, it can still be uncomfortable, and even scary, when someone shames you for doing something as natural and necessary as feeding your own child.
Figuring Out Your Breast Pump
I was so terrified that I would never figure out that crazy (not to mention, expensive) contraption known as a breast pump. I mean, can we just collectively agree that they're the absolute worst? Well, I mean, they're also super helpful and I've very thankful the technology exists, but it's still the worst. Eventually, of course, I did figure out my breast pump and we become the best of friends and having one around didn't seem all that bad.
The Fear That Exhaustion Will Actually Kill You
To be fair, I think every new parent has this fear, regardless of how they choose or are able to feed their kid. Having said that, as a breastfeeding mother who was the only person capable of feeding my child, I literally was afraid the lack of sleep was going to kill me. Like, kill me dead.
It didn't, because here I am, and I promise that it won't kill you either, but still, take time for yourself and get rest when you can and let others help. Your self-care is important.