August is National Breastfeeding Month! When I thought of what I kind of blog post I could write, I had several emotions course through me at once. My inner monologue went something like this: “Oh breastfeeding was so sweet. Ugh, but it was so hard. And raw. And ugly. Shoot maybe I shouldn’t write a breastfeeding post. I don’t want to scare anyone. But the mommas need to know! Write the dang post.”
Clearly, I have mixed emotions about breastfeeding. I could write a 900-page manual on everything I experienced, but you’ll get the highlights. If you have breastfed before I hope you can share some laughs. If you’re expecting your first baby, I hope I don’t traumatize you. Here are the footnotes of the bad, the ugly, and (finally) the good. Because it’s always best to end on a high note.
Your nipples will grow to the size of a pizza and turn a color you never thought possible. This happens because babies see in shades of black and white when they are first born. So your nipples get big and dark so your baby can see them! It’s sweet really. Almost sweet enough to make up of for the fact that they now look like Oreo cookies. Almost.
Huge boobs. I was big-busted to begin with. So when my milk came in, I was in a size DDD bra. And they were twice the size of my baby’s head. I had to hold them back while nursing so my baby didn’t suffocate. This also made breastfeeding in public hard. There was no way possible to be discrete. I know some mommas will read this and say “Who cares, whip it out, everyone has the right to breastfeed in public!” While I agree (more power to ya sister!), that mentality wasn’t compatible with my modest personality.
Too much milk or not enough milk. In the early stages, I had so much milk and a “forceful letdown”. My baby would sputter and choke because they couldn’t keep up with the amount of milk coming out during letdown. This resulted in a wet, sticky everyone. Once milk starts flowing like the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, you can’t shut it down. I have also had friends who have had babies with aggressive appetites. This meant they supplemented until their body could finally keep up. Sidebar: the best way to keep up your supply is to keep feeding/pumping! So even if you have to supplement, pump it like your the Black Eyed Peas in 2006!
Leaking milk. I had to carry extra clothes with me wherever I went for the first 3 months. Sometimes let down happens whether you want it to or not. Nursing pads couldn’t keep up and I would often resemble a trend setting Regina George. Now, this is where it gets real you guys. The leakage makes sex real interesting. If you and your spouse don’t have a sense of humor in the bedroom, wear a bra. And for the love, do not take that sucker off unless you are prepared to mop up after Hurricane Katrina.
Prepare yourself for ALL the emotions. And painful, cracked, and bleeding nipples. And engorgement. It’s all so ugly. There are no words for those first eight weeks. My emotions were off the charts. I was engorged, so my doula recommended I soak the girls in bowls of warm water to help. My low came as I sat at my kitchen counter with my chest hanging in a pair of mixing bowls. Strategically placed to also catch my tears.
Breastfeeding felt like getting nipple tattoos every 90 minutes. They were so raw, during one feeding session my daughter pulled off and had blood running down her cheek. Which triggered yet another onset of torrential tears. I felt guilty for feeding her blood, and she looked like a tiny vampire. I tried Soothies, creams, and airing them out. But the only thing that helped was time. It was eight weeks before I had my first pain free nursing session, and I have no idea how I managed to stick with it. But I did and it was worth it.
The pain will go away, your hormones will balance, and you won’t leak anymore. There are countless health benefits, as well – you’ll burn calories like a furnace, and you will continue to evade visits from Aunt Flo. And you never have to remember to pack formula and a bottle. Best of all, it costs zero dollars.
And here is the awesome stuff. Your breastmilk is SO powerful! When you kiss your baby’s hands and cheeks, your body picks up those germs and makes antibodies specific to those germs. Those antibodies are then passed on to your baby through your breastmilk. Whaaaat!? That is so stinkin’ cool! You can also use your breastmilk as a healing agent for baby acne and clogged tear ducts. As if all this wasn’t enough, you will share so many sweet and tender moments with your baby. They will look at you like no one has ever looked at you before, and that oxytocin high will never get old.