Your Cart

Your Cart is Empty
  • Subtotal
  • Total (before taxes)
What I Didn’t Know About Nursing
February 22, 2012 5:57 pm | by
Editor’s note: Today we bring to you two stories from real moms about nursing. We understand that each mother’s journey is different and at Cotton Babies we celebrate those differences. We encourage you to read both Jessica and Casey‘s stories. If you find one resonates with your personal experience, we ask you share some love with our guest bloggers by leaving them a note in the comments.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I was happy to be able to do so successfully for 15 months. I didn’t read any books beforehand or take a class, so I went into the whole experience blind. Along the way, I learned a few things about nursing:

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?

About the Author

Jessica von Wallenstein is a stay at home mom who chronicles her parenting adventures at She has three children and is buried in cloth diapers.



  • dinat said...
    February 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    I nursed all three dear daughters. I never pumped, almost never leaked and yet got all of them to grown beautifully! I did go back to work and my body seemed to figure out work day or home day (I worked part time) cause there was always enough milk and never any discomfort (until after 5:30 when I should be HOME!). Your body is SO resilient and so smart!! One thing I learned–we called nursing “munch” so, if the 2.5 year old wanted to nurse, she’d ask for “munch” and wouldn’t be announcing to the world she nursed. She’d also listen when I’d say “no munch now–hug??” Save me explaining or listening to “that child is too old to be nursing”.

  • Christa said...
    February 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I really enjoyed your article! I just wanted to say that all that “extra” milk isn’t the only thing indicative of a good supply. As a mom who has never leaked, not a drop, never got engorged, and couldn’t pump more than a few drops when I tried (and I TRIED because my baby girl needed surgery at 15 months and couldn’t nurse for about 12 hours), you can still have a fantastic supply without any outward signs. I nursed my first for 2 years, and I’m still nursing my second (who will be 3 in May), so obviously it’s not that I don’t have any milk. My daughter is old enough to tell me the difference between when there is “a lot of milk” and “a little milk”. I didn’t give either of them any “real food” until around a year, and they were just fine. I just don’t want moms to despair if they don’t ever leak or spray or fill up nursing pads…if your baby is growing and isn’t displaying signs that they’re not full, that’s every indication you need of a good supply!

  • Honey Bump Maternity said...
    February 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the story! I did a lot of reasearch with my first but I also had a lot of pregnant friends so I got to watch what happened to them months before I had to do it! It freaked me out lol. My first child and my body were just like your’s. With the leaking and the engorgement etc…Luckily I am the oldest of 5 and watched my mom nurse everyone of us so I’ve seen the spraying and yes my mom thought it was always funny. I would let down as soon as any baby cried and when I started nursing it was very painful for maybe the first 2 weeks. My second child is now 21 months and still nursing. He won’t stop and I don’t want to make him. Totally different experience than the first. Less milk production and lower weight gain for the baby. It was a huge struggle especially with the pediatrician that kept trying to get me to supplement when I said no. My solution- Found another pediatrician and told him “NO”, started hourly feedings(at 6 months old), started milkmaid tea. He’s still small on the special charts that say he’s small but I don’t care. He’s happy and growing at his own pace and we love breastfeeding!

  • Rebecca Majewski said...
    February 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Great post! I remember being the same in that I didn’t know too much about nursing, just that I would do it. I thought the baby would just get it. Turns out, he didn’t. At least, not right away. Luckily there are wonderful people out there called Lactation Consultants! 🙂 I learned so much from her and she fixed our latch problem in a matter of minutes! So, I thought I would be a pro, come round two. Wrong again! The first time, I was the one who needed schooling: i.e. positioning properly and getting the Bug latched on deep enough. The 2nd time, Bubby had a difficult time with his sucking reflex being too weak. Again, lactation consultant to the rescue! This took a little longer to correct unfortunately, which lead to bleeding (OUCH) nipples and a yeast problem that took quite a while to eradicate. However, I still would not trade this amazing bond with my babies for ANYTHING!! Great job to all you ladies who make the decision to breastfeed and stick with it, even when it doesn’t go quite according to plan. You’ll get through it!

  • Susan said...
    February 23, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Thanks for this post! I was laughing almost the entire time! This is helpful for new moms. I didn’t know any of these things when I started BFing my little one. We are now almost 10 months EBF! Supportive dialogue like this between new and experienced mommas is what we need! Thanks again.

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Congrats on EBF for 10 months. I hope this can help new moms realize that breastfeeding is challenging, messy, and wonderful all at the same time.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 22, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Oh how jealous am I…..I long for more than a drip. I have huge boobs and pump maybe 2 oz combined. 🙁 Count your blessings! I have still thoroughly enjoyed nursing, but I wish I could produce more instead of supplementing.

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      I am so thankful that I was able to EBF my daughter. I’m glad you have enjoyed nursing and there is nothing wrong with supplementing. I was a formula fed baby myself. 🙂

    • Skye said...
      February 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      I don’t have to supplement, but I hear ya on not being able to pump much. I think with both breasts full, I can pump about 3 ounces. :/. I think before starting solid food, my son was more of a snacker. He fed all the time. Now that he’s eating solids, too, my body has slowed production. Not a big deal, but hard to stock up for babysitters.
      Here’s something else I learned: not all breastmilk is the same. I have a high lipase content in my milk, which is great for digestion, but terrible for milk storage. I have to scald the pumped milk before I can store it. Glass baby bottles have been wonderful for pouring the scalded milk into to cool.

  • Melissa said...
    February 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I sat here laughing…your story pretty well sums up our 15 month experience. I did do the class thing, so I knew there were different positions, but didn’t know I’d become a human pacifier from the second she was born…pacifiers in the first couple weeks really won’t necessarily screw up breastfeeding. I can’t count the times I sprayed DD in the face with bm or leaked out of a nursing pad.

    The one thing I wish I had known…it’s going to hurt like hell the first couple weeks while you “toughen up” your nipples. I literally sat and cried from the pain and frustration those first 2 weeks…

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      Ah, yes. I was quite the human pacifier as well. And my poor, poor nipples. Sorry you went through so much pain in the first few weeks on top of all the other struggles of having a newborn.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 22, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Your story is priceless and I had many of the same experiences. I nursed my son for 10 months and pumped for and additional two. I nursed my daughter for 13 months. All I can say about the second baby is that you do know more, but all babies are different…lol. My son was a wonderful nurser and only bit me once. My daughter on the other hand was a stuborn baby that must have found some humor in bitting her source of food. Even with all the mishaps and embarasing moments I wouldn’t trade my nursing experience for anything.

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Good to know. My daughter was easily distracted while nursing and never went longer than 10-15 min on a side. So maybe my son will be into it more?

  • Carolyn said...
    February 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Haha, you’re totally right about the milk coming out everywhere! I took all the classes and read all the books, but I still wasn’t prepared for the time I thought a milk duct was getting plugged, so when I was in the shower I poked at it – milk shot across the shower and hit the other wall! It was hysterical 🙂 Or the time I was sitting on the toilet as the shower was warming up, and the heat made me start leaking milk (all down my stomach and into the toilet . . . ) *sigh* Nursing is messy business!

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Hahaha, it is a messy business. At least you were in the bathroom? 🙂

  • Emily said...
    February 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Very enjoyable. I’m currently nursing #3 after successfully doing so with #1 & #2. In all that time I have never heard of your suggestion for dealing with biting! That is ingenious and I’ll definitely have to keep that in the back of my mind should the situation arise (which sadly I’m sure it will) this go ’round.

    The one piece of advice I’d wish I’d known for my first, that I’d love to share with expecting first time moms planning to nurse, is in regards to nipple pain. Everything I read and heard prior to my first’s birth and from the LC’s in the hospital was that nursing shouldn’t be painful, and if it was, then I was doing something wrong. I realize now that while probably good advice going on your 2nd or 3rd week nursing, this is not entirely the case for the first several days. No matter how good the latch, nipples are very sensitive in the beginning and can hurt during feedings. I was so paranoid that I was doing something fundamentally wrong and expressed my concerns one of the rounding pediatric attendings. He responded “that despite the party line, think of how sensitive your breasts were at the beginning of your pregnancy (which mine had been) and those same hormones are causing them to be again. Nursing might hurt a bit in the beginning, but it should get better soon. ” Once I heard this I relaxed, reveled in my Ameda breast gels (another thing I couldn’t have survived without in the beginning), and rode out the pain, which ended by day 4.

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Fabulous advice! I remember my nipples burning and flinching every time she latched for the first few days. In addition, she had a bad latch once and then that nipple was very sore and sensitive until it fully healed.

    • Honey Bump Maternity said...
      February 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Good advice about the nipple pain. I always tell our moms that nipple soreness is normal because prior to baby, your nipples are not treated that way. My first one was very painful, second one not so much. I have friends that have had no pain. I just don’t like when they tell new mothers that there should be no pain because then they freak out and think that something is very wrong when it’s not.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    My story was much like yours as well – baby #1 for 1 year (exactly; she was ready to stop and I let her the day before her 1st b-day!) and baby #2 for 10 1/2 months. It was a joy and I was so blessed to have the experience I had. I read SO much about feeding before my first baby came, so I didn’t feel completely in the dark. My biggest thing was eating a lot – I didn’t realize I would be SO hungry while breastfeeding, and still be able to lose weight! I also had squirting times that were really funny! Some advice that I would give someone who had a really big supply is pump when your milk first comes in and you are engorged, and you’ll be glad you have it stored up later when you need to go out/need a babysitter, etc. Thanks again for your story!

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      I hear you about the hunger! I remember having to get snacks at 3am because I was starving.

      Great tip on pumping at the beginning! I was always trying to keep up when we wanted to go out so I could leave enough behind.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I absolutely love your story! It mirrors my son (who is 14 months and still at it!) and my nursing adventures to a T! I’m proud to say that when we decide on number 2, I won’t be in the dark either. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Glad you liked it and congrats on the continued nursing!

  • anna_r said...
    February 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing! My nursing story sounds a lot like yours. I hadn’t counted on being able to exclusively bf, as it hadn’t worked for my mom and I didn’t want the pressure. But its going wonderfully, and I am so grateful! I only ‘squirt’ when I pump but you never know! =)

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      I’m so glad things are going well for you! Those pumps sure do get a lot out of you.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you for the laugh. I have nursed two, partially. I never had the overflowing milk supply you described, but my sister has- we tease that we should share with each other. Anyway… after crying on the other article I needed a glance at the funny (and I know, sometimes annoying) side. 🙂

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      Glad you got a laugh! My sister also had a ton of milk, but hers is more like cream and makes for some chunky babies. 🙂

  • Joanna Milich said...
    February 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks for your story. Although nursing didn’t work for me, I initially thought it would be a piece of cake. After all, I have seen animals just know how to nurse. I think your story/information will help prepare other new moms about how to be mentally ready for nursing. 🙂

    • Jessica said...
      February 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Doesn’t it seem like it should just be easy? Like you said, animals do it ALL THE TIME.