When a woman chooses to breastfeed, she embarks on a journey like no other. The connection she will feel with her child and the healthy start to life she gives are immeasurable. So are all of the embarrassing, painful, and downright hilarious encounters she will have living life as a nursing mom.
The World Health Organization recommends women nurse exclusively for at least six months and try to continue nursing through the first year. They even say pushing right through and going longer is good for a child. Many moms take this advice seriously and attempt to nurse as long as they can, but along the way they find there are situations they never anticipated.
When milk starts spraying ten different directions when any child cries or when mom is receiving communication from her breast pump, she realizes there is much more to providing sustenance to a child than is advertised in the brochures.
The nursing journey can feel lonely, but knowing there are other women going through the same things can help moms stick it out and find the humor in even the hardest situations. As a crash course training for the impending journey, this list offers a chronological review of what mom can expect, what she may experience, and how to make it through.
Each woman's journey is different, but many agree that the items on this list go a long way in explaining what happens to our bodies, our minds, and everything around us while we nurse.
15 My Milk Is MIA
It's possible to feel like we're not equipped to breastfeed from the very beginning, especially since our breasts seem suspiciously empty after the baby arrives. Moms report telling their doctors and nurses that nothing is coming out only to be told, "Sure it is. See, the kid is eating."
And eat the kid will do those first couple of days. In fact, it will be so constant mom will fear her areolas are going to fall off as a form of protest. How does this kid eat all day and never get full? Colostrum is the answer.
Colostrum is baby's first food, a liquid gold immunity builder that offers babies a jump start on good health. It's also the place holder for the real milk. When mom's milk comes roaring in like waterfalls around two to three days after birth, she'll see a let up in how often her child feeds. At least, she'll see a bit of one.
14 The Milk Is Here And I'm Dying
Oh, did we forget to mention that milk coming down feels like death? Yeah, while mom will wish for the sea of flowing froth to finally arrive, she will not be able to anticipate the pain her body can throw at her this soon after already giving birth. It's evil.
Moms who lived to tell about this experience describe their chests as feeling bruised, ready to explode, and possibly recovering from being used as punching bags. While the milk is making its long, arduous journey, mom will also be contending with a baby learning how to latch properly and gnawing on her 24/7. While the baby nursing helps bring the milk down, mom will probably feel a bit bitter about the child adding to this already painful process.
The only way through this pain is, well, through it. Just like labor, there are no shortcuts. It hurts and mom thinks she won't be able to take it, then it's a bit better.
13 The Story Of The Rejected Side
We all have that one boob, the overachiever, the one that works a bit harder to fill out the bra. It's larger, rounder, and just a bit more in charge, causing us to look lopsided.
Mom's baby may choose this one as the favorite, but he may not. That's right, babies have favorites. Though nurses will tell us to nurse from both sides so we'll produce evenly and a child will get the right amount of hind milk, infants make that hard.
They play favorites, causing one of our breasts to produce enough milk to feed a small country and leaving the other one at first full of milk and hope, but finally deflated and wondering at its purpose.
Mom has to keep encouraging her child to nurse from both sides so her milk production will stay evenly distributed, her boobs won't be constantly lopsided, and so when her boobs are destroyed, the devastation will be equally divided.
12 Someone Else's Baby Cries, My Chest Sympathizes
Our boobs have baby radar, but it can be very nonspecific at times. When our baby cries, of course our milk comes in, ready to offer a soothing snack to our offspring. However, we may feel a bit startled when we're out having coffee with a girlfriends sans child and the sound of someone else's child crying sets off our girls. Full breasts? Check. Leaking boobs? Check. A baby to feed? Nope.
It's not only real babies who can cause this. It's real baby cries. One mom reports being around dolls equipped with real infant cries, a project used to deter middle school children from getting pregnant, when both of her breasts activated and started pouring milk down her chest. Of course, her real baby was nowhere near to help her out.
This is why we have breast pads and run around in clothes that wreak of rotted milk for years. It's a small price to pay to nurse our kids, I guess. It is a price, though.
11 My Breast Pump Speaks To Me
There will come a point in the breastfeeding relationship where the breast pump will become mom's new attachment. It's a heavy accessory that serves the purpose of expelling milk from our girls when the baby isn't around.
For some women, this relationship has gotten so deep that they hear their breast pump speaking to them. That supposedly innocuous hissing the pump makes when it's drawing milk out suddenly becomes words. One mom heard her pump say "Shut the door, shut the door", while another heard "come home, come home".
An especially helpful pump offered fashion advice by offering "sweater vest" on repeat, and another encouraged a mom by saying "no more". No more what? We don't know. Breast pumps are chatty but frustratingly non-specific when offering information.
When this happens, mom doesn't need to panic. She's not crazy, and if she is, we all are. That makes it okay.
10 I Just Want To Sleep For Four Consecutive Hours
As long as a baby knows the ta-tas are available, it's hard for them to live without them. In truth, babies who are breastfed actually just process the milk efficiently, which is code for very fast. They drink it, dump the remains in the diaper, and start begging for more.
That's why breastfeeding moms don't really know what consecutive hours of sleep feel like for years. Did we say years? Don't be scared, it could only be months. Either way, at some point in the nursing game, mom will start to question all of her life decisions when she is sleepily grabbing a screaming child and just throwing him on her chest so he can find his own way to a nipple.
For babies who are breastfed, nursing is comfort. Besides food, they want to be near mom. It's sweet, and it's also infuriating when the baby needs a cuddle fest at two a.m.
9 Mastitis? How Is This Fair?
Guess what prize many breastfeeding moms are given for the work of feeding their baby from their bodies? A bacterial infection called mastitis! I know, super win, right?!?
There are lucky individuals who get out of the breastfeeding game without experiencing this horribly painful infection, but studies show around 33% of women do have the pleasure of having all their hard work rewarded with blocked ducts that create high fever, extreme pain in the breasts, fatigue, and a general feeling that life will never be good again.
Moms often have to be treated for mastitis with antibiotics, and doctors will try hard to put them on one that won't adversely affect their babies. The reason? Because nursing helps heal mastitis. That's right, what got us into the infection can help get us out. Life is weird.
Another nugget of good news? Moms who develop mastitis once are more likely to develop it again. And again. And again.
8 I'm In Love With A Biter
Ever wonder how sharp baby teeth really are? Yeah, most of us haven't, but it's almost certain a mom who breastfeeds her child long enough will find out. While most little nursers are plenty adapt at sucking without puncturing mom, others aren't. Plus, some kids just like to bite.
Infants generally sprout that first tooth around six months old, though they may show teething signs before then. When the tooth arrives, it's a relief because it means those weeks of drooling, sleep regression, and non-stop nursing were for something. However, when a child wants to find out what that tooth does, he'll often take a bite out of mom and wait for her reaction.
The reaction is generally alarmed, and it needs to be firm. When an infant realizes biting may not be the best way to win mom's heart, he'll usually stop. There are always those kids who will push a little harder and continue to bite hoping mom will get used to it. We do not get used to it. Ever.
7 Dear Stranger, It's Not Okay To Stare
If there is a completely unnecessary product that is still in high demand it's nursing covers. These breastfeeding accessories are meant to keep the tender eyes of strangers from having to witness mom feeding her child. I mean, since we live in such a chaste society, it makes sense.
Except it doesn't. We're very comfortable with naked women on billboards and around swimming pools, but a woman feeding her child is just too much. While it's fine to use a nursing cover if mom wants to take that approach, it needs to be for her own reasons, not to pacify others. If people don't want to see women nurse, they can do the unthinkable and just not watch!
Women have been dealing with being shamed for public breastfeeding, but much of the anger from the public is aimed right at the person who did the shaming. With all the benefits of breastfeeding for a baby, we should be making it easier and less stigmatizing to nurse publicly, not harder.
6 I Just Slapped My Husband For Feeling Me Up
Having a child changes things. So does nursing one. We may have loved those covert grabs our husband snuck when we passed in the hallway, but we now view them as an act of aggression and strike out appropriately.
All women have different feelings about their breasts while nursing, and some of those feelings may even be conflicting. While a woman may feel empowered by what her body can do, she may also not want anyone but her child near her superpower cleavage.
Breasts are sensitive, the slightest touch can bring milk in, and more than one man has been showered with sticky breast milk during acts of intimacy. It's very confusing to try to combine the maternal side of breasts with the intimacy side, so many women just have a hands off policy while breastfeeding.
Even after weaning a child, breasts can still be sensitive. Usually women are okay with touch from the husbands after a matter of time.
5 This Kid Can Chew Steak, I'm Done
There comes a point in every nursing relationship where one party is over it. That party is usually mom. We get tired of not sleeping, finding dried milk in our fleshy folds, and feeling like we are on call 24/7 for a child who we fear only knows us as a pair of boobs with a head attached somewhere north of the chest.
Most children start eating baby food around six months, and though the World Health Organization recommends still nursing to the year mark and beyond, some of us start eyeing an earlier finish line when things get hard. I mean, the kid can eat! Since some moms wait until their kids are toddlers to even think about weaning, their children may honestly be throwing down table food like champs.
It becomes very easy to rationalize walking away from the nursing relationship and focusing on a relationship that involves sleep, sexy bras, and nice tops that smell clean all the time. It's fine to throw in the towel at any time, but for most of us, the next item on this list strikes.
4 Okay, I'm Back Because Weaning Is Hard
There are times mom has to pull the plug because she really just cannot go on. However, most of the time weaning is best done when both parties are at least remotely interested in transitioning to a different type of relationship. When a child is not, they become a milk-obsessed monster who spends the day switching between screaming and making sad faces that break mom's heart.
Kids are not only attached to the milk; they are attached to the attachment. Breastfeeding is their idea of the perfect set up since it's a way to eat yummy food while cuddling with their favorite person. To have that routine suddenly taken away is hard on kids emotionally, and they will no doubt let mom know about it.
Wean slowly, talk to kids about what is taking place, and offer tons of affection so kids know not nursing doesn't mean not snuggling. Or just keep breastfeeding them.
3 I Don't Want To Wear Nice Bras Anyway
Oh, the reality of the nursing bra. Breasts full of milk need support, but to receive that support they have to be covered in super thick, non-underwire nursing bras that offer a baby easy access to the boobs. Sure, these bras come with little snaps at the top of each cup so mom can pull her bra down and expose herself in a flash, but that's about the only even potentially sexy thing about them.
At some point, mom will likely find herself dreamily checking out websites that have bras for women whose breasts aren't a food source, and she'll be envious. The women who wear the non-nursing bras also don't have to wear breast pads, and they likely even enjoy the bra purchasing process.
It will happen one day. There will come a time when nursing bras can be burned as the breasts are free to wear pretty lingerie again!
2 New Uses For Cabbage
When the day finally comes to wean and claim our breasts as truly for recreational purposes only again, doing it properly is key to avoiding engorgement that can lead to mastitis. Weaning abruptly is not a good idea, and even when mom weans gradually, she may still need help to ensure all of the milk truly goes away.
Honestly, even weeks or months down the road, mom may be able to squeeze a breast and see a trickle of milk come out, but to get through the hardest part of getting rid of the mass majority of milk, vegetables may come into play. Specifically cabbage.
Cabbage placed in a freezer can then be peeled off leaf by leaf and placed in mom's bra to offer both cool soothing and a faster drying up process. Of course, it wilts and starts to absolutely wreak, so changing leaves often is essential.
1 And This Is What I Have Left
The big reveal once our breasts are no longer full of milk can be a bit unfortunate. Yes, breastfeeding is worth it no matter what we look like when it's over, but mom should be prepared for her previously perky friends to suddenly be riding much lower, flatter, and well, to look a bit strung out. A child has been gnawing on them for months or years, so it's a guarantee that they will look different.
While most researchers say it's the expansion of the breasts during pregnancy that changes their appearance after, moms who have breastfed will definitely say nursing does not help. Women have described their after nursing boobs as pancake-like and droopy, but they wouldn't have given up the experience. When it's all said and done, the journey is full of benefits, surprises, and difficulties, but it's all worth it.
Resources: Graspingforobjectivity.com, Medicalnewstoday.com, Parenting.com, Reddit.com, WHO.int