Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Ten Things that surprised me about breastfeeding

Before I had my first baby, M, I just assumed, probably like a lot of other pregnant women, that breastfeeding would come very naturally.  Surely it was just a case of putting your baby next to your boob and letting them feed every 4 hours?  I hadn't read into the art of breastfeeding and didn't really know, beyond a few vague words of warning from the NCT class leader about the first six weeks being a bit tough, much about the mechanics of it, or about the emotional side to it.

Here are ten things that I didn't have a clue about before I became a breast feeder.

 1. That the milk doesn't come out of one central hole in your nipple but that the nipple is like a watering can rose. This really astonished me! I thought nipples just had one opening, and so when I witnessed a jet of milk coming off at an angle of 45 degrees, I couldn't believe it.
2. That it wouldn't come as naturally as lots of people lead you to believe.  Mastering the positioning of myself and M seemed impossible in the early days: do I go for rugby hold, cradle hold, or lying down nursing?  How do I know when he's had enough or whether all that thrashing around is just wind?  When should I feed him again?  Should I wake him up to feed or wait till he screams?  Aargh!
3. That in the early weeks it takes up all of your time and is all consuming.  You feed for 40 minutes, burp, change your baby.  Once you've done that they might sleep for a bit if you're lucky.  Then you might have half an hour before you have to do it all again.  I mentally battled with myself against the feeling of being a walking milk machine, but experience eventually taught me that it's best to just succumb to being just that for a while, and to not beat myself up if I achieved nothing else during the day.

4. That there is such a poor choice of nursing tops and dresses on the high street.  This has really disappointed me.  I thought the choice of maternity clothing was pretty poor, but it's great compared to the one or two rather dowdy nursing tops I've come across in the shops. I've now learned that I can actually wear my normal clothes combined with a nursing vest underneath, and I've become better at discreet feeding with the help of a scarf.  But I do also have a few nursing dresses and tops from JoJoMamanBebe. This is my favourite.
5. That I would have days when I love the intimacy of feeding my boys but equally I would have days when I feel so tied down and cow-like.  The first time I breastfed, the leaking and the constant milky scent of me used to make me feel so unattractive.  This time round I leak less, and am less bothered about it all, but I do still have days when it's hard to be the sole source of my baby's nourishment.
6. That my milk wouldn't arrive until my baby was 3 days old.  I had no trace of colostrum with either baby, so it's hard to keep the faith that feeding is actually achieving anything in those first few days before your milk comes in and your boobs blow up to watermelon proportions.

7. That the UK is not very breastfeeding friendly and that those shops which do have nursing rooms locate them in toilets.  Ugh.  I feel much more confident second time round simply to nurse in public.  They're only breasts, after all, and my baby needs his meals.
8. That expressed breast milk separates in the fridge into a thin blueish liquid and a layer of cream.  This is a bit freaky when you first see it. I thought my milk had somehow gone off.  All normal though.
9. That my growing chubby boys needed only my milk to thrive until they were six months old and how proud and responsible that made me feel.  I look at the chub on my little three month old's body and I just can't believe that my boobs alone have been responsible for piling this weight on.  It's absolutely amazing, and makes me feel like I'm superwoman!
10. The difficulty I had with letting go of the breastfeeding relationship with my first boy.  We stopped breastfeeding at 14 months, but he was probably ready to let go a month before that. Because I was fairly sure that we wouldn't be able to have another child, I thought that this was the end of an era in terms of ever being given the chance to nurse again. Luckily, it wasn't, but the strength of that emotional connection took me by surprise. I was no longer the one providing the nourishment and it was hard to move away from babyhood in that way, even though it really was the right time.

Has anything about your own breastfeeding journey come as a surprise to you?


  1. This is such a lovely post, you're so right there's so many things you're just kind of expected to know!

    Gym Bunny Mummy | Bloglovin’ | Facebook

    1. Thanks for commenting. Yes, I think there should be some kind of real guide written by breastfeeding mums given to new mums. x