I spend a lot of my time explaining, defending, and promoting (to those who are so inclined) breastfeeding. It's healthy! It's beautiful! It's a wonderful way to feed your child on the cheap! But it's also a body function, and while bodies are wonderful and awe-inspiring they're also gross. So I asked moms to share their most disgusting breastfeeding moments, because the world needs to know that nursing isn't just gazing lovingly into your baby's eyes.
Now, let me tell you something about moms: we're gross. We're not personally gross, but even during the first few days of motherhood we realize we need the iron stomachs of grizzled, War War II field doctors. All moms have to deal with body fluids (unless they pay someone else to handle said fluids, in which case, I salute and envy you), but breastfeeding moms have one more aspect of their parenting lives to deal with that can make life, well, wetter. And let's not forget that breastfeeding is one of those body functions that tends to beget more body functions and fluids, including but certainly not limited to: pee, poop, spit-up, and, in dire situations, bleeding and pus. (Yeah, mastitis is no joke, folks.)
Now, I don't want to be accused of discouraging people from nursing. So please let me assure you, once again, that I encourage all moms, in the least pushy way possible, to breastfeed if you want! I loved it! It's great! And most of the time (especially once you get the hang of it) it's not a huge deal. But what I'm even more interested in promoting is women speaking their truth and sharing their experiences. Turns out, some of my fellow nursing moms' experience are... gristly.
"My middle child decided at 3-weeks-old that he was going to projectile vomit on me after every feed for a solid six weeks straight. I became so adept at managing it (because I was horrified trying to clean my mattress the first time) that I figured out how to catch it all in my shirt and dump it down the toilet without it ever touching a piece of furniture or linen. Of course, I was disgusting... and then there was that one time I ended up vomiting too because it smelled so bad."
"Undiagnosed postpartum anxiety/depression had my stomach in rough shape. I never wanted to eat, and I was always on the toilet because of nerves. I was breastfeeding my newborn in the middle of the night and had to rush to the bathroom. I continued nursing while having explosive diarrhea. So glamorous!"
"When your baby sleeps too long and your breasts feel like legit concrete blocks. It's like the mafia is trying to weigh you down under water."
"Clogged ducts are pretty common with breastfeeding. Once when I was pumping the clog came out and was actually thick stringy milk, like the texture of the scum that forms on the top of water when you boil pasta and let it cool. Another time the clog cleared while my son was nursing and he gagged on the instant faster flow, stopped, and spit (part of) the clog out."
"That moment when you look down through the pump shields and see your beautiful nipples being stretched three inches long to force the milk out."
"At my first postpartum appointment with my first they put me in a paper gown. Seriously, who puts a nursing mom in paper?! To make matters worse, I was a nursing mom with an overproduction. I was trying everything I could to hold the nursing pads with no bra and the baby while waiting for the doctor to arrive... and [my son] had a blowout. Poop everywhere. So I dropped the pads to clean up the poop that was all over me and him and, of course, the faucet turned on and in comes the doctor. Definitely one of my grossest nursing moments."
"Looking down to see your little one unlatch with blood dripping from the corners of her mouth from your cracked nipples, like a little vampire, then puking blood specks up later. Doctor just says 'that’s normal.' Super fun."
"That time when I was nursing my girl in a restaurant discreetly and she paused, burped, and then spewed all over me, the people behind us, and herself. I had not brought a change of clothes for myself, and it was a restaurant we went to on a weekly basis. I spent the rest of the time hiding in the bathroom because my in laws had just started eating their dinner and didn’t want to leave."
"I had to use a nipple shield and my baby's suck got so strong that my nipple would reach the end and the holes would make my nipple look like a lego. It hurt!"
"Mastitis. I was convinced I couldn’t go to the hospital (it was a Sunday) because the 4-day-old baby would get ill. My left boob was the size of my effing head. It was agony, I had fever and chills and still have no clue how I managed. My pump wouldn’t work as I was too engorged. I sent my 14-year-old son to the pharmacy to get a hand pump. That and hot packs and feeding cleared it over a couple of days. To this day that boob is almost two cup sizes bigger."
"My daughter likes to grab hold and help things out. She has dragon talons that cannot be tamed by clippers or a nail file. My breasts get scratched and gouged. It looks like I have a terrible skin condition/ disease with breastfeeding sores. It's gross."
"I got a professional massage and my breasts had leaked so much that the entire top half of the bed was soaking wet and I was dying inside when I had to turn from stomach to back, praying he didn't touch the sheet near my chest. I wonder WTF he thought after I left and the sheets were soaked."
"I remember my son spitting up down my shirt. It was the worst feeling ever and most of the time I had to just wipe it away with whatever was nearby and let [my son] fall back to sleep. Sometimes I remembered and showered the next day and sometimes I would forget until I could smell sour milk."
"When I was nursing my 3-week-old in the ring sling on Halloween ... our neighbor had to run over to meet the baby. Little did we know he’d be startled and would unlatch mid-letdown. I was spraying breast milk everywhere. And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. It was all over me, the baby, my neighbor's shirt, her hair, and in her mouth."
"When my youngest was about 1 he was obsessed with dog food. He was always. In. The. Dog. Food. [It got] on his 'lovey,' on the the palm of his hand, on a blanket, on a pillow, on my nose... I couldn’t figure out why he smelled so bad and I gagged every time he tried to rub his hand on my face!"
"Baby wasn’t feeling well so I had her in just a diaper while she comfort-nursed in the middle of the night. She stayed latched but stopped sucking so I assumed she’d fallen asleep. Nope. One grunt later and I have a lap full of poo. Mustardy yellow breast milk poo."
"I was about five days postpartum, wearing those little 'cup' things over my nipples to collect any leakage. Friends without kids were coming over to visit me and the baby and I was so excited to see them... made coffee, set out treats to eat... everyone sat down on the couch and I leaned over the coffee table to serve their drinks and my cups were so filled that when I bent over, a full-on waterfall of breast milk poured all over the snack plate. I was the last to notice. The polite horror on their faces."
"I was six days postpartum and my daughter had been a cluster feeding champ. I had scabs on my nipples because it was non-stop. My grandma had just died and I drove to the hospital to be with my family in her hospital room. We were all gathered in a circle in prayer when my baby started coughing and choking so naturally everyone looks up at me. She then threw up all over my shirt and in the middle of the spit up is a big scab that she had sucked off my nipple. My little sister next to me pointed it out to everyone in the room."
"One time I had a huge clog that I could not get out with pumping, baby nursing, or anything! So... I asked my husband to suck as hard as he could and it shot to the back of his throat and made him gag! The things we do for love."
"My husband had a [horrible] boss (Mr. F). In an attempt to smooth some [stuff] over with me, he took me to lunch one day. I had the baby with me, who of course started crying. I went to nurse the baby, sitting directly across the table from Mr. F, latched him on.... and then, when I let down like crazy, baby pulled off my boob and unleashed a fire hose of breast milk on Mr. F."
"My hands-free pumping bra was disgusting: stained yellow and crunchy from dried breast milk. I exclusively pumped and never had time to wash that sh*t. It never occurred to me to buy another one!"
"My first son was really bad at breastfeeding. He didn't even figure it out at all until he was about 10-weeks-old. At that point, he adopted the 'lick and catch' method. Basically, he would play at my breast until I let down and then desperately try to 'catch' the stream of milk and swallow. He was so loud with this second part that people kept looking to see what he was doing. Then he would see they were paying attention to him and stop catching to flirt, leaving him with a face full of milk. Every. Time. I had to nurse him holding a cloth to stop the flow when he got distracted. I was constantly sticky and smelled of milk."
"Mine isn't really a horror story but one of revenge. I don't do well on no sleep. Like, I'm a different person and not really functional. With all my kids I would wake up and find my husband snoring away, loud as f*ck as I was trying to be calm and feed my baby (sometimes babies, because twins). I decided if he couldn't wake up with me sometimes that f*cker was going to get some breast milk in his open, snoring mouth. I would literally sit there and try to squirt milk in his mouth. It got everywhere often and he would wake up all startled and be like, 'Whats wrong? You OK?' And I'd be lik, 'Yeah, why?' Meanwhile I would think: 'Sleep I dare you. Does your mouth taste funny?'"
Writer's note: Not all heroes wear capes, folks.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.