Everyone knows that breastfeeding is difficult, but no one can comprehend just how hard it is until they have done it. It's so much more than a new mom simply having her baby latched onto her chest for most of the day.
It's skipping family outings or dates with friends. It's being unable to wear that favorite top, and worrying what people will think of you if you breastfeed in public.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful bonding experience for many mothers, but that's not always the case. A small percentage of women may develop the breastfeeding blues, where breastfeeding is making postpartum depression worse, causing them to feel ill or deeply saddened. And even for those that have a wonderful, positive experience, breastfeeding still controls their lives in more ways than they can count. Of course, it's all worth it when you know you're putting in hard work to feed your baby the very best you can provide.
Still, it leaves some new mothers feeling drained, both emotionally and physically. Nothing makes you feel trapped quite like having a squirmy, squishy little baby relying on you as their only source of nutrition for several months. The good news is, by six months old, you switch from being their only supply, to their main supply of nutrition. By one year old, food has gradually been introduced, and you can begin the weaning process if you want.
It's a long, difficult year, often full of tears and adjustments. If you know a breastfeeding mama, be sure to tell her how beautiful she looks and let her know her baby appreciates her dedication. That's 90% of what breastfeeding is: sheer dedication and strong will. Well, that and a little bit of prolactin and oxytocin.
15 Bye Bye Party Girl
Not without your trusty pump, that is. Sure, you can still enjoy a girl's night out, but most women agree that it's simply not worth the trouble and the time. There's some controversy over whether or not you can enjoy a couple of beers and still breastfeed afterward, with some even claiming that the yeast found in beer can actually give your milk supply a little boost. However, most lactation consultants and doctors agree that it's probably best to avoid it as often as possible.
The problem with going out doesn't just stop at enjoying a drink or two.
Being away from your baby for extended periods of time while establishing your breastfeeding relationship, especially in the first couple of months, can have a negative effect on your milk supply.
Being close to your baby and cuddling increases your oxytocin production, often called the "cuddle chemical". Your body is producing oxytocin on overdrive during pregnancy, birth, and while breastfeeding, and it's a key part of milk production. Basically, the more time you spend having skin to skin contact with your little one, the better your milk supply should be.
If you miss a feeding or two while you're out and about, it can lower your milk supply. If you're really itching to have some alone time, make sure you take your pump. It won't be the same, but you can still keep your milk production up. The more breastmilk is removed, the more your body will produce.
14 Intimacy Is...Different
In case you haven't thought about it yet, getting intimate with your partner is going to be a little different while breastfeeding. That's not to say that it won't be enjoyable or rewarding, but there's no doubt it will be different.
It's not always a guarantee that breastfeeding will affect your drive between the sheets, but many women claim that it does. Your hormones are going crazy, you're preoccupied with all things baby, and honestly - you're being touched most of the day while breastfeeding.
Some women feel "touched out" by the end of the day, leaving very little room for some fun with their significant other.
For those who continue to have a thriving intimate relationship, it's not uncommon for milk to leak while doing the deed. The hormones that course through your body while being intimate can cause you to spring a leak, which certainly adds a new dynamic to the whole ordeal.
Whether you're no longer interested in this part of your relationship with your partner for the time being, or you're dealing with breastmilk finding it's way into the party, it will be a new experience, and one that you and your partner have to get used to for a little while.
13 Some Foods Are Still Off The Table
While it's a myth that breastfeeding women need to avoid spicy foods and other strongly-flavored meals, it's been documented that eating certain foods can change the taste of the woman's breastmilk, and some can even have a negative affect on milk production.
Alternatively, some parents find out that their baby has an aversion or allergy to certain things like soy and dairy, which can be passed from the mother to child through breastmilk.
According to Baby Center, mothers have reported that their babies are often at odds with:
- spices (cinnamon, garlic, curry, chili pepper)
- citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit
- the "gassy" veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers)
- fruits with a laxative effect, such as cherries and prunes
They go on to say, "If you think that something you're eating is causing problems for your baby, it's usually something you've eaten two to six hours before feeding. The most common culprits include cows' milk products, followed by soy, wheat, egg, nuts, and corn or corn syrup."
There's no reason to restrict your diet too much, unless you have reason to believe that it's affecting your little one, and you can always discuss it with your doctor or lactation consultant.
12 A New Investment (Again) For Chest Support
Most women have to pack their pretty bras away during this time. They either don't fit anymore, or they're just not practical. Heck, many women don't wear one at all during the newborn phase because their little one needs frequent feedings.
According to Attie Sandink, a well-known lactation consultant in Burlington, Ontario, "An ill-fitting bra can cause a wide range of breastfeeding woes, from yeast infections and nipple blisters to plugged ducts and mastitis, a serious infection of the breast tissue."
Today's Parent recommends investing in sleep bras, and getting professionally sized. While there's no evidence that wearing bras with an underwire will affect your milk supply,
the general consensus among lactations consultants is to wait at least six weeks postpartum, to give your body time to find it's rhythm and establish your milk supply.
Sandink claims, “If the bra is too tight, the underwires won’t allow for good blood or lymphatic circulation to and from the breast."
So, most likely your old bras will be uncomfortable and possibly too small. They might not offer the support that your breasts now require, and they probably won't provide easy enough access to feed your baby. Time to pack your lacy bras and sports bras away, and buy a few nursing bras!
11 No Indulgences For Mommy
As we mentioned above, there is some controversy over the "pump and dump" theory. It all comes down to what you're comfortable with, and what your doctor recommends. It seems that most professionals suggest to only drink one beer or one glass of wine. If you drink it right after a nursing session, you should be good to go by the next feeding. Those that like to air on the side of caution will pump their breastmilk, then dump it afterward, just to be safe. Really, why risk it, right?
According the Baby Center, "Moderate or heavy drinking is definitely not recommended while breastfeeding. An old wive's tale suggests that dark beer increases milk production, but recent studies suggest this is not true and that alcohol, in fact, reduces milk production."
Either way, breastfeeding moms are limited on how often and how much they can drink. Typically, alcohol won't be on the mother's mind very often, as their lives revolve around the newest addition to their family, but sometimes the thought that they can no longer just go get a margarita on a limb is enough to make you feel completely trapped.
10 The Caffeine Is Still Out Of The Picture
You know what's worse than no wine? No coffee. Okay, that's an exaggeration. Breastfeeding mamas can enjoy a cup of joe, but it pretty much stops there. When you drink that second cup, you feel like a total rebel. And honestly, is it even worth it when you know your baby is going to be fussy or a little hyped up on caffeine? Sure, you'll have more energy, but that energy could possibly be wasted on a gassy, fussy, wide-awake baby.
Another problem is that caffeine is present in more than just your coffee. Breastfeeding moms will need to keep an eye on the amount of soda and tea they drink too. And if you exclusively pump, that adds a new dynamic to the situation as well.
Some women will mark their pumped milk with a sticky note, to warn themselves that that particular bag or bottle contains milk with traces of caffeine.
It's better to avoid feeding that milk to the baby right before bedtime.
Kelly Mom claims, "Most breastfeeding mothers can drink caffeine in moderation. Some babies, particularly those under 6 months, may be more sensitive to mom’s caffeine intake. Babies whose mothers avoided caffeine completely during pregnancy seem to react more to caffeine in mom’s diet. Even if the baby is sensitive to the caffeine now, he may not be when he’s a little older — so if you do have to stop or limit your caffeine intake, you can try again when the baby is older."
9 Need Easy Access
Your attire will change drastically. Not only will your old bras go out the window, many of your favorite pre-baby tops will no longer seem practical. It's a funny thing, actually. Before your baby is born, you might have known in the back of your mind that you'll need easy access for feedings, but it's not until you're doing it around the clock that you start to take a long, hard look at your wardrobe.
There are many blouses, t-shirts, and dresses that will collect dust at the back of your closet until your little one is a bit older. You can wear whatever you feel like wearing, but you'll most likely find that some pieces just aren't worth the trouble, especially if you go out in public often.
There are countless brands that create nursing tops and dresses, but they can get pricey. If you're frugal like me, you'll probably settle for shirts that weren't necessarily made for breastfeeding moms, but they get the job done. Old, loose tank tops underneath an average shirt, or even just a low cut top will work just fine. Say goodbye to your tight t-shirts for a while though. here's nothing more uncomfortable than having a tight shirt bunched up at the top of your breast, with a wiggling baby who doesn't want anything near his face.
8 You Have To Stay Hydrated
We all know it's wise to stay hydrated normally, but when you're breastfeeding, you need it more than ever. Living and Loving has this to say about staying hydrated while breastfeeding,
"Independent midwifery consultant, Dr Diana du Plessis recommends that breastfeeding moms drink between eight and 10 glasses of fluid or water per day to stay hydrated. Not only do nursing moms need the recommended amount of water for adults, but additional liquids are also required to make up for what your body uses in milk production."
Not getting enough water can lead to light-headedness, fainting, headaches, and other problems for a breastfeeding mother. It can also decrease your milk supply, which funnily enough, seems to worry most mothers more than their own health.
Many breastfeeding mamas swear by keeping your fridge stocked with Gatorade and water bottles, claiming that it gives them that extra boost they need to stay hydrated and keep their milk supply up.
You don't want to drink too much either. If you're downing glasses of water to the point where you feel sick, that's no longer beneficial. Listen to your body and keep water close by, but there's no reason to chug glass after glass.
7 The Meds Are Off The Table
Like most things, medication can pass through a breastfeeding mom's milk, and can have negative effects on the baby. This in itself can cause more problems than it's worth, however, as many women don't seek the medical care they need out of fear that they won't be able to breastfeed anymore. If you suspect that you're struggling with postpartum depression or another serious medical condition, you should always discuss your options with your doctor. There may be an alternative to the harmful medication that will ensure your breastfeeding relationship remains intact.
Some common over the counter drugs that are safe while breastfeeding includes acetaminophen, antacids, decongestant nasal sprays, ibuprofen, and laxatives. The number of meds passed through to the baby are safe, and should not have a negative impact on your milk supply.
However, some argue that taking antibiotics while breastfeeding is a big no-go, but this seems to be being disproven as time goes on. Belly Belly claims,
"When a breastfeeding mother has to take antibiotics, she may worry about how they may impact her, her breastmilk or her baby. The good news is that the use of antibiotics is generally safe when breastfeeding, and does not necessitate the need to ‘pump and dump’ or to cease breastfeeding."
They go on to say that you may notice a difference in the consistency of your baby's poo, their temperament may change, and the development of thrush is a possibility.
6 Limitations On Birth Control
Many doctors advise against certain forms of birth control while breastfeeding, while others understand a new mother's concern with getting pregnant soon after having a baby. There are options for you out there, but as more and more cases come out claiming that women are experiencing negative and sometimes severe side effects from some of the "breastfeeding safe" birth control options, many are choosing to opt out altogether.
The biggest concern when getting started on a new birth control while breastfeeding, even when it's deemed safe for milk supply, is that every woman will react differently to it. If your friend tells you they tried a certain kind, and they experienced absolutely no side effects, that does not mean it won't affect you differently.
As my doctor told me when discussing my birth control options, it really is just trial and error. You try one out, you see how it affects you, and if you notice a dip in your milk supply or severe mood swings, you switch to a different one. The whole ordeal left me wishing I never touched a pill in the first place, and I haven't since. For me, it simply wasn't worth it.
Progesterone-only contraceptives are the preferred choice, as it's said they are safe for breastfeeding moms.
An article about contraceptives on Kelly Mom states, "For most mothers, progestin-only forms of contraception do not cause problems with milk supply if started after the 6th-8th week postpartum and if given at normal doses. However, there are many reports (most anecdotal but nevertheless worth paying attention to) that some women do experience supply problems with these pills, so if you choose this method you still need to proceed with some caution."
5 Mommy Blues
Many women report a change in their mood, not only from their new life as a mom, but from the act of breastfeeding. In fact, it has a name: D-MER.
Kelly Mom says, "A small percentage of breastfeeding mothers experience feelings of depression (or anxiety, homesickness, agitation or anger) beginning immediately before their milk lets down. This is called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER."
According to D-MER.org, “Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.” This is a physiological response (not a psychological response) that appears to be tied to a sudden decrease in the brain chemical dopamine immediately before milk let-down."
This can go hand-in-hand with postpartum depression, and it can put a huge strain on your breastfeeding journey.
Many women push through these intense feelings of sadness, but often times it will leave them feeling inadequate or downtrodden.
It's often referred to as "breastfeeding blues", but like many mental health issues surrounding postpartum mothers, it's not as well-known as it should be.
4 Getting On The Baby's Schedule
Most lactation consultants agree that you shouldn't schedule your baby's feedings out. They recommend instead that you feed on demand, meaning when your baby seems hungry, whether they at 20 minutes ago, or 3 and a half hours ago, you breastfeed. This seems like the most natural way to go about things, but every family is different.
For instance, when my son was born, I had been induced. I have a feeling he wasn't quite ready to come yet because all he wanted to do was sleep. He wouldn't latch, and he showed very little interest in feeding. It made learning how to breastfeed that much harder, and I couldn't rely on him to give me cues for when he was hungry. In fact, his blood sugar dropped drastically while we were at the hospital, so the nurses had to come in and prick his foot every two hours, and schedule feedings out to coincide with this time.
This continued on for the first couple of weeks of my son's life. While generally, I think it's a good idea to feed on demand, I know from personal experience that not all babies give you the proper cues, depending on how the delivery went, and how far along you were at birth.
Either way, you'll be bound to your little one for a while if you choose to breastfeed. Whether you're feeding on demand or scheduling out feedings, you still can't leave their side for very long.
3 To Cover Or Not To Cover
Some women prefer or cover up while breastfeeding, while others don't like to at all. Depending on where you are, you might be required to. Say what you want about breastfeeding being natural, I think we can all agree that some settings are little more appropriate and comfortable than others. This isn't meant to bash anyone. I've breastfed in public both covered and uncovered, but you can't deny that there are certain scenarios where it really is best just to step away if you don't have a cover handy.
Many babies can't stand being covered while they eat, making it hard to go anywhere and feed peacefully without rude glares and snide remarks.
People will assume you're trying to take a stand or make a point when all you want to do is feed your baby and move on with your day. Breastfeeding women typically aren't trying to cause a scene or make anyone uncomfortable, but the fact of the matter is, there will always be someone around that will think it's wrong. No amount of viral social media posts is going to change that.
All around, the cover or no cover debate is common for breastfeeding moms, and no matter which way you choose to go, it brings certain difficulties and social challenges.
2 Stay Away From Certain Herbal Remedies
It's a common misconception that because herbal teas and supplements come from the earth, they must be healthy and safe. When it comes to breastfeeding, this just simply isn't the case. Actually, there are several herbs and supplements that you should avoid like the plague, as they're known to decrease milk supply.
Herbs like fenugreek, thistle, and fennel are known to be wonderful in aiding in milk production. The problem is, every woman is different. Something that may provide a boost in milk supply for one mama may very well decrease another woman's supply. It's generally good to just avoid any of these things unless you're advised to give it a try by a lactation consultant.
Thyme, sage, peppermint, oregano, and lemon balm are commonly used by mothers who are trying to dry up their milk supply, and they're regarded as a big no-no if you're trying to maintain or boost your supply.
Not only do some of these remedies affect your milk production, they can pass through to the baby, making them gassy or irritable.
Kelly Mom claims that certain herbs "should be avoided while nursing because they have been known to decrease milk supply. The amounts of these herbs normally used in cooking are unlikely to be of concern; it’s mainly the larger amounts that might be used therapeutically that could pose a problem."
1 The Engorgement
The most frustrating aspect of breastfeeding: Engorgement. Your breasts will feel full during breastfeeding, especially during the first couple of months. If the "full feeling" dissipates a little as your milk supply evens out, it certainly does not mean that you're not producing enough milk. However, if your breasts get engorged, you'll know.
It may happen when your baby first sleeps through the night, or skips a feeding. If your breasts feel tender or uncomfortable,
you may need to hand express or pump some milk out to relieve a little of the pressure.
According to Breastfeeding Basics, "This normal breast fullness can develop into engorgement if the baby isn’t nursing often enough or vigorously enough, or if you are separated from your baby and don’t remove the milk frequently and effectively. When the normal breast fullness is not relieved, fluid builds up and swelling occurs. The breasts become hard, and the skin is taut and shiny. They become extremely tender and painful, and you may run a low-grade fever and become achy."
Engorgement can easily turn into mastitis if you're not able to remove the milk, so you should feed your baby frequently until your body adjusts to their new feeding schedule. It will certainly make you uncomfortable, and can even make you downright angry.