It’s a trigger word for some. A swear word for others. And awe-inspiring, nostalgic words for others still.
It’s a topic anyone entering motherhood will likely discuss time and again–one that tends to garner extremely polar responses.
Not everyone breastfeeds their babies, and that’s completely fine, but for those of us that do, there are some secrets we’ve learned along the way. Like…
- Your nipples can (and probably will) bleed. I’m not starting off easy here, I know, but this is probably one of the most shocking things I learned. I’d heard that breastfeeding could be painful, but I had no idea nipples could get blisters or cracks, and actually bleed. Or that it was all-too-common.
- There are so many ways for it to hurt. I actually ended up with something called Reynaud Syndrome–artery spasms that cause reduced blood flow (usually brought on by cold or stress)–in my nipples. If you Google it, feel free to cry for me. On top of that, there’s engorgement (which is so much more painful than you’d think), milk blebs, blocked ducts, mastitis, thrush, poor latches…The list goes on in depressing quantity.
- Your boobs will be out for the world to see all-too-often for the first several weeks (/months). When you and baby are first learning to nurse, it’s extremely difficult to maintain any kind of modesty. You eventually just have to give in to the fact that you will probably accidentally flash a few people.
- Breastfed babies typically don’t sleep for long stretches for a while. (Insert exhaustion here.)
- You might hate it in the beginning. I hated breastfeeding for the first six months with my first daughter. Everyone tells you that it’s “the best thing” for baby and that you develop such a bond and that you’ll miss it one day–but they don’t tell you how much you will loathe it first. Even if you’re lucky and have few complications (like I did.)
- Your nipples are extremely stretchy. Now this was something I never expected to learn. But babies are happy to show you just how far those things can be stretched.
- Your nipples will become very desensitized. What? The baby is stretching them? She’s pinching them? She’s flicking them? She’s biting them? She’s biting!! Get this thing off me! (That one still hurts like a mother.)
- Your wardrobe becomes centered around your ability to pull out your boob. Say “goodbye” to dresses that aren’t low-cut, super stretchy, or wrap-tops; to hoodies that bunch and suffocate baby. Say “hello” to wearing camisoles under everything; to bras that snap; to your life with more cleavage than you’re used to (especially because it’s probably deeper than it used to be, too)!
- Night weaning can be a whole new beast. Complete with angry babies, full boobs, and nausea, of all things. But, hello, sleep!
- You will (probably) never regret a minute of the time you spent nursing. In the end, despite all its trials and pains and stresses, there really is something special about breastfeeding. And I’m up to two babies (almost three years) straight, so I should know.
What are some things I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!