Breastfeeding is something that all new mothers will be familiar with.
As soon as you announce your pregnancy, this natural way of feeding your baby becomes some sort of buzzword at appointments. Midwives, Health Visitors, GP’s, friends, families – all ask that question: “are you going to breastfeed?”
The pressure is real – with due cause obviously, breast milk is incredibly potent for our little ones and when it’s your body producing this elixir it really goes without saying that women new to their motherhood journey should give it a go. That being said, sometimes it isn’t as easy as that. Breastfeeding is a hard slog with a wicked learning curve to boot. When your mind, body and spirit have already been through the ordeal which is birth, it can seem almost impossible – nobody told me there would be times I’d be in tears shaking my engorged boob at my newborn, begging him to take it. I didn’t get the ‘baby latches and then snaps his head around when he gets started – taking your nipple with it’ memo.
The first 8 or 9 weeks were terrible. My milk wasn’t up to standard so Baby Button was combination fed – using both a bottle of formula and breast milk so he got the goodness his growing little body needed. I remember a very brief, drug hazed crash course in feeding by the nurse who was looking after me in recovery, post-caesarean.. She pulled at my nipples causing them to leak, reassuring me I actually did have milk in there (my boobs haven’t changed in firmness, so I was convinced I hadn’t produced any milk) but after that? I was on my own.
So, I learned a few things. I have a few blog posts lined up with some great advice and experiences from other Mums to share, but today? Today we focus on what nobody told me about breastfeeding in the first place.
Your boobs may not change shape or texture..
I was so panicked when it got close to my due date, and my boobs hadn’t altered. Like I mentioned previously, after my caesarean I was laid in the recovery room convinced I had no milk so Baby Button would be going hungry. I’d had pains previously during my pregnancy but very early – around the 18-19 week mark, but nothing else. No leaking, no hardness… Just boobs. I personally don’t think they’ve grown either, but I can’t really judge that one.
..They do however, change colour!
As if pregnancy doesn’t bless you with enough changes, your breasts go through some pretty radical changes when it comes to colour. What starts off as a freckle soon spreads around the whole nipple, making your chest two archery targets your baby can aim at when he or she comes into the world.
A baby often has a ‘favourite’ boob..
Oh yes. They tend to favour one boob over the other, settling much easier on their chosen one and being pretty hard to manoeuvre if you try latch them on to their ‘second-choice-boob’.
..And the boob which isn’t first choice can look smaller!
Oh yes, perfectly possible if you take the easy road and latch on baby’s favourite each time. The second boob won’t produce as much milk, meaning it becomes smaller – visibly smaller. Thankfully it can easily be rectified if you take your time and build up the relationship between your baby and ‘second-choice-boob’.
Baby might not feed for hours, right away.
I had a crazy time in hospital with Baby Button that first night, because he wouldn’t feed to the standards he was ‘supposed’ to be feeding at. Because of that, my stay was stressful and I found myself paranoid that I wasn’t feeding my son properly – it wasn’t until my last day that a midwife told me to stop being silly and that he had mucus in his belly due to being born via caesarean. I’m not the only one that faced this revelation.
“I had an assisted delivery with my first (ventous) and no-one told me that this would make bf harder – she was very sleepy and had a belly full of mucous so for the first 3-4 days she barely fed and they wouldn’t let us leave the hospital until she did.” Donna, Blogger at The Sleep Thiefs Mummy.
Your boobs might not ‘leak’ right away..
Much like my first ‘finding’, I found that every other pregnant women I met bemoaned her breasts and the milk leakage. I had none. I had some incredibly unnecessary ‘boob envy’ at one point thinking mine were broken, willing them to leak so I felt like I was a member of this particular mother club.
..Do however, be prepared to squirt your newborn.
I remember being thoroughly surprised when this happened. I hadn’t done anything differently, but three weeks into my breastfeeding journey I manhandled my boob to make it easier for him to latch and.. The inevitable happened.
Sometimes, you have to Google to get things right.
“The “flipple” technique worked wonders for me after struggling to get my baby daughter to latch on the right hand side. A quick google of this technique and a quick two minutes of looking at the diagrams and we were good to go! Never had a problem with latching again. Google is my best friend!” Jenna, Blogger at GeekChicDiary.
Sometimes, your breastfeeding journey will take you places that only Google can answer. From techniques to tips and tricks, you know that somewhere another mum has googled exactly the same dodgy looking search term – I found Pinterest incredibly helpful too. I’ve created a number of boards about motherhood, including a breastfeeding one. Failing that, some Facebook groups have been set up for breastfeeding mothers to provide that interaction you need in the early hours when only you’re awake.
You can breastfeed twins, at the same time.
Not a situation I found out first hand, but when I opened a discussion about breastfeeding it was a point that came up:
“I breastfed twins and I wish people had told me it is perfectly ok to feed them together! The hospital insisted it had to be one at a time but I figured I had two breast and two babies and since when one baby fed the other breast leaked anyway it was as well to be in use 😉. Actually no-one told me the other one would leak!” Miriam, Blogger at Faith Mummy.
It doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
“Don’t go in thinking because it’s natural, that it’s easy. Breastfeeding is hard. It also hurts at first no matter what anyone says. Unless you’re used to having someone suck on your nips they’re going to need time to adjust. It’s okay to find it hard and it’s okay to struggle with it but that doesn’t make you a failure. Be kind to yourself. Both you are baby are learning and it takes time to get to grips with it like any new skill.” Georgina, Blogger at Gee Gardner.
When you research breastfeeding, at first glance it looks like the perfect bond between mother and child – something that simply happens, you connect and confetti rains down on you when your baby latches on perfectly.
Breastfeeding is a struggle. Its a hard slog, a huge learning curve and a monster lesson in life. Not everyone is able to breastfeed and there isn’t an ounce of shame in someone choosing formula. As I mentioned before, Baby Button is combination fed as I encountered difficulties at the beginning, although I persevered and I’m here six weeks later breastfeeding him more than feeding him bottles – it isn’t easy. I’m sore, it isn’t always elegant as Baby Button manipulates himself into crazy positions to make himself comfortable and yes – there are days it reduces me to tears. I have no judgement for the bottle-feeding mama’s here. What works for one mum, may not work for another – after all, our children don’t come out all exactly the same!