Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10 Unexpected Things I Learned About Breastfeeding

I'm fairly certain that any mother who has ever breastfed (or pumped breast milk) can say that there are a lot of things that are unexpected about it. Some mothers are surprised at the challenge it presents, some are shocked at the discomfort it can cause, while many cannot believe the frequency that the tiny beings demand it. But most of us have heard at least a story or two about these things before we begin our own breastfeeding journey. Here are 10 things that I was absolutely clueless about before I started nursing and pumping:

1. It is shockingly easy to fall asleep while breastfeeding. Who knew that nursing hormones are stronger than a prescription sleeping pill?! I am truly amazed that this is true even today when my child is 17 months old. Both me and my baby can fall asleep almost instantly when we begin a nursing session.

2. Breast milk storage bags leak. Even if you buy the more expensive, double locking brand. It happens a lot.

3. Breast milk is very sticky. I learned that from #2.

4. The pumping parts (flanges) that come with most breast pumps fit almost no one and it can be really hard to determine what is the "right" fit.  I learned in my breastfeeding class that flanges come in different sizes. I was told once it was time to pump that I would have to figure out the right fit because the nipple continues to change throughout pregnancy. The first time I sat down to pump this caused me a lot of frustration and anxiety because it was really hard for me to figure this out. Pumping isn't exactly comfortable in the beginning so finding "comfort" wasn't the solution. After staring at the diagram for what felt like forever, I was able to find what seemed to be the right size. But I have to admit, I can still say I'm not entirely certain. [By the way: an ill-fitting flange can cause decreased output so if you are having low supply while pumping, I would encourage you to see a lactation consultant who can evaluate this for you].

5. Breast milk can be blue. Not like sky blue or navy blue but mine certainly had a blue tinge at times. Yours may even have green or orange tones.

6. Multi-tasking while pumping is on a whole new level. I have always been a good multi-tasker.  BUT it's still pretty cool that I can eat lunch, while texting my husband, while shopping on Amazon, while responding to an instant message on my work desktop, while PUMPING! And, yes, I really was doing all of those things at once. Sure, I had to stop texting to hit 'purchase' on my Amazon order but I was still jumping from each of these activities quite flawlessly while chewing and successfully pumping. [Small disclaimer: I don't actually recommend this. It's best to pump in a quiet, calm environment to get the most milk out. I was able to do this after almost 2 years of pumping practice].

7. Breastfeeding is like having an internal heater. Seriously. I was walking around in the middle of winter without a coat...and I was sweating! The fan on high at night would have been preferable but since the baby was in the room with me I left the space heater on instead. More sweating was involved. I had no idea what it was like to be hot ALL the time until I was breastfeeding.

8. The thirst! The thirst is simply indescribable. I felt as though I could drink continuously and still would never have my thirst quenched in those beginning months. 

9. Reusable breast pads are useful for more than just leaky breasts. I loved my organic cotton, reusable breast pads. They were much more comfortable than disposable. And they were also a comfort item to my baby. She loved to hold and chew on them. Even though I only gave her clean ones, I'm sure they still smelled and tasted like me...and her food. Now that my breast pad days are over they are still in use. I mean, why not use them as pretend pancakes in the play kitchen? This really was not my have very active imaginations and who am I to argue with this?

10. It is perfectly reasonable to cry over spilled milk.  Yes, it is completely fair if that milk was made by you and producing it took every last ounce of energy out of your body...but you still had to find more energy to pump that milk. And the moment the sweet, warm and sticky milk is set on the counter, it pours all over the floor...yeah, it's fair to cry! Just like a baby. 


Those are a few of the most unexpected things I learned about nursing and pumping. What came as a surprise to you?

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