The Truth Behind Breastfeeding
August 19, 2019
Seven things you never knew about the nursing experience
By Angela Sharkey
My time for breastfeeding is officially over—thirteen months, two days, and three hours to be exact. As I look back at my journey, I can’t help but get emotional to think how far I’ve come. The first 3 months were hands down, the hardest. Bringing a tiny human home (who arrived 5 weeks earlier than expected) made the entire process overwhelming—to say the least.
I’d heard all the Cliff’s Notes on breastfeeding: “it’s the best thing you can do for your child”, “you’ll have such an incredible bond with him”, “It’ll help you lose the baby weight,” “you’ll sport an amazing rack”... Yes, that’s all very nice. But practical advice? Not so much. Here’s everything I wish I knew before I started my breastfeeding journey:
1. It does NOT come naturally
Yes, all women have been perfectly programmed to be a miraculous channel for life to come into this world, but the rest I have to say was not as instinctual as they said it would be. I had questions—and LOTS of them! The moment I realized that Dr. Google and the breastfeeding online groups were freaking me out more than helping, I looked for real help—the heaven-sent lactation consultant. Find one. Make an appointment with her. Love her forever.
2. It is NOT easy
Breastfeeding does not only mean a serious investment of time and hardcore dedication (not to mention you’ll never look at your boobs the same), it was also the SINGLE hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Just when I thought I got through one feeding without crying, the thought of putting my sore nipples through another feeding in the next 2 hours DID make me cry. This, however, was corrected after three months of meltdowns, tons of nipple cream, and various visits to my lactation consultant. I’m not saying this will be everyone’s experience—but to the mother who is going around telling people breastfeeding is easy: PLEASE stop.
3. The feedings. Never. End!
Am I the only woman who was totally unaware of how often a newborn fed? I think the “feed every two hours” rule should really be the “service your baby every hour” rule. Start the clock: Pick up baby, position baby on Boppy (bean-shaped pillow who will become your breast friend), latch baby, painfully fail at latching then trying again, feed for 20 minutes on one boob, start the process on the other one, burp baby, change diaper. By the time you are putting your little one down, at least an hour has gone by—and don’t even mention a blow-out. That will put you in overtime!
4. Your breasts may leak – a lot
As a first-time mom, my favorite hobby is showing pictures of my baby. In one of my first public displays of affection, I was proudly showing a video of my nugget to a stranger while waiting in line for coffee when all the sudden, I felt a drip down the front of my shirt. Let’s just say that I never left the house without nursing pads again. Turns out, anything that makes you think of your baby—even hearing another baby cry causes your body to release oxytocin. This hormone that helps you bond with your baby is also a sprinkler activator. Lesson learned.
5. The contractions aren’t over
Within the first two weeks after giving birth, you may have period-like cramps while you breast-feed. This is the way your body simulates contractions to allow your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size.
Editor’s note: In my case, these contractions were a no-call no-show.
6. Pumping SUCKS.
Working mamas know the struggle all too well. Squeezing time in between meetings to pump, store milk, label bags and wash those pump parts—all to realize the bag wasn’t sealed correctly, and your liquid gold spilled all over the freezer. “Don’t cry over spilled milk” has a whole new meaning to me.
7. You probably won’t get your period
The one perk they don’t tell you about? Most moms who exclusively breastfeed will get a break from their period! You can thank the Prolactin hormone for this (the hormone responsible for breastmilk production).
Disclaimer: You CAN get pregnant again without having your period, so don’t say I never warned you!
So… Is Breast Best?
Women who have breastfed have very stong opinions on the subject—and I get it! We are warriors, we (barely) survived! While I chose to breastfeed my baby and stuck with it even when I was ready to give up, I want to make it clear: I am not advocating for it— or advocating against it. While I would do it all over again to give my son the best nature has to offer, my strong perspective in favor of breastfeeding completely changed after experiencing it. Breast might be best for baby, but babies need not only strong nutrition (which can also be achieved through formula), but a strong mom! There is no shame in choosing not to breastfeed. Do what works best for your family and do what works for you!
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD®) is celebrating Rare Disease Day 2021 with The Balancing Act.
Travis Flores is a 29-year-old cystic fibrosis survivor and a recipient of a very rare third double-lung transplant in May 2020.
The Balancing Act has partnered with the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and WEGO Health to shine a light on rare diseases and the impact they have on patients.