Friday, December 5, 2014

10 Things Nobody Told Me About Breastfeeding/Pumping

I am no authority on breastfeeding, especially considering I've never breastfed anyone beyond 6 months. However, I learned plenty about the topic in my experiences breastfeeding and pumping for four children. To my pregnant mama friends who plan to breastfeed, you can't say nobody told you...

1. In the hours and days after delivery, breastfeeding causes contractions that are equivalent to labor pains.
It is no secret that labor contractions are painful, but no one talks about the intense contractions after you give birth. I assumed the pain was over once my babies were delivered. I didn't think about the fact that your uterus has to contract back to it's smaller size. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which causes contractions. This is also why pumping/nipple stimulation is recommended by some midwives to trigger labor if you are past your due date.

2. Engorged breasts would make me look like a porn star.
No matter the size of your chest, when your milk comes in, you will resemble a porn star. While I have always been fairly modest, I distinctly remember my last day in the hospital after giving birth to Jackson. I pulled my nursing tank down to reveal my chest, proudly exclaiming to my favorite nurse, "Look, my milk came in!"  Of course, my boobs regulated once my milk supply was established. Though, every time I skipped a nursing/pumping session I briefly regained my porn star status.

3. I would be hungrier than I ever was while pregnant.
In the early weeks, I would get so weak and famished if I didn't eat after every nursing session. It makes sense when you think about the math. Most recommendations are that a pregnant woman should consume up to 300 extra calories a day, whereas a nursing mother burns an average of 500 calories a day. I quickly learned to keep trail mix and Gatorade on my night stand so I could have a quick snack between middle of the night feeds.

4. While nursing on one side, I would leak on the other side.
A baby sucking on one side will trigger a letdown on the other side. While some women use a nursing pad on the opposite side, I refused to waste any milk. As long as I wasn't in public, I would hold a bottle up to the opposite side while Jackson nursed on the other side. They make products specifically for this purpose, but I tried to limit my purchases (see #5). The best part about breastfeeding multiples was I never wasted any milk while tandem nursing.

5. Breastfeeding is rarely free.
My number one motivator to continue nursing/pumping was because it was free. While breastfeeding is significantly cheaper than formula, it is easy to get carried away with breastfeeding accessories. Nursing pads, nursing bras and tanks, and lanolin were staples. I could have opened up my own drugstore with the amount of supplements I purchased: Lecithin, Fenugreek, Brewer's Yeast, Blessed Thistle. I was fortunate to have breastpumps, bottles, and nursing covers donated to me, but that would have been several hundred additional dollars.

6. My breasts could become geysers at the sound of my baby crying.
TMI, but totally true. I had no clue that the sound of your baby crying (or, for some unfortunate mother's, any baby crying) could elicit a let-down. There was a particularly memorable occasion when Jesse unintentionally pulled off James' plastibell a week after his circumcision. The sound of James' sobs sent my body into overdrive! I tried to comfort him but ended up spraying him.

7. There would be times when breastfeeding hurt.
While in the hospital, the lactation consultant told me that breastfeeding should never hurt. If it hurt, I needed to stop and re-latch. Unfortunately, my babies' latch was rarely the cause of pain. Thrush hurt. Mastitis hurt even more. Nursing Jackson while he cut razor sharp teeth hurt. Raw, bleeding nipples after cluster feeding three newborns around the clock hurt. Pumping with a flange that was too small hurt.

8. Pumping would make me go slightly insane.
Nothing can prepare a woman for the awkwardness of the initial pumping session. Jesse and I were equally aghast watching my Stretch Armstrong nipples tug through the clear pump parts. Pumping will cause you to do crazy things such as microwave plastic parts in bags, cut holes in sports bras, cry over spilled milk, and drive down the interstate or sit in a bathroom attached to a pump. You may even hear your breast pump talk to you. I swear mine said, "watermelon, watermelon" over and over again.

9. Weaning would turn me into an achy, hormonal, crying mess.
I was more hormonal while weaning than I was after delivery. The surge in estrogen caused horrible mood swings, nausea, and headaches. I had no clue that weaning was such an emotionally and physically draining process.

10. The breastfeeding Nazis would intimidate me.
Before having children, I was mildly aware that formula feeding vs. breastfeeding could be a heated topic. What I didn't anticipate was the amount of judgment that could take place among fellow breastfeeding mamas. Several online forums were full of outspoken women who were quick to judge others for using pacifiers, pumping, bottle feeding expressed milk, weaning before a year, introducing solids early, etc. As far as I'm concerned, there's no right or wrong way to feed your child. Period.

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