Before I had a baby, I had a vague concept of breastfeeding. I wasn't sure I'd be successful at it, because so many people had told me how hard it could be. I didn't know a lot of other moms my age at the time, nor had anyone in my family breastfed when I was growing up, so there wasn't much in the way of hands-on information. In other words, I got a real crash course when it came to nursing my first born and there were so many things I didn't realize happened when breastfeeding.
For example, and I know this is going to sound really silly to people who have had kids, but I had no idea that babies didn't do things by the book. In my birthing class, we had learned about what a nursing session typically looks like, but there was little mention about variability or the fact that some babies don't adhere to a sleep or nursing schedule at all. Curse that birth instructor for not telling it like it is. Also? I hadn't realized that it would feel as weird as it did to have milk in my body. You guys. It feels really, really weird. Kind of up there with the whole carrying a moving, punching, kicking little person inside of you. Some of the other things I didn't realize had to do with other people's reactions or behaviors around my breastfeeding. Again, I wasn't prepared.
To all you ladies out there for whom breastfeeding might be on the horizon, read on to find out other things I didn't realize about breastfeeding. It is not too late for you to be in-the-know.
That There Wasn't Necessarily A Beginning And An End To Each Nursing Session
All the books I had read to prepare me for childbirth and nursing mentioned things like nursing timetables and sleep schedules (I've since burned these books). But my reality? Well, both of my children were all day and all night snackers, meaning they laughed in the face of schedules, and took a nosh whenever the hell they felt like it.
Mainly they would nurse for a good four or five minutes, doze off, and if I dared move a muscle or make an attempt to put them down somewhere that wasn't on my body, they would start crying or go back to nursing for a minute or two more. Then they would doze off again, and repeat the whole process until I became nothing but an empty husk of a person.
That My Breasts Could Be Different Sizes At Any Given Time Of The Day
Who knew that you could wake up with size D breasts and then by the end of the day be a small B? I didn't. What I do know is that I really kept the local bra boutiques in business with my constantly shape-shifting boobs. I never knew what size my boobs would be at any given moment. It would have been thrilling had it not been so annoying.
That I Would Possess Superhuman Powers To Shoot Milk From My Nipple Straight Across A Living Room
Someone really should have invented some kind of carnival game for nursing women to aim their milk-filled boobies at say, some rubber duckies floating in a tub, and if they were able to shoot down the green duckie they'd get a big prize (champagne brunch, anyone?). When I was breastfeeding, I was able to shoot milk across our living room, or the living room of other people's homes, usually at the least opportune times, like right when someone's squeamish husband was standing in the line of fire. Oops. Who did that? Me? Sorry not sorry!
That I Could Sometimes Clear An Entire Room Just By Doing It
Some people were so visibly uncomfortable by my breastfeeding my first child, that they actually had to leave the room. This was back when our friends were mostly not in the "family way" and we were the pioneers having the first babies of everyone. Breastfeeding was not yet a" thing" in our friend group.
I kind of get it, but not really, because it was not exactly welcoming to me to make me feel like I was doing something that was so uncouth that you couldn't even be near me while I was simply feeding my baby his food.
That Some People Would Feel Comfortable Manipulating My Breasts And Nipples Without Even Asking Me
On the other side of the spectrum were those people who thought it was nothing to tweak my nipples or grab my breast in their hand in order to position it better for my baby to latch. I know they meant well, but, um, excuse me? Can you imagine any other type of situation where this would be OK? Yeah, I can't either. Hands off! Or, at least ask me first?
That My Baby Might Sometimes Choose To Boycott One Boob
Oh, the dreaded boob protest! I hated this part of breastfeeding, when my kid would decide that he just hated Mister Left Boob and was only going to breastfeed from the Right Boob from here on out. What, did the right one have a richer, chocolatey flavor? Did the left one taste like garlic pickles or kasha? I would have to bounce and sing, and sway, and finally, try to trick my son into nursing from the less-than-desirable boob. Fun times.
That I Would Wake Up Some Mornings Feeling Like I Was Carrying Ten Pound Rocks In My Chest
Imagine waking up in the morning feeling like some careless construction worker had thrown a pile of stones and rocks from the street onto your chest, then left a crying baby by your side to help take the rocks off of you. I know. Thanks, right? Like that's gonna do anything.
Once your boobs are rock solid from engorgement (which I kind of had known about, but didn't know-know) it is now ideal that the baby nurse from each of them to try to get them to a more workable consistency. But when your boobs are rock solid, babies tend to want nothing to do with them. So you're stuck in this horrible spiral of rock hard boob that needs to be nursed in order to get not rock hard, and a baby that doesn't want to nurse rock hard boob because it takes so much work to get the milk out.
That Hearing Any Baby Cry Could Make My Nursing Boobs Ache
If you are a nursing mother, and you hear a baby crying, most likely you will go into leaky-boob-mode. This happened to me nearly every day. I had had no idea about this phenomenon. I knew I vaguely liked other people's children, but hadn't thought I was that much of a sap that the sound of a stranger's baby's cries could make milk let down from my breasts. However, and go figure, the body is a wondrous thing.
Of course this has nothing to do with being a sap, or being emotional. It is the body's natural response when nursing, to start a let down process when she hears a baby's cry (a baby who is related, or not related to you).
That No Matter How Prepared I Set Out To Be, There Were Often Moments When I Was Caught With A Leak
I made sure to travel (most days) with breast pads and a hand pump, and to wear shirts that wouldn't show a milk leak too easily if it happened. Still, I often found myself more often than not having to walk around town with two soggy blobs on my blouse right where my boobs would be until I made it back home. I had no idea that my boobs could leak so badly that I would actually be able to feel the milk soak through my blouse, drip from my nipple and hit my pants as I sat there. No idea.
That I Would End Up Kind Of Addicted To It
Though breastfeeding presented its challenges at the beginning, I became such a huge champion and supporter of it. Breastfeeding became so much more than a principal, or something I did purely for the health of my kids. It was actually really sweet bonding time for me and my kids, and I felt like everyone gave me a pass when I was breastfeeding because they knew that whatever they needed me to do was usually not as important as my nursing sessions.
I had a hard time giving it up, and ended up not purposely weaning either of my boys off of breastfeeding. They both just stopped when they were ready.