When it comes to feeding tiny humans, there is a lot that goes into it. Breastfeeding, pumping, formula—they’ve all got their pros and cons. If you’re preparing to give birth you may take a breastfeeding class. This can help you decide if breastfeeding is the direction you want to go. There are some things, however, that you may not learn that you might find to be surprising things about breastfeeding.
1. You may or may not feel really hungry and/or thirsty.
Before I started breastfeeding, I heard a lot of people say that it makes you ravenously hungry and thirsty.
Well, I was surprised that this never happened to me.
It’s true that some people find themselves very hungry and thirsty when breastfeeding, but just know that this is not true for everyone. I was much hungrier while I was pregnant, and after giving birth my appetite pretty much went back to normal.
2. Your breasts won’t feel as full once your supply regulates.
Somewhere around the 6 week mark your supply will regulate itself. This means that your body has started figuring out how much milk your baby needs throughout the day. Therefore, it will begin to tailor how much milk it produces.
Practically speaking, this means you may all of a sudden find your breasts feeling much less full than they did before. This is probably one of the things I found most surprising about breastfeeding.
When it happened to me, since I didn’t expect it, I became kind of worried.
I thought my supply might be dipping since I didn’t feel the milk as heavily. It turned out that everything was fine though, and it was just my supply regulating itself.
3. You may (or may not) be able to feel your milk coming in.
When I first began breastfeeding I saw people mention that you can feel your milk coming in as you are nursing. My response was, “I don’t know what in the world you’re talking about; I don’t feel anything of the sort.”
Well, fast forward to now, and I definitely do feel it. I think it was some time after my supply regulated that I started to notice this.
Basically 45 seconds to a minute into a nursing session your milk will come in. This is a different meaning than when your milk comes in after baby is born; this “coming in” happens each nursing session.
Once it comes that session then the milk starts to flow more readily, and you may notice baby starting to gulp down more quickly.
When this happens you can often feel a twinge (not a painful one) where you can actually feel that the milk is coming. If you don’t feel it at the beginning of your nursing journey, then later on down the road it may be something you start to notice.
4. You will probably experience some squirting milk.
The first time this happens to you while breastfeeding you may find it surprising.
Squirting milk is especially a problem in the beginning before your supply regulates. At that point you are just leaking more in general. You may find yourself dripping while simply taking a shower.
Even when your baby is older, though, squirting can still happen.
My baby can sometimes be easily distractible while eating. Whether it’s because he wants to look at the timer on my phone, he wants to see the pictures on the wall, or dad just walked in (or maybe even just coughed), he loves to pop his head up to take a look around.
Well, this is all fine and good, but if he has just started eating and my milk just came in then that means milk is going everywhere. This isn’t typically the case once we’re a couple of minutes into nursing, but watch out if you’re still at the beginning!
To help, try keeping a washcloth or burp cloth nearby to press against yourself and stop the squirting.
5. You don’t need to purchase everything people say you need.
Before I gave birth I was trying to make a baby registry on the minimalist side of things (check out my post How To Make a Minimalist Baby Registry). There are some items that are very popular and many people consider must-haves that I just don’t think are necessary.
Everyone said that you need a pillow like the Boppy or My Breast Friend for nursing. I wondered, though, if I would really need one.
I thought about where I would be breastfeeding—mostly at home but also sometimes out and about. Did I really want to be dependent on bringing a pillow with me everywhere?
Eventually during my research I found this post, which explained how for some people using a nursing pillow can do more harm than good. This is because it limits the positions you can place your baby in which can sometimes actually make nursing harder.
Reading that post and hearing confirmation from someone else that I didn’t need to get a nursing pillow was enough to convince me not to get one, and I have never missed having one.
Of course, there are women who love their nursing pillows, but if you aren’t sure you want one, don’t sweat it.
A couple other things that I don’t personally think are strictly necessary are a nipple shield (for most people) or nursing clothes (beyond bras).
The bottom line is, you just don’t need as much as people tell you. In fact, all you really need is you and your baby.
6. Sometimes your baby will hold your hand; other times he will perform gymnastics.
When my baby boy was younger, he would lay there peacefully and often hold my hand as he nursed. Sweet, right? It really was.
Nowadays, he loves to move his hands around, feeling my arm and face, sticking his fingers in my mouth, trying to poke my eye, and, towards the end of a session, crawling all over me only to pop back on for a few seconds while sitting in a weird position.
I love him, but he’s a little nutty.
7. It might not be easy right away.
Before I gave birth I was pretty convinced all I needed was knowledge and confidence in order to easily breastfeed. And yes, breastfeeding is a natural thing that many women should be able to do if they desire. But it isn’t always straightforward right off the bat.
After baby boy was born, he initially nursed seemingly well in our hospital room. Then we moved to our post-birth room, and things took a nose-dive.
The first nurse I had post-surgery came into our room and right away handed me a nipple shield, without having seen me nurse at all. She told me, “Use this; you and him are both tired.”
Now, I don’t necessarily want to put all of the blame for my nursing struggles on this nurse. But I’ll be honest, she was pretty pushy, and I felt rather resentful that I was pressured into using a nipple shield when I didn’t want to.
After we introduced the shield, nursing started to become difficult. I could not for the life of me get baby boy to latch on, and eventually we started having to supplement. Before I knew it, I was exclusively pumping.
It took weeks after this to get him to finally latch on again with the nipple shield, and then weeks later I was finally able to go without it.
Suffice it to say, breastfeeding isn’t always easy. And that’s not to mention the pain you can feel in the beginning.
You are your baby are both human beings, and breastfeeding is something you have to work on together. It may take time to get right.
Breastfeeding is a great thing, but it there are definitely some surprising aspects to it. From how it affects your body to the way that your milk comes in to things not going according to plan, there is a lot to learn. But hopefully knowing some of these things will help you feel a little more prepared (or not alone!).
Are there some things you found surprising about breastfeeding?
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