It’s not entirely intuitive. After I had my daughter, they asked me if I wanted to breastfeed. I replied “yes”, then said, “but I don’t know how”. There is a reason there are lactation consultants in the world. Breastfeeding is a little more involved than sticking a baby up to your boob. There’s a (sometimes painful) learning curve, but once you both figure it out, you’re golden.
The milk comes out all over the nipple. I always thought it would be like a bottle and all the milk would come out in a center spray. Not the case, my friends. Milk squirts out from about a dozen places, in all directions. Who knew nipples had so many holes in them?
Milk will rush out like a fire hose. Especially at the beginning of breastfeeding, my milk could shoot halfway across the room during letdown. One time, I accidentally sprayed my daughter square in the eye. I thought it was hilarious; her, not so much.
Crying babies will send your body into extreme milk-making. Once, I was just about to hop into the shower and heard my daughter wake up from her nap. She was screaming, crying, and had a dirty diaper. I didn’t bother getting dressed before changing her, and as I stood there stark naked, my boobs decided to start leaking. Everywhere. Apparently my body felt the need to contribute one more bodily fluid to the mix.
You’ll need to shield your nipples from the spray in the shower, or else you’ll regret it. They become so sensitive that even the slightest touch from the water can hurt. I always had to take extreme caution when washing my front.
Nursing pads can fill up and leak. I figured nursing pads were for those last few drops from a feeding and maybe the occasional seepage. The first night my daughter slept over five hours, I woke up soaking wet. I had completely saturated my nursing pads and went on to drench my bra, shirt, and half of the bed. Lovely.
You can nurse in a wide variety of positions. I only pictured the traditional cross-body position that you see every time breastfeeding is portrayed. Little did I know that you can also use a football hold, nurse while baby wearing, and nurse lying down (tired mom favorite!). I used different positions in different situations and enjoyed using the arrangement that best met our needs at the time.
Your boobs will miss your baby between feedings. Imagine your breasts are water balloons that fill and fill until they pop off the faucet. That’s what engorgement feels like. No worries, though – it usually only takes a few days for your body to regulate the quantity of milk to how much your baby is eating.
At some point, your babies will bite your nipples. Cross your fingers it happens before they get their teeth. The best advice I got when this happened is to go against all your instincts and pull the baby into your breast. This covers the nose, forcing them to open their mouth to breathe and release your nipple. I would also tell my daughter “No, that hurts Mommy” whenever she bit me. If it happened a second time, I would set her down for a minute before resuming nursing. Fortunately, that phase passed pretty quickly.
No matter how comfortable you are nursing in public, you’ll get funny looks, even if you’re using a blanket or a cover. Fortunately, at some point you’ll stop caring if strangers get a nip slip and be able to concentrate on
shutting up lovingly feeding your screaming infant.
Even with all the leaking and nipple pain, I loved nursing. I adored our sessions and the bond I shared with my daughter. I am glad that when my son is born, we will benefit from my past experiences and avoid the period of complete cluelessness. What have you learned about nursing that no one ever told you?