Breastfeeding and pumping is always portrayed as being so easy and beautiful on TV and in magazines but the truth is, all that glitters is not gold. Let me be the one to tell you that there is nothing easy and beautiful about breastfeeding every hour on-demand, pumping with raw nipples, and especially experiencing horrible uterine contractions.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed my breastfeeding journey (can’t wait to do it again) and I could give you a huge list of things I really enjoyed about it but what good will that do if I don’t get real and also share with you the things that are not so good that you should be aware of? My intention is definitely not to freak you out or anything but I truly believe that being prepared is key to success in everything you do.
These are all things I wish I would’ve known and am so glad I know now. Things you’ll be glad to know just in case you go through something similar or just alike!
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8 Things That Shocked Me About Breastfeeding And Pumping As A New Mom
#1 The uterine contractions
So so bad it had to be #1 on the list. You probably think that contractions end as soon as you birth your baby and your placenta plops out…Buuut joke’s on both you and I mama because that’s not where it all ends. I know this now as a mom of 2 and birth doula, but at the time I gave birth, I had no idea. So you can only imagine the shock I felt when my babies first latched on.
Um wow. Ouch.
I had no idea that skin-to-skin and breastfeeding my baby would trigger such painful uterine contractions. It’s totally normal though and happens as a result of your uterus contracting and shrinking back down to its pre-baby size. But still. Wow.
It literally felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach. It sounds awful (because it is) but it’s the truth. And I’m saying this as someone who has had 2 natural births!
I (very stupidly) powered my way through them without using anything but a heating pad once in a while, but I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. I haven’t used this natural pain relieving herbal tincture yet since I only found out about it after having baby #2 but I will be using it in the future. After seeing the hundreds of positive reviews about this product I’m convinced and will never allow myself to experience that kind of pain again!
#2 The amount of milk I produced
I know breast size has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of breast milk one can produce but still, I was honestly shocked at just how much breast milk my tiny boobies produced. If you’re experiencing low milk production issues, check out my list of 50 of the best lactation boosting recipes!
I didn’t get to see this the first time around since I only managed to breastfeed my daughter for a couple of months. But my son was exclusively breastfed and wow. If a baby could talk, I think he’d tell you it felt like trying to drink from the Niagara Falls.
He would literally gulp during feeds and choke sometimes, and I would spray everything in sight (including his little face) with my milk. I had no idea what was going on until I found that I had an oversupply of breast milk.
Hopefully you produce just enough milk for your baby because having too much isn’t as great as it might sound
I recently learned about the Haakaa which I’ll definitely use with my next baby to collect all the breast milk that will drip out of the other boob. God knows how much milk I’ve tragically wasted by not doing this!
#3 The nipple pain
I’ve seen many women breastfeed, but I’ve never seen them curl their toes like I did when I newly nursed my babies. OMG. I remember the (many) days when my nipples felt as though they’d been put through a meat grinder. When I first started breastfeeding and pumping, and my nipples hadn’t been totally “broken in” yet, they would feel super sore after each session.
I spent my days with this organic nipple butter slathered all over my chest. After each nursing or pumping sesh, I’d put the butter on my nipples and then I’d go about my business around the house. That’s right, no nursing bra on or anything. My husband sure didn’t mind the sight and I just didn’t care (I’m sure you won’t either) because it relieved the pain, is 100% natural, and it kept my nipples happy.
Note: Nipple pain during breastfeeding does not always mean that there is a problem. Even with a perfect latch, no anatomical issues such as tongue ties and lip ties, you may experience nipple pain. When and if in doubt, consult with a Certified Lactation Consultant.
#4 The roller coaster of emotions
Feeling super happy one minute to bursting out in tears the next. Breastfeeding and pumping are what I consider to be labors of love. It’s not easy sacrificing your body in that way day in and day out.
Sometimes you may not feel like it. You may not feel like having someone touch you, or your nipples may feel so sore that the thought of nursing makes you shudder. I want you to know that it’s OK to not always love breastfeeding or pumping. Yes, you’re a mom but you’re also human!
Talk to someone you trust. Check with a Postnatal Naturopath to ensure you don’t have any vitamin deficiencies and find ways to distract yourself while nursing. I went through this and thankfully, as I found my groove in breastfeeding and pumping, those feelings naturally went away.
#5 The frequency
I had no idea I’d be breastfeeding my babies 10+ times a day. Until I mastered the side-lying breastfeeding position, I forgot what sleep even meant. When my babies started cluster feeding, there were many days where I’d just cry and the thought of nursing made my skin crawl.
Although on-demand feeding is the best way to feed your baby and to establish your milk supply, it’s still exhausting (in every way possible). So when you experience this mama, just know that it’s normal and it’s a phase that does not last forever.
#6 The overall body pain
I tell my readers and my doula clients about the benefits of seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy all the time. But it’s also important that you see one during postpartum to promote internal healing, proper spinal and pelvic alignment, and overall good health.
When you’re in postpartum recovery mode and are spending several hours breastfeeding and pumping every single day, you are bound to experience some aches and pains. When you’re in pain, your body is communicating that it needs rest and healing. So don’t forget to book those postnatal massage and chiropractic adjustment appointments mama. You deserve it!
#7 The duration
I didn’t really mind breastfeeding for long periods of time all that much as long as I was comfortable and had the things I needed nearby. But pumping was an entirely different story. Nothing against my double breast pump but I just found that it was so time consuming. Hooking it up, pumping, collecting and storing, washing all the parts, and then feeding the baby…It all just took so long.
I probably should’ve prepared myself better by getting a hands-free nursing strap so that I could multitask and cut down on my pump time. Or better yet, a wire-free and hands-free pump so that I could pump anywhere I wanted.
Kudos to all the moms who pump exclusively! I don’t think I could ever do it.
#8 The learning curve
Breastfeeding is natural but it doesn’t always come naturally. Pumping also has its own unique set of challenges. Please please be patient with yourself and with your baby. Just because you don’t master things right away does not mean you are a failure. It takes time to get things right!
Take it from me. I regret not being patient with my daughter and with myself. I also regret not taking a pumping and breastfeeding course to prepare myself ahead of time. After only 3 months of breastfeeding, I sadly switched over to pumping and then eventually formula.
But with my son, I had a midwife who cared and told me to be patient, and to take each feeding session as practice. No need to stress or feel pressured as long as baby was gaining weight and producing adequate wet and dirty diapers. Thank God I listened to her because I ended up exclusively breastfeeding my son for almost a year and I weaned him on my own terms.
Educate yourself and be patient!