During my third trimester, my husband and I took a breastfeeding class and it was so lengthy and involved so many PowerPoint slides I didn’t realize it didn’t even scratch the surface.
Most people learn about clogged ducts and mastitis while they’re pregnant, but nobody seems to be aware of the exact mechanics of breastfeeding until the moment their babies are tearing off their nipples.
Here are four things I’ve learned AFTER I started cluelessly breastfeeding:
1. Breastfeeding isn’t only about the nipple.
The first thing most first-time moms learn is that latching is not simply about your baby sucking on your nipple. No no no, latching is about your baby’s mouth opening so wide it latches onto the areola. This is mind-boggling the first time you try to latch. Your areolas have already increased at least two inches in diameter while you were pregnant. How on earth is this miniscule little being supposed to get his entire baby mouth around that giant areola?!
2. Feeding after pumping = disaster.
Then there’s the pumping. If you so choose to pump and breastfeed, pumping deflates your breasts and makes you feel like you need to knead your breast if you so happen to breastfeed your child shortly after in order to get every last drop of milk out from your breast as your infant struggles to suck it out. Not to mention how EVEN MORE gigantic your nipples are shortly after pumping, making it nearly impossible for your tiny baby’s tiny mouth to latch on. The solution is obvious: don’t feed your baby right after you pump. But the problem is when I try to time my pumping sessions to be as far away as a breastfeeding session as possible, of course my baby decides to change up his “schedule” and cry with hunger right after I pump.
3. Breastfeeding pillows are like drugs.
I mean they are addictive. I wish someone had told me that once you master breastfeeding with a pillow, it becomes a crutch. I’m barely starting to get used to breastfeeding without My Brest Friend or Boppy and it. Is. Chaotic. I’m pretty sure I have tendonitis now.
4. Milk supply is stressful AF.
Finally, can we talk milk supply? I was a milk-producing geyser from the get-go which, admittedly, I was secretly proud of. But one day I pumped and there was hardly any milk. Which ensued in major insecurities and freak-outs about how much milk my baby was getting, and three extra pumping sessions per day and shoving oatmeal down my throat to increase milk supply. It worked, but then I was engorged for days. Which meant more and more pumping. It never ends.
5. Deciding to breastfeed vs. bottle feed in public is not easy.
Granted I am anxious about EVERYTHING relative to other moms, but both decisions make me nervous. The idea of breastfeeding public stresses me out because what if I don’t have my pillow (see above) and my baby goes wild with hunger?! If I bottle feed, what if I’ve been out for so long that the milk is no longer edible?! What if it’s still too cold and I have to frantically warm it up between my thighs while my baby is demanding food?! OK, OK, I admit I need to get over this one, but #FTMproblems.
What were YOU surprised by when you started breastfeeding?