I had plenty of concerns when it came to breastfeeding, many of which were unique to my situation and many of which were, I suspect, are actually the weird things all breastfeeding moms worry about. However, and honestly, even the "weird things" that bombard a nursing mom's mind, make sense.
Breastfeeding requires you to think about your own breasts, in detail, and in a way you (probably) never have before. You’re learning and mastering new bodily functions, and you’re coordinating it all with the needs of a tiny being who is completely dependent on you. It’s strange, if you think about it, especially given that it’s been, oh, a couple decades since I last had to learn about managing my own bodily fluids.
In fact, I still remember how my polite co-worker gave me a blank face as I tried to explain that needing to pump was not unlike needing to use the bathroom. As in, I could manage the need temporarily, but eventually the body always wins (or I’ll end up paying the price for it later). I can’t blame that polite co-worker, or her reaction, though. I’d probably have reacted the same way if I wasn’t the one who had to use a breast pump at work. And now that I’m preparing to do it again, with the arrival of my second child a few short months away, I’m being reminded of all the strange things that will become normal for me to think about:
"Um, Am I Doing This Right?"
You would think that it would be obvious whether or not one is breastfeeding correctly. I can assure you that, no, it’s not. During the first days of my son’s life, I thought I had things under control, but it took an ER visit on his second day home to confirm that, nope, I did not.
Eventually, after weeks of effort and multiple appointments with a lactation consultant, we worked it out. However, I learned that attaching a baby to your breast is not the same thing as breastfeeding.
"Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?"
One thing I loved about bottles is knowing exactly how much milk my son had consumed. Breasts, on the other hand, do not have liquid measurements marked on the side of them. If only, right? I constantly wondered if I was giving my son enough time on each breast.
"What Side Did I Last Nurse On?"
Some moms are probably better at remembering which boob they just used than I was. I relied heavily on an app that let me track my breastfeeding details, but pen and paper would surely have worked just as well. I’ve also seen those bracelets that you can use to remind yourself what side you last nursed on. Whatever your method, it’s a beastly undertaking.
"Am I Leaking Everywhere?"
I suppose it depends on your definition of “everywhere.” I found leaks to be inevitable, especially at the beginning when my supply was still in flux. Thankfully, I learned more than a few tricks, like wearing battered shirts that were less likely to show splotches and to always have either a change of shirt or a sweater on hand to layer. And, for the love of all that is holy, sleep on a towel. Definitely sleep on a towel.
"OMG What Time Is It? Shouldn’t I Be Breastfeeding?"
No matter what, it seemed like the answer was always “4 a.m." and “Yes.” Seriously though, I tend to be a bit of a rule-follower, so when the doctor said I should be feeding every two hours, come hell or high water, I fed every two hours.
On a related note, I highly recommend investing in blackout curtains so you don’t have to be fully awake during those early morning sessions (especially if you have a summer baby).
"Is This Going To Be Worth It Or Am I Going To Wish I Spent All This Time Working On That Novel?"
“Yes and yes.” In my experience, it’s totally normal to question the commitment of breastfeeding, and to also feel a bit overwhelmed by the time it takes. These are not mutually exclusive
"Can My Baby Understand This Ridiculous Show I’m Streaming On My Phone Right Now?"
I’m pretty sure the answer to this one is “no," but I’m no expert. I always tilted my phone away from my nursing baby, just in case. I wasn’t proud of the fact that I used my phone while I breastfed, but I am, however, proud of the fact that I managed not to fall asleep on my baby, so I suppose it’s a wash.
"Can I Eat/Drink/Stand Within 50 Feet Of This Slightly Questionable Thing?"
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer was usually “yes.” Still, I was a little intense about ensuring that I wasn’t inadvertently poisoning my son by eating soft cheese or standing too close to the microwave. You can never be too careful, right?
Wait. Actually, don’t answer that.
"Is My Stealth Breastfeeding Position Going To Fail Me, Causing Me To Expose Myself?"
I know, I know. There are more important things to worry about than whether or not I’m revealing myself. Still, like a question out of a Carrie Bradshaw voice-over, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was sharing too much of myself with strangers.
"How And Why Does The Milk Squirt At That Angle?"
Oh man, If my shower walls could talk. Let's just say that we should all be thankful they can't.