My last child turns 3 in 5 months and despite my best efforts to nurse him till he went off to college, I was shut down when he turned 2. He has been the only baby I actually enjoyed feeding because let me tell ya something, breastfeeding is HARD Y’ALL!
Sometimes when I talk to a woman who looooooved nursing, I want to talk to her forever because it’s kind of like hanging out with a unicorn. Rare but so awesome. More often than not, I’m in the company of women like me, who either hated nursing or who had a really hard time with it. And guess what, that’s ok!
Just like the baby doesn’t pop out of the womb with an owner’s manual, your new mama boobs don’t come with one either.
Before I continue, I want to be clear that you should feed your baby any way you can. Bottle, breast, Chipotle…whatever works guys. You do you. But, if you choose to go the breastfeeding route, I’m about to lay it all out on the table.
Pregnancy: your boobs become their own zip code. Post-pregnancy: they become their own country complete with a tiny little dictator that decides when to drop nuclear level discomfort.
About 3 days (almost a week for me!) after junior makes their appearance, your boobs are going to turn on you. They’re going to swell to 45 times their already insane size and hurt like hell. Things happen to your body kind of like it is being taken over. Sometimes you get the shakes. When my milk came in, I woke up shaking uncontrollably. I legit thought I was dying. Turns out that’s totally a thing that happens to some people. Another thing? The sweats. Duuuuuuude, that first milk let down produces oceans of night sweats. So, yeah, enjoy that. Some of my friends have told me they got low grade fevers, major uterine cramping (think labor contractions), and weird yellow discharge. All normal. The not normal stuff is a high fever, extreme pain, redness, and flu-like symptoms. That could be mastitis which is awful. If you get mastitis, that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It just means you need to talk to your doctor ASAP so you can get better.
Once you decide to breastfeed you’re going to be inundated with people giving you advice. My advice? Tell them to stuff it. Once that baby comes out, get a lactation consultant in your hospital room and lay down the law. Tell him/her your plan and have them help you learn how to do it. But be warned, if you get a lactation consultant that shames you after hours of trying to feed a screaming baby, you ask for a bottle, get a new lactation consultant.
Learn how to properly get the baby to latch – you shouldn’t be able to pull the baby off easily. Think of it like a suction cup, the only way to get it off is to stick your little finger under it to pop it off. Once the wee one is latched, be prepared for that little tongue you thought was so cute a second ago to shred your nipples like sandpaper. And don’t be alarmed when your kid spits up blood. It’s not theirs…it’s yours.
Invest in some serious nipple cream. I used Bag Balm (like for cows) and I swear by it. Use a nipple shield if you have to. You don’t need to suffer.
Soon, a couple of weeks for me, your nipples will be totally numb to any feeling whatsoever and you’ll be good to go. Sometimes they’ll stay that way forever. Ha.
When it comes to feeding your baby outside of the confines of your own home, do what feels right for you. I preferred a nursing cover but I fully support letting it all hang out. Screw people that look at you like you’re an exhibitionist. They’re stupid. If you’re like me however, you should just stay home and shirtless all day those first few weeks. Or months.
Invest in a good breast pump because it will become your best friend. Check your insurance because most companies now cover a great one. Pump often so you can free yourself from the tiny person hanging off your chest. Put your significant other to work at 3 am.
I have one regret when it comes to nursing and that is that I let myself feel guilty. I spent so much time trying to figure it all out that I forgot to enjoy it. That’s probably why I nursed my son till he was 2. I didn’t like it with my daughters and they didn’t like it either. I wasted so much bonding time forcing the issue when I could have bonded just as much with bottle feeding.
If you don’t like nursing, don’t do it. If your baby doesn’t like it, don’t do it. When your mom, best friend, OB, cousin, mechanic, or pediatrician tells you “breast is best”, tell them to go step on a Lego. Give it the old college try and move on. Bottles are awesome.
Last but not least, do not let anyone tell you when to stop. To this day I regret quitting with my son too soon. Yes, he was 2 and yes, he would unbutton my shirt and say “me nurse-y?” but I didn’t care. Everyone else did and I gave in to peer pressure and quit. He’s my last and I hate that I gave up before I was ready.
There is no real instruction manual for breastfeeding. You can read all you want but it’s trial and error. Find people to talk to and commiserate with and you’ll be all set. Do what feels right for you and your baby and be proud of whatever you choose.