As kids, we grew up either watching our mothers breastfeed or saw it on TV or in movies. Looking back, it's comical, really. Breastfeeding seems so easy onscreen! Mom gives birth to baby; baby cries because they're hungry; mom brings the baby to her chest, making the baby full and satisfied. And while that may happen to some moms, that's definitely not always reality.
If we have any Office fans reading this, many people will remember Pam's struggle to breastfeed. Pam was uncomfortable, the baby wouldn't latch, and little Cecelia would fall off as soon as she finally did latch. Pam and Jim felt defeated, and many moms related to the realness of it all.
In short: breastfeeding isn't as easy as it looks.
Not only is breastfeeding tough on a mom at times (those little babies sure do know how to yank!), but other times the baby simply doesn't latch. For whatever reason, some babies just don't have the urge to suckle, which is when bottles come into play. Nevertheless, there's more to breastfeeding than just feeding the baby and creating a lasting bond. A woman's chest will leak, itch, bring weird emotions, and require a lot of nutrition to do the job at hand. That's right — these are 20 things that can occur when a woman is breastfeeding.
20 Babies Sometimes Reject Breastfeeding
I'm sure many moms have felt defeated when their little ones reject their milk, and it's not like a mom can simply ask her baby what's up. As it turns out, there are a few reasons why some babies reject breastfeeding. As the Mayo Clinic notes, this could be because they're in pain themselves, feeling too distracted to eat; mom's milk may have an unappealing scent or taste to the baby than usual (perhaps it's something mom is eating or even an undiagnosed allergy); and there could even be a reduced milk supply. In times like this, all a mom can do is keep trying, changing up what she eats (to see what the baby enjoys or dislikes), and nourishing their little one.
19 That Mom Bod Is Doing Work!
If you thought using a lot of energy while breastfeeding was just a rumor — think again. Thanks to Kelly Mom, we know that breastfeeding can use an extra 300-500 calories a day. That's a whole lot of calories! The body is doing everything it can to produce milk and refill what's been taken by the baby, that the body is in overdrive. If a mom is exclusively pumping, she's bound to use a ton of calories. Likewise, though, in order to keep up with supply and stay healthy, mom needs to eat clean, nutritious foods to keep her production level high and her body healthy.
18 Where Did My Milk Go?!
Swinging back around to breastfeeding on the big screen, we never hear about low milk supply or not having enough milk to feed their child at the rate their hungry at. This is why women with low milk supply tend to self-deprecate because they don't think they're doing a good job at this whole motherhood thing. However, low milk supply is totally normal and there are ways to fix it. Things that can cause low milk supply are birth control, strange breastfeeding positions, fewer milk ducts than expected, meds that mama takes, and more. To boost your milk supply, a mom can eat nutritious foods like leafy greens, oatmeal, sesame seeds, tiny amounts of garlic, and vegetables.
17 Leak In Aisle Five!
Whether you're breastfeeding or trying to dry out your milk, a woman is bound to leak milk at least once. As soon as my best friend had her precious little girl, I bought her "milk pads." You place them inside your bra so that they block the milk from seeping through your bra and clothing.
When a woman's chest becomes too full of milk, it has nowhere else to go but through the ducts — typically leaking onto a woman's shirt. As BabyCenter explains, a woman is more likely to leak in the morning or when she cannot feed or pump for a while.
16 Wait, A Woman's Chest Can Do What?!
Whenever a mom is ready to give up breastfeeding, something fascinating happens to the body. A board-certified lactation consultant named Diana West told Fox News, "When you stop breastfeeding, your body will go through involution, a process by which the cells in the [chest] that make milk deteriorate and self absorb because they’re no longer needed." So, in a way, our chest kind of takes over what's no longer used. It should also be noted that women who are weaning off breastfeeding will most likely experience some kind of pain as they wait for the milk to deteriorate. Hang in there!
15 Cry, Laugh, Scream, Repeat
Moms may think their babies are the ones who will be experiencing an array of emotions—and they definitely will—but moms will also go through similar expressions. As Diana West told Fox News, "Because of the oxytocin that’s released, you’ll probably feel happy when you breastfeed. Yet some moms say they also experience intense thirst, a feeling of protectiveness, and deep bonding."
It's funny to think about because in TV shows and movies, moms always say breastfeeding is a bonding experience, but they tend to miss out on the fact that some women cry and feel irritable due to a shift in hormones.
14 Why Am I Still Cramping?
Now that labor and delivery is a thing in the past, a mom doesn't need to worry about contractions until their next child (if that's the case)! Well, that's where a mom is wrong. Medela explains that a woman who is breastfeeding can experience contraction-like cramps for "up to two weeks after birth." Just when you thought you were out of the woods! As the site notes, "stimulation during breastfeeding causes a hormone known as oxytocin to be released into your bloodstream. This hormone causes the contraction of all smooth muscles and helps your uterus contract back into its pre-pregnancy shape and size." Since your poor uterus is trying to go back to pre-baby size, breastfeeding moms are going to feel cramps more.
13 Yeast Infections Can Also Occur In Your Chest
If you though yeast infections could only happen downstairs, then be prepared for a surprise, because they can also happen in a woman's chest. Especially when breastfeeding. Dr. Ross told People, "[Fungus that causes yeast infections] lives not only in the [a woman's privates] but also in other moist environments," like in her chest. Yeast infections can cause a woman's chest to feel "dry" and have "extremely painful ... itching sensations." If a woman is experiencing any of these effects, she needs to call her doctor for an anti-fungal cream.
12 It's Not Always This Euphoric Experience
Another little rumor out there is that a woman is "supposed" to feel this euphoric experience when breastfeeding her child. She's looking down at this little being she created, while also nourishing them with something her body produces naturally; it's enough to make a woman feel like super woman. However, not every mom sees breastfeeding as such. On the contrary, breastfeeding can really hurt. A woman can become sore and chafe, only for the entire process to be repeated day after day. And once baby starts growing teeth, the entire process can become even more uncomfortable.
If a mom doesn't feel as connected to her baby while breastfeeding, this doesn't make her a bad mom.
11 Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex
Dysphoric- what? There are some women out there who experience severe anxiety while they're breastfeeding. There isn't anything wrong, per se, but there's a tense emotion overtaking them that's called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. When a mom experiences this, it's typically due to off levels of dopamine. As Fox News states, “A person feels [intense] anxiety and irritability like their skin is crawling and restlessness— they just want to run away.” Although it's a hopeless feeling, there are luckily treatments available for this, so if you feel something similar, call your doctor. There's no need to struggle alone.
10 Milk Isn't Always White
Many prepared moms understand that their breastmilk doesn't necessarily come in right away. Instead of the thick white stuff comes "colostrum," a thick, yellow liquid that comes before the milk. And yes, babies can drink this! As the CDC details, "Colostrum is packed with nutrients and other important substances that help your baby start building up his or her immune system. There will not be a lot of this liquid at first, but the amount will gradually increase over the first couple of days." After a few days is when the yellowish color disappears and the milky substance comes through.
9 You Will Become Pissed When Milk Spills
You know the saying "Don't cry over spilled milk"? Well, that saying means something deeper to breastfeeding moms. A mother who's breastfeeding typically pumps when her chest is tender and need a release (when her baby isn't hungry or already fed). Women then place these bags in the freezer to use at a later date. Having prepared bags of milk saves a mom a ton of time and allows dad or another family member feed the baby, too — giving mom a much needed break.
When a mother's breastmilk spills, it's like watching someone light a student's homework on fire. She worked so hard on producing that milk and now she has to start all over again. So if a woman cries over her "spilled milk," give her a hug.
8 It's Not Just Your Chest That Will Feel Pain
Besides a mom cramping for weeks after labor, there's more aches and pains a breastfeeding mom can feel during the duration of, well, breastfeeding. Leigh Anne O'Connor, a lactation consultant, told People, "I often see moms hunched over their newborn, wearing their shoulders like earrings." She explains that women are "holding their babies with such force that their wrists are bent at a 90-degree angle." Obviously, when you're sitting in such an unfamiliar position, the body is going to crack and complain once in a while.
While you're breastfeeding, try to see comfortably and be sure to do some light stretches through the day to feel your best.
7 Brittle Bones
If you're a breastfeeding mama, do you feel you're a little weaker than usual? Besides being tired and sore, your bones may also be struggling a little bit. Having brittle bones is something that comes with the territory. As Parents explains, "When you're nursing, calcium is taken directly from your bones to ensure your milk has enough of the stuff." Since the nutrients that are usually going to the mom are now going to the baby, moms tend to "lose between 5 and 10 percent of their bone mass within six months of starting to breastfeed," as Mara Horwitz, M.D. noted.
6 Rock Solid
As one can imagine, when a woman's chest is filled with milk, they're going to be harder than they were before. Engorgement is typically more common a few days after birth, and only stays this was until the milk is released. And if it's not released, be prepared for leakage! "Engorgement is normal in the first few days after you give birth, or if you haven’t completely emptied them, " Fox News reiterated. "The good news is that once you start feeding your baby regularly and emptying your [chest], they’ll feel normal again."
5 Ever Heard Of The 'Weaning Blues?'
A woman's hormones are all over the place when she's pregnant. Those same hormones go into overdrive when a mom goes into labor, delivery, and a few weeks after delivery. Women can also go through postpartum depression due to a change in hormones.
When the time comes for mama to give up breastfeeding, she may experience similar hormones. As freeing as getting rid of those nursing bras is, she may feel indifferent about her choice. As Parents explains, "it can be hard to tease out what's hormonal and what's psychological." With time, though, a woman's hormones will retreat back to normal.
4 My Lovely Lady Lumps
Something that new moms may have noticed while newly breastfeeding, are small lumps in her chest. "A painful, marble-like bump in your [chest] could be a plugged milk duct," explains Parents. As frightening as it is finding a lump, most moms are prone to getting those little guys. This is especially true when babies latch but aren't getting enough milk. While blocked milk ducts are painful when untreated, they can be relieved with careful consideration. "To get rid of them, keep nursing on that side while massaging ... to help unplug the duct and get milk flowing freely again."
Personally, I'm not a mother yet, however, I can totally see myself falling asleep as my baby feeds. Eventually, babies get so full that they doze off to sleep in mama's arms, so it's common for moms to get sleepy, too. "When the body releases the hormone oxytocin, it has a calming effect that allows nursing moms to relax," says Amy Spangler, R.N., I.B.C.L.C. to Parents. A woman falling asleep while her baby breastfeeds is just her body taking over; it's taking care of itself. Since new mamas don't get much sleep, as long as the baby is placed safely down after feeding, a mom should take advantage of this and snooze as long as she can.
2 Does Any Mom Miss Their Monthly Visitor?
Surprise! Just because a woman is breastfeeding doesn't mean it's impossible to get her period. It happens quite often, actually. As Jack Newman, M.D., author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers explains, "Prolactin, which is stimulated by suckling, can inhibit your cycle." Just how stimulation can cause cramps and different emotions, a woman's period can also randomly begin. However, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the least likely this is to happen. As Dr. Newman continues saying, "If mothers breastfeed exclusively for more than one year, they often won't get their periods for an average of 14 months."
1 Hey, Breastfeeding Isn't For Everyone
Just because a woman's body creates its own nourishment for her baby, doesn't mean every woman feels compelled to breastfeed. The constant debate over breastfeeding and formula feeding will always be a neck-in-neck conversation. This is why not every woman will want to breastfeed. Some moms can't take the pain, while others see the entire process as awkward. On the flipside, some moms believe formula feeding is the best way to go! It's easier on the mom, more than one person can feed the baby, and formula is filled with everything a baby could need for their little bodies.
A woman's choice to breastfeed or formula feed her child is her own.