April 30, 2014

Breastfeeding: What No One Tells You

I had never breastfed. I knew people who did. I saw people do it. I read about it. What I thought about it can be summed up in this run on sentence; Breastfeeding is a magical, peaceful, loving experience between a mother and a baby that not only nourishes the baby with the best nutrients on earth, but can make the mom skinny, while the two make an everlasting bond for life. Am I right?

So BOOM. I breastfeed. I like to think I'm an educated, intelligent woman, but some things can only be summed up by saying O.M.G. 

Here is what I have come to find out about breastfeeding that no one tells you. (So I'm warning telling you.)

  1. You will experience pain like no other in those nipples the first few weeks. People say that it's rough the first couple weeks and that you will be sore. They are sugar coating this and giving it to you lightly. It's going to hurt like hell. You will feel like piranhas are chewing on your nipples. Your toes will curl. Although, on a positive note, it DOES pass. Trust me, I almost threw in the towel several times the first 2 weeks, but man, am I glad I stuck through it. It really does get better, serious.
  2. While pain is normal, you should really pay attention to that baby's latch. I had no idea that Halle had what's called a shallow latch. I had no experience with breastfeeding so the numbing pain that I felt, I thought was normal. I knew and expected sore nipples so I assumed that's all it was. Well, no. Halle's shallow latch means that she wasn't sucking on my boob...just my nipple. Since she was latched on and getting milk, I just assumed this was all normal and that my nipples needed to toughen up. In reality, she was sucking on my nipples super hard trying to get milk out since she wasn't sucking on the boob (which helps the milk flow down and out). Because of this I ended up with scabbed, bleeding, and cracked nipples. This pain is right up there with child birth for me.
  3. When you do get the scabbed, bleeding, cracked nipples you need to take care of those precious nips! No one told me about this. Sore nipples were warned, but scabbed, bleeding, cracked?? No one told me about this horror. So when this happens, you need to get some of the soft shells made by Medela to keep your nipple from touching ANYTHING. That soft, cotton, t-shirt that you think is the most comfortable thing in the world? It will feel like shards of glass caressing your nipples. You also need to keep them moist to heal with tons of lanolin and nipple cream. Also, if you can, pump for a bit and give that to the baby until you are healed, or at least better. Pumping doesn't hurt as much as a hungry baby's suck.
  4.  Go to a lactation consultant. This is where I went wrong the first time with Noelle. I had made an appointment to see one, but never made it there, and never rescheduled. Although it seems stupid to have someone instruct you and watch you breastfeed, this is their job. You don't need to be shy. Feed that baby and have the lactation consultant watch. They will correct anything that you or baby are doing wrong, show you proper latch, help you create the latch, and show you different positions to breastfeed. They also will tell you whether you need a shield or not, or anything else breast related.
  5. There's two different kinds of milk coming out of those puppies. Milk isn't just milk? Nope. First you produce the fore milk which is lighter and watery. It looks like watered down skim milk. It contains many important nutrients but not that much fat. Then when the boobs start flowing you get the hind milk, which is a thicker, more yellowish milk that is full of fat that the baby needs. If and when you pump you will see the difference.
  6. There's such a thing as TOO MUCH milk. Say what? Of course I know all about not having enough supply of milk and trying to produce more, but rarely do I hear about a mother making TOO MUCH. Well, that mother is me. Before you hate me and want to raid our freezer, let me tell you what no one told me. Having too much milk doesn't just mean that you are pumping all the time. It means that your flow may be too fast and too much for your baby to handle. This is Halle. She chokes on my milk every single time I let down. She chokes then spits it all back up because it's just too much. Not only that but since I produce more milk, I have more fore milk than is needed. Therefore when Halle eats, she gets full sometimes before my hind milk comes in. This sucks because while she's getting milk, and it's good for her, she's not always getting the fatty kind. If a baby gets too much fore milk and not enough hind you will see it in their diapers - the poop will be more green in color and much more runny. So what do you do? Proceed to #7.
  7. There's this thing called block feeding. I discovered this upon realization that I was making too much fore milk. Block feeding is when you only breastfeed from one side for a block of time (say for 6 hours, or for 3 feedings) so that your baby for sure eventually gets enough of both the fore milk and the hind milk. This also ensures that you fully empty one breast before going to the next. Before I knew I was overproducing milk, I would want to even out my boobs by feeding her a little bit on one side then a little bit on the other. This just gave her two servings of fore milk and no hind milk at all. Fail!
  8. What do you do if you are block feeding and your boobs are totally lopsided? Not to mention engorged?! What I do is feed baby on one side while I pump the other. It's definitely not as easy as it sounds but worth it. I've learned how to balance it all and do it a couple times a day. It also helps stock up my supply in the freezer!
  9. Oh yeah. About engorgement. No one told me that the first couple weeks, not only do my nipples hurt, but my boobs are gigantic and burn to the slightest touch. Engorgement sucks! Your boobs are not used to having milk in them, and all of a sudden they are filled with it. It hurts, BAD. No one bothered to tell me that my boobs would be hard as rocks, be super tight, ache, and feel like they were on fire. Well it happens. Again, the good news is that this will pass. You will want to amputate your breasts those first couple weeks but I promise, it gets better. Even better than better? it goes away!
  10. When you wean your baby off the breast milk (this applies to moms who just pump too) be prepared for more engorgement. One way to relieve the pain? No one told me about it, but I discovered it the first time I had to wean with Noelle. Cabbage leaves. Serious. I wore about two sports bras so that my boobs were bound tight and then I put frozen cabbage leaves in the bra. Oh, instant relief. It helps with the swelling and also just feels good. There's something about the leaves that decreases your milk supply too. After I did this I happily told everyone at ECFE class about it and helped another desperate mama in need.
  11. Breastfeeding isn't always smooth sailing after those 2-3 weeks. For majority of women, it is. However there's this condition called D-MER (dsyphroic milk ejection reflex) which can actually make you feel sad or mad about breastfeeding! If you experience this you are not crazy, and definitely not alone. I'm one of these mamas, and it's okay. The best thing you can do is learn about it, acknowledge it, and work through it. There's many ways to naturally treat it (with certain herbs, teas, vitamins, etc.) or you can do what I do, which is just breathe through it, remember why I'm breastfeeding, and know that this too shall pass. 
So that was my extensive list of things no one tells you about breastfeeding. I really hope it helps other people out as it was a hard journey for me. Anything else you discovered about breastfeeding or pumping that no one told you about? Share and help other BF mamas! :)

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