Bodies are weird. Breastfeeding bodies are even weirder. And the things your body will do when you start breastfeeding that will freak you out may be normal, but that doesn't make you feel any less like a science experiment. I think after nine months of pregnancy, moms tend to be really in tune with their body — you know what feels "typical" and you know what's out of line. But it seems that breastfeeding can throw all of that for another loop.
For one thing, you're nourishing another human being with you breasts. Seriously, how weird does that sound? It's obviously normal and natural, but to have your breasts begin producing milk and then lactate can feel really out of sorts. It's new, it's different, and honestly, it's a little unsettling. (But also super amazing, so expect to feel like your body is some kind of miracle because it totally is.)
But then there's the engorgement, the hunger pains, the cramping you feel during a nursing session — these are just a few of the things your body will do when you start breastfeeding that will freak you out. It's important to remember that all of these things are normal and, in some cases, actually conducive to a successful breastfeeding journey, but feel free to contact your lactation consultant if you're ever unsure or nervous. They are there to help and trust me, they've heard every question asked about boobies. You'll be fine.
1. Your Appetite Increases
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Alyse Lange of Peaceful Beginnings tells Romper that having healthy snacks handy may be one of the best ways to prepare to bring a new baby home. She says:
Many women experience an increase in appetite while breastfeeding. This could be because breastfeeding expends about 500 calories daily, but it has been my experience that many are so enthralled by their newborns and concerned with their care that new moms often forget to eat on a regular schedule. Breastfeeding women are encouraged to listen to their bodies and eat when they're hungry. Nutrient-rich fresh foods are great diet choices for nursing mothers, and occasional splurges on junk food are allowed.
2. You're Thirsty AF
But it's not just your appetite that increases. You may feel thirstier, as well. According to Lange, some women may also experience increased thirst while breastfeeding. "In this case, mothers are encouraged to drink to satisfy their thirst," she says. "However, pushing fluids to excess does not lead to a significant increase in milk production."
3. Your Milk Lets Down When You See Or Hear Your Baby
It's pretty incredible how your body knows it's time to release milk. Lange notes that the milk ejection reflex, sometimes referred to as the "let-down", occurs when oxytocin is released into the mother's blood stream. "The release of oxytocin causes the milk ducts to eject the milk out of the breast — this usually happens while nursing, in response to the baby suckling at the breast," Lange says. "It is not unusual for women to experience the milk ejection reflex in response to thinking about their baby, looking at their baby, or hearing a baby cry — this is a conditioned response." So when you're hopping in the shower a week or so after giving birth and hear your baby cry across the house, don't be alarmed when your breasts start leaking. It can happen even if you don't hear your own baby. "When you are in the grocery store and hear another shopper's baby cry, your body is striving for efficiency and may trigger the milk ejection reflex because it has been previously conditioned to do so," she says.
4. You Feel Super Touched-Out
All those pictures of new moms cuddling their babies while their partner has an arm wrapped around them are pretty beautiful. But you know what? They are total lies. OK, so some people may like to snuggle, but as Lange points out, breastfeeding can make cuddling the absolute last thing you want to do. "Taking care of an infant can drain your energy, result in a lack of sleep, and impact the amount of time you have uninterrupted with your partner," she says. "Hormonal shifts during the postpartum period can lead to mood swings, and breastfeeding can lead to women feeling touched out."
IBCLC Tori Sproat of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services agrees, and notes that new moms may feel turned off if their partner even touches their breasts because all you can think of is your baby's need to eat. But again, this is all totally normal and your freak out won't last forever. Just give yourself some time to get used to breastfeeding and you'll be able to see your breasts as the multitasking body parts they are.
5. You Leak & Feel Super Emotional About It
They say you shouldn't cry over spilled milk, but when that milk is hard-earned liquid gold being expressed from your breasts, it's hard not to be a little down about it. According to Sproat, waking up in a puddle of your own milk is pretty normal as your body figures out your breast milk supply, and crying because you didn't get it collected? Also normal. Your emotions and hormones will be all over the place when you start breastfeeding and you're still trying to get the hang of this nursing thing — cut yourself some slack and don't worry if you find yourself crying over the dried breast milk on your pillow.
6. Your Boobs Are Giant, But Not As Fun As You Thought
Ever wondered what it might be like to have enormous, X-rated movie boobs? Me too. And a day or so after having my daughter, I no longer wondered. It's normal for your breasts to become super engorged and huge, but it's not always fun. When I ask Sproat about things that happen to a newly breastfeeding mom that could freak her out, she says, "porn star boobs that feel less than glamorous." You know what, that's the most accurate way to describe your new bosom. Don't be alarmed.
7. Your Breast Milk Changes In Color & Consistency
New moms panic over a lot of things, but new breastfeeding moms seem to have even more worries. If you notice that your milk has gone from a thick, creamy consistency to a more watery, green-colored liquid, don't freak out. IBCLC Lori Atkins of Oh, Baby Lactation Care says that breast milk changes throughout the day in color, consistency, and fat content. "If you're a leafy greens lover, or chowed down on a bunch of carrots, don't be surprised to see your breast milk turn a tinge of green or orange," she says. "It just means all is working well."
IBCLC Tera Hamann agrees and notes that, "fat content can change as well, so you don't need to worry if it looks a bit skim at times or maybe too fatty at other times."
8. Your Breasts Leak During Sex
OK, so you may not be having sex for a few weeks after delivery, but it's still pretty surprising to see your body produce breast milk while you're in the throes of orgasm. "The thing that I wasn't told that freaked me out was leaking during sex," Hamann says. "That oxytocin can be fun." The hormone is responsible for both your milk ejection reflex and an orgasm, so it's pretty intense to realize that breast milk may become part of your sex life. (Just keep a towel nearby or throw on a sexy bra.) But seriously — very normal, even if it does feel super weird.
9. You'll Feel Cramps
And one thing that seriously freaks out new moms? Cramps. But when you're breastfeeding, this can happen. IBCLC Deborah Dominici of Babies' Breast Friend tells Romper, "most moms notice these cramps in the early weeks more, but you can feel cramping anytime you are nursing." According to Dominici, the hormone oxytocin is responsible for the cramping — it's the same hormone that causes contractions during labor and milk ejection reflex. That cramping may be a little uncomfortable, but it's normal, and it's also helping your uterus get back to pre-pregnancy size.