Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience. When mom and baby are in sync, the miracle that provides nutrition for the baby also gives the mother an amazing sense of accomplishment and a deep connection to her newborn. But between the beautiful moments are some extremely hard ones.
For the first few days after birth, the mom will start to figure to figure out the perfect hold and learn all about the latch, all the while providing her baby with the rich, creamy colostrum that packs in nourishment and immunities. While the feedings can be painful and the lessons can be difficult, those first few days to a week are kind of like a grace period to when the going really gets tough. After the euphoria of birth comes the reality when the milk comes in.
That's the period when mom's sore nipples start to bleed, when the lactation consultant is no longer on standby and the around-the-clock feeding schedule starts to take its toll. It's when the pressure to succeed meets the painful pressure of engorgement. Sometimes, the days when the milk comes in are enough to make a new mom give up on her breastfeeding journey, although we hope that the knowledge that all women have the same dreadful thoughts will encourage them to keep going.
Here are 15 things all moms think when their milk comes in.
It is true that breasts full of milk can hurt more than a new mom ever imagined. Many moms start complaining about their boobs aching in pregnancy, and they can be tender pretty much from the moment that the sperm meets the egg. But things go to an entirely new level when their milk comes in.
About a week after the baby’s birth, mom’s biggest complaint goes from where the baby came out to where the baby gets breakfast. It happens for women who choose to breastfeed and for those who are formula feeding because the hormones that are released during labor trigger the production of milk whether you like it or not. The pain can be in the nipples and also on the other parts of the breasts, and it can be super painful to the touch. Things will get better later on, but when the milk comes in it’s usually at its worst.
14 Will I Ever Make Enough?
Women who choose to breastfeed are under a lot of pressure from the very first moment that their baby comes into the world. They are all too aware that their little one has to rely on them for sustenance, yet they worry that their body won’t produce enough milk to nourish their baby well and allow him to grow and thrive. It’s especially hard since you can’t see how much milk is coming out because it goes directly into the baby. That’s why many moms wonder whether they will ever make enough.
The good news is that newborns don’t need a lot of milk in the first few days. At birth, the baby’s stomach is the size of a marble. The milk that is present right at birth is called colostrum, and while there isn’t much, it is rich and thick and filled with nutrients. The baby’s stomach grows quickly, but within a few days, the mom’s milk supply does too. Very rarely, some women have trouble making enough milk for the baby, but there are some things that moms can do to boost that — and providing formula in the meantime does not harm the baby. For most, the answer to their thoughts about whether they will ever make enough milk is yes.
13 They Are Going To Explode!
The way that breasts fill with milk can be pretty intense, especially if this is a mom’s first baby. You can really feel the impact of the liquid that will keep the baby nourished. It feels like water balloons filling up to the point of no return, and just like a balloon, moms will wonder if they will explode from the pressure.
When the baby eats, the feeling will subside, but in just a couple of hours, it will be time to eat again, and there will be no mistaking the sensation. If the baby sleeps late or something interferes with the schedule, the balloons will continue to fill and feel like they will burst. It’s part of the pain and the pressure of being a new breastfeeding mom, and the only thing that can make the balloons deflate is to feed the baby or pump a little milk out.
12 Is That A Lump?
It’s a good idea for women to start breast self-exams pretty much as soon as their body develops. That’s especially true for women who have a family history of breast cancer, but any woman can get the disease, and her chances are best if it is detected early. But breasts change a lot during pregnancy, and they change even more when the milk comes in.
In fact, the milk ducts on breasts can swell up a lot when the milk comes in (and also when moms goes through issues like mastitis). The breasts can feel pretty lumpy, and that can stretch all the way up to the armpit. It’s still important for women to consider doing self-exams, but they shouldn’t panic if they feel a lump, especially in that first week or two after the baby’s birth. If a duct gets blocked, moms should massage it a bit in the shower, and if it stays swollen, she should talk to her doctor. But she shouldn’t be embarrassed if she feels a lump only to find out that it’s just her milk coming.
11 Gross! I’m Leaking
When a mom’s milk comes in, often times her body isn’t entirely prepared. Even though she worries that the baby is getting enough food, a bunch seems to be wasted when it spills out all over her shirt. It’s most common in the beginning, especially since after it happens a few times women learn that they can wear pads in their bra to soak in the leaking milk.
It can feel gross to new moms, who have to deal with all kinds of bodily fluids with their newborn. Many spend most of their day covered in spit up and the remains of dirty diapers, and they don’t appreciate their own body betraying them with another. However, according to the La Leche League, it’s actually a good thing that moms’ breasts leak. It’s a solution that the body naturally uses to release the pressure on the breasts and avoid issues with ducts such as mastitis. After a few months, it happens less often because a mom’s body will adjust to the supply that she needs.
10 Didn’t I Just Finish A Feeding?
When a mom’s milk comes in, it may be the hardest time in her entire breastfeeding journey. Things become real very quickly, as the baby needs a lot from his mother. The more she grows, the more food she needs, the more time and attention she needs from her mom. In those first few weeks, newborns can take a long time to finish feeding, and then often the process begins again a short time later.
Newborns need to eat every two hours, and if the baby keeps drifting off to sleep, it may take an hour to get the first feeding down. That round-the-clock feeding schedule can be very tough for mothers, and it can take a toll on their breasts and their own sleep schedule. It can make every session run together, and make the period when the milk comes in easy to forget. It leaves moms checking the clock and wondering, “didn’t I just finish a feeding?”
9 Is He Actually Getting Any Milk Out?
Baby bottles are clear. And many of them have marks on them to indicate how many ounces of formula or breastmilk are inside. It makes it easy for a mom to know exactly how much her baby is eating — she just has to do a little basic math on how much was in the bottle when a feeding started and how much was in it when it ended. It’s a lot more complicated for a breastfeeding mom, and that’s why many wonder if the baby is actually getting any milk when he nurses after the milk comes in.
Sometimes it can be hard to feel the milk coming out, and that certainly doesn’t help with the amount. Of course, a mom who pumps her milk into a bottle could measure it, but otherwise, there is only one way to figure it out. Lactation consultants have a solution that can work if the mom has a scale. She can weigh the baby before a feeding and then again right after. Even if the baby has wet into his diaper, that is an indication that fluids are going in. Don’t change the diaper before weighing again. Once again, a little basic math can provide the answer.
8 Which Side Did I Nurse From Last?
Women have two breasts that can provide food for their young ones. And since twins and other multiple births are still in the minority, most moms only use one at a time. Lactation consultants recommend that moms alternate breasts when they feed their little one, as emptying out the breast prompts the body to continue making a good supply. So at the one week mark or so — just when the milk is coming in but after a week of nursing round the clock and getting exhausted — all moms think out loud, “which side did I nurse from last?”
It’s such a problem that technology companies have marketed solutions such as cell phone apps that moms try to use to time their nursing sessions and keep track of their sides. Other women use hair ties or bracelets and try to remember to switch them at each session. The brain fog that comes with being the mom of a newborn makes it even tougher, so no matter if they have a method or not, most moms tend to forget and fret. If it happens too many times, though, the breasts will help sort everything out, with the fuller version hurting like crazy until the mom nurses that side and gets relief.
7 I Feel Like A Cow
As a mom, women tend to feel like they work at a diner. They have to provide meals at all hours of the day, and between finicky eaters and allergies, sometimes she can end up having to make several different versions of a meal to feed her entire family. But even those feelings are nothing compared to what happens when she is breastfeeding a newborn. When her milk comes in, there is no doubt that at least once she will feel like a cow, complete with udders.
It is amazing that a mom's body can provide the sustenance that her baby needs, and when she feels her breasts filling with milk, she will know for the first time what those mammary glands are really for. But that doesn't make it any easier to bear the feelings that she is a laborer just there to provide the milk. Of course, that isn't true — she is so much more to her little one than that. But for most of our life, cows have provided the milk, and it's hard not to moo at the thought that it is her job now.
6 I Feel Like A Pacifier
Yes, babies get their milk from their mom, but that isn't the only thing that happens when the milk comes in. Many times, as a baby gets used to his life in the world, he finds great comfort in nursing. The sucking reflex is something that doctors have seen babies begin in the womb. As oral creatures, the sensation can help a baby who just had her vaccinations or who is tired or overwhelmed. It's perfectly normal, although it can make a mom feel like a pacifier.
Many women of older generations are opposed to the idea of comfort nursing. They say it could spoil the baby. But research proves otherwise. For one, the data shows that babies cannot be spoiled before they are six months old. On top of that, babies who are frequently held and frequently nursed are more likely to be outgoing and have high self-esteem later in life. There are questions about whether nursing a baby to sleep will make it harder for them to sleep through the night, but when the milk comes in, that isn't an issue — you are lucky if the baby sleeps two hours.
5 I’m Famished
There’s a point in a woman’s pregnancy — usually after the morning sickness ends — when she starts to feel hungry in a way she never has before. Sure, if you skip a meal, your tummy might let you know it, but the emptiness that a pregnant belly feels is entirely different and surprising. And then the mom has the baby, and if she starts breastfeeding, when her milk comes in, things will get even worse. That’s when all of a sudden she will understand the true definition of famished.
To keep up her milk supply, a pregnant woman needs about 500 additional calories a day. Considering some women’s diets are only about 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day to begin with, adding on another 500 is a big increase. After a feeding, moms can feel so hungry that they need to eat a snack themselves. And it’s definitely not the time to start a diet. It’ll be hard enough to keep the hunger at bay without cutting more calories.
4 I’ve Had Enough Oatmeal And Nuts To Last A Lifetime
We’ve talked about the pressure to breastfeed your baby and how hard it is to figure out if the baby is getting enough to eat. Considering how much a mom needs to worry about to keep her baby alive in the first few weeks, she loses even more sleep thinking about her milk supply and how to get it up. There are a number of tips that lactation consultants give to help, and many times that includes a few dietary options.
Staying hydrated is very important to keeping a woman’s supply up. And there are a number of foods that can help too, especially oat, fennel, nuts and garlic. One of the favorite recipes going around involves a special cookie, filled with oatmeal and other good ingredients, and some women start their days with oatmeal and eat nuts and other lactation-friendly food to the extreme. It leaves them feeling sick of lactation-friendly food, even as early as when the milk comes in.
3 I Don’t Care If The Postman Sees
Those first few days and weeks with a baby are very tough. After going through labor and delivery, where all sense of privacy is lost between the doctor, nurses and, well, the pain, women spend hours with their breasts bared learning to breastfeed their newborn. After a few days, many moms don't bother with a bra, and they sometimes don't worry about covering up when the mail is delivered. They just don't care at that point because — as we've just discussed — the mom feels more like a cow or a pacifier than a sexual being anyway.
Let us mention two things here. First, skin-to-skin contact is a very positive thing for a newborn baby. It's great for the baby to be right up next to the mom for nursing and for bonding, and it can even help with keeping warm and regulating the baby's heartbeat. Second, there is a big debate as to whether women should cover up when they breastfeed in public, and that is mostly because the general public still sees a woman's breasts as sexual objects. We support the right to nurse a baby anywhere a mom wants, but this article isn't about that. It's about what moms think when the milk comes in, and the truth is that in the throes of nursing a newborn, anything goes.
2 I'm Not Sure That's Good For The Baby
We've talked about the pain that can come when the milk comes in, but it isn't only because of the engorgement. There are many painful problems that breastfeeding moms have to deal with, especially at the very beginning, and they can even leave a mom bleeding or leave her body red and swollen. It can leave a woman thinking that her milk might be bad for her baby.
The truth, though, is that it is OK to continue to nurse even when a mother's nipples are cracked and bleeding. If she has mastitis, an infection that is caused by a blocked milk duct that is common when a woman becomes engorged, it's OK to breastfeed. In fact, it can help clear the blocked duct and help the mother to heal — and all the while there is no risk that the infection will be passed on to the baby. So while a mother may worry, it's perfectly OK to nurse through the pain and agony of the milk coming in.
1 Is That A Baby Crying?
We mentioned before how breasts can leak when the milk comes in and they fill to the top. But there is always a possibility of doing more than just leaking when a woman hears a baby crying. It doesn't even have to be her baby — it can be a random child on the other side of a store — and she can have a let down all over her shirt. After the first time it happens, moms will constantly keep an ear out for a cry so they can try to leave the room before their body clues in.
A let down is the body's natural response to free the milk, and it can happen at the mere sound or smell of a baby, especially when the body is just getting used to its new milk supply. It can also happen during sex. Many moms find the situation embarrassing, but it's just another crazy thing that happens when the milk comes in.
Sources: La Leche League, Today's Parent