Breastfeeding is an amazingly beautiful way to feed and bond with a baby. It also can be pretty gross.
From the outside, many people have the serene image of a baby nestled against his mother's bosom, drinking the natural, organic food. It's a sweet image, but even then some people think that breastfeeding in general is disgusting (they are wrong, by the way). If they only knew the truth, they would know that there are worse things that using a biological process to feed your baby. The truth is, the hard work of using your body to feed your baby can have some icky drawbacks, and it can be smelly and disgusting, especially if bodily fluids gross you out.
Nature gave us an amazing elixir that is awesome at curing infections and healing rashes and cuts, so breastfeeding moms will use their extra supply on everything from the baby's head to the mom's nipples. They will use the grossest things to help them get through the pain. And you may find they have no bra on but plenty of milk on their shirt if you surprise them with a visit at home. Plenty of people would be shocked and grossed out to learn all of the secrets that nursing moms keep.
Here are 16 gross things every breastfeeding mom does (but won't admit).
The first thing on our list is something that happens to every breastfeeding mom, and quite possibly every postpartum mom whether she gives her baby the bottle or breast. And it isn't her fault. This one is entirely biological, and most moms do all that they can to hide it from everyone around them. They leak.
After the milk comes in when the baby is born, it wants to come out. It can happen to any mom who hears a baby cry across a store, as that can cause a let down and soak her shirt. In the first week or two after the birth, it is often at its worst, when the body is trying to figure out how much milk it needs, but it can continue up to months after the mom stops nursing. Most women catch on quickly that they need to wear pads in their bras just in case they experience another gross leak, so they won't have to admit it to anyone.
15 Go Braless
We have a secret, and it may make you want to stay home instead of going to a new mom's house to visit the baby. If she's breastfeeding, she probably doesn't have on a bra, unless you called ahead and told her you were on the way.
For the first six months or so of a baby's life, the mom can feel like a milk cow. In the beginning, the baby feeds every two hours, and while that dissipates, there will be periods of cluster feedings and teething when it seems like the mom must give up her boob constantly to get through the day and night. It can be too exhausting to fasten and unfasten a nursing bra all the time, so at home, a mom is likely to just go without.
Most moms put the bra back on to go out in public — after all, they need the pads in place so that no one knows anything about the leaking — but most of the time, it's all hanging out at home.
Some people think it's pretty icky to share food with people or to take a sip of another person's drink. But most breastfeeding moms wouldn't bat an eye to share their baby's nutrition with others, although they probably won't admit it for fear of being judged.
The sharing can happen in many ways — maybe giving a couple of extra pumped bottles or even just putting the baby to her own breast if he is hungry and in need. That last version is less common, but that is mostly because women are afraid to ask each other for that kind of help, and they might be afraid to offer. While wet nursing went out of style decades ago, milk banks are a pretty big deal these days, and many women are willing to donate their milk. Moms may be less willing to accept if they don't know the mother because some diseases and things like alcohol can be passed on through the milk, which adds to the ick factor. But there are probably more women than you would expect who share.
Well, many men don't think this is gross when we describe it in a sexual sense, but when it's about lactation they can get very squeamish. But it's true, even if she doesn't admit it: all breastfeeding moms massage their breasts. They may not want their husbands to get anywhere near their big swollen mammary glands while they are nursing, but they quickly figure out how to touch them in a way that will help and not hinder breastfeeding.
It's not so much a massage that usually works but a kind of squeezing and pulling that is similar to what you do to milk a cow by squeezing and helping the milk flow out of the udder. Lactation consultants can help a mom quickly get down the technique to help at the beginning of a nursing session before the let down takes over. She's not exactly feeling herself up, but it's still kind of gross to some to think about the action going in to getting the milk out.
12 Skip The Soap
A nursing mother's ability to breastfeed is important, especially with a little baby relying on her for life. And she will go to any level to make sure that she can keep doing so for the sake of her precious little one's ability to continue to grow and be healthy. Sometimes, that means skipping something in her diet. Sometimes, unfortunately, that means skipping the soap in the shower.
Some lactation experts say that lathering up with soap can increase the likelihood of cracked nipples, and for a woman already struggling with the pain of breastfeeding, she is likely to take that to heart. Washing with water is essential, especially since little babies are known to spit up all over mommy at times. But she may use the soap only on certain areas, and that means not her breasts. Adding on some lotion afterward can go a long way as well, and hopefully it will cover the smell.
Everyone drinks cow's milk, but the idea of drinking the milk that comes from a woman weirds people out. Many people think that the nutrition is only good for the baby, and they think the idea of drinking it as an adult is disgusting. There's an entire episode of Friends devoted to the idea.
But even in that episode, they reveal the truth; all moms try their own milk. Whether it's just tasting it while licking a bit off the finger or putting a tiny bit on their tongue, most moms wonder at some point what it tastes like. The truth is that the taste changes based on the food that the mother consumes and the needs of the baby. With so much milk around, it's no surprise that she takes a bit of a taste every once in a while. It's not as gross as it sounds.
10 Pumping Let Down
Breastfeeding at home is one thing. It's a hard task that requires round-the-clock dedication, but with a baby nearby, you usually don't have to set your watch. If a woman works outside of the home, though, she usually has to go through a much more rigorous and kind of disgusting ritual a couple of times a day at work to provide breastmilk for her babies. Luckily, technologies have provided us with phenomenal breast pumps to get the milk from the breast into the bottle. But sometimes nature has a hard time warming up to a machine, and that is where the grossest parts come in.
Breastfeeding mom experience what is known as a "let down," when the milk begins to flow smoothly, and the body is signaled to begin that process with the baby's cry. The baby's smell, the baby's saliva and the suction also play a role. The machine can reproduce the sucking action, but some women have to record their baby's cry and maybe even carry around a dirty baby blanket to trick their bodies into a let down at work. The thing may start to stink, but it's all in a day's work for a breastfeeding working mom.
9 Zit Cream
The uses of breastmilk for healing have been long proven, and moms who breastfeed their babies quickly turn to their magic milk to help with one of the worst postpartum problems around. With the hormones going up and down once the baby is born, many women suffer from the same thing that happens when their hormones first go out of whack in puberty — they get acne. A few big volcanos on the face are enough to keep a woman craving a little adult interaction cowering inside the home, so it's important to take care of them fast.
While zits are mostly a hormonal problem, the best skin care treatment is something that heals and keeps the scars away, and breastmilk can do both. No matter how gross you think it is, many breastfeeding moms end up using a bit of the baby's bottle to get rid of the biggest blackheads and zits. It's a creamy alternative — and a lot cheaper than any other skin care product on the market these days.
8 Rub It In
The face isn't the only place that needs a little healing during the breastfeeding period. The act of feeding the baby is pretty painful itself, and after the first few days or weeks, the nipples can get damaged, especially when the baby is feeding every couple of hours. Due to all of the use, the nipples can be sore and cracked, and a mom can't give them a break unless she wants to give up and feed the baby some formula.
There are some products on the market meant to moisturize that area because of the problems that can occur. But that may mean introducing the baby to the treatment, and in the end it only helps to prevent the problem and doesn't do much to heal when that is what is needed. Instead, most moms just take a little of the milk left on the tip of the nipple and rub it all around. It may seem weird or gross, but it does the trick, organically.
7 Hair Treatment
Many women don't have to worry so much about their hair right after birth. Their locks are still feeling silky from the pregnancy hormones, although they tend to lose a lot of the body and volume after the birth, and the hair may start coming out in the shower. The baby, on the other hand, may go through some major hair issues in his or her first year of life.
Cradle cap is a pretty prevalent issue that is really more about the skin than the hair. It's where the skin on the scalp can be pretty flakey and isn't exactly cute. It's one reason that doctors say that babies don't need a bath every day because that can dry out the skin even more. Baby lotion doesn't exactly go on the head, but the ultimate mega healing natural ingredients in breastmilk can help add the moisture and get rid of the flakes. It may seem gross to put milk in a baby's hair, but it's the best treatment out there.
6 Diaper Rash Cream
If you think it is disgusting to put hair on the baby's head, then you may be totally grossed out at the idea of putting it on the baby's behind. But it can work wonders in the diaper area. If the baby has a rash anywhere on the body, the best, most natural treatment comes from the mom. The antibodies come in the mouth and through the skin, and breastmilk provides those little miracle workers wherever they are needed.
Squirting a little bit of the extra ounces onto the affected area a couple of times a day can give the baby some temporary relief as well as some healing properties that can help the skin heal up within a matter of days. It's effective and cheap, so a mom might as well put the golden liquid to good use in as many ways as she can, even if other people think it's gross.
5 Eye Drops
If you think that using breastmilk on the breasts is bad or if you cringe at the idea of putting it in the hair, then this one may just make you nauseated. Breastmilk is great for healing one of the nastiest infections that impact the baby in its first year — pink eye. Conjunctivitis is very common for kids, especially babies who are day care during the day. They touch everything and are always likely to rub their eyes and then put their hands in each other's faces, passing the germ around the class. That leaves a bunch of red-eyed, crusty-faced kids.
Moms can get good at aiming their milk in the spaces they need it to be, so don't be surprised if they squirt a bit in the baby's eye to help their little one get better. They may even take some from a bottle to treat their own pink eye. Often times, the infection will heal up just as quickly as if the doctor prescribed eye drops — although it may be grosser this way.
4 Strange Salad
Ever wonder why a breastfeeding mom smells a little strange some days? That may be because she is harboring a couple of groceries under her clothes. It sounds gross, but with all the modern medicine around, still one of the best ways to deal with breast pain and engorgement when nursing a newborn can be found in the kitchen. Cabbage leaves are good for helping a woman get through breast engorgement or if she has an overabundant supply of milk.
Cold cabbage leaves are really soothing for a woman who feels like her breasts are about to burst. But we will warn women who are having struggling keeping up that they should stay away from the cabbage leaves because they can dry up the milk if you keep them on too long. But they can also provide incredible relief from swelling and tenderness. It's worth the gross factor, especially for women who are trying to wean.
Some people are squeamish about the very idea of breastfeeding. They think that formula is a modern marvel that means that women don't have to use their bodies to provide sustenance for their children. They don't understand the biology and psychological positives of nursing. We know better, so this time we are talking about something that some people consider gross but we consider a true benefit that all nursing mothers do — and they are happy to admit to it.
They use their ability to breastfeed not only to nourish their child but also to soothe her. Some may consider it spoiling the baby, but research has shown that babies under six months cannot be spoiled, and it's pretty hard to do so for the first year or two. A baby who nurses knows that his mother can comfort him, and there is nothing gross about that. We think it's absolutely amazing and something that all mothers should be proud of.
Even though a lot of people think that breastmilk is gross, the mothers that use it to nourish their children and allow them to grow and thrive know that it is a miracle liquid more precious than silver. And sometimes they feel the need to cling to that sweet substance. They have it made into a keepsake like a piece of jewelry, which can last a lifetime.
Breastfeeding is an arduous feat. Whether a mom makes it a couple of weeks or a couple of years, she deserves to commemorate the amazing experience that brought nourishment to her child and tested her own mettle. We think that it worth its weight in gold and totally worthy of a keepsake. Some people may think it's gross if they discovered that beautiful necklace is actually made from breastmilk, but all breastfeeding moms deserve a reward, and jewelry is definitely the way to do it.
1 Bonus: Ice Cream
In 2015, an ice cream shop in London, England called The Icecreamists tried bringing a new flavor to the streets. They collected breastmilk from 15 or so lactating mothers to make a unique ice cream ironically called "Baby Gaga". The Icecreamists' founder Matt O'Connor said, "It's pure, it's natural, it's organic, and it's free range—and if it's good enough for our kids, it's good enough to use in our ice cream."
However, it was confiscated by the Westminster council due to safety concerns. With that said, there are plenty of homemade recipes out there - which means Moms are for sure trying it out. So if you're craving some soft serve and can't get to the closest Ben & Jerry's in time...this might be something to try! But, maaaaaybe don't invite the neighbors over while you're enjoying your refreshing treat.
Here some basic ingredients:
½ cup breast milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tablespoons salt
Sources: Parenting, La Leche League, Today's Parent