Isn't it funny how, when you have a kid, everyone tells you all about breastfeeding while simultaneously telling you nothing about breastfeeding?
When I was pregnant a few years ago, I was absolutely determined to be a total supermom: You know, that mythical parenting persona that only exists in social media. In hopes of being the real deal, I read my ass off about parenting and breastfeeding and started going to La Leche League meetings at like six months pregnant. While I did learn a lot, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the total breastfeeding panic that ensued.
Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed breastfeeding. It was great for us, and I advocate for other mothers who want to do the same. But that didn't make the process any less difficult, and there are definitely potential setbacks and problems. Let me tell you a secret: It’s possible to love and hate breastfeeding at the same time. (Kinda like motherhood in general… it's the best worst thing.)
1. Your relationship with your nipples totally changes, and it’s weird.
The weirdest part of breastfeeding, in my case, was the nipple transition. You know: How one day your nipples are your favorite erogenous zone and the next they’re an all-you-can-eat buffet for a little human. No one prepares you for the awkwardness of telling your brain that it's not your husband touching your boobs anymore. Why don't we talk about this stuff?
2. Latching sucks (yeah, pun intended).
Likely one of the first challenges you will experience on your journey is the fight to latch. For me, that battle lasted over a month. I think it's because the entire process is kinda freaking awkward, especially for first-timers. I mean, you’re trying to force your nipple into a baby's mouth and doing your best to support their big wobbly head. Imagine if a stranger you’d just met and didn’t understand tried to shove their nipple in your mouth. I don’t know about you, but I’d resist too! For some, the first latch is a breeze, but if you struggle, don’t get discouraged. We got more than a year and a half of success after that first difficult month.
3. It'll probably hurt sooner or later.
While it wasn’t an issue in my journey, I hear lots of moms deal with biting from time to time. Some moms have nipple pain in the beginning; typically, early stage pain is caused by a bad latch. So if you find yourself in that predicament, there's totally help for this.
4. Your wardrobe is going to go through a lot.
After you successfully trick your kid into eating, the rest might be a breeze. A slight lip tie wasn't enough to slow our flow, but the next challenge was there before we knew what hit us: shirt wetting. To be fair, I was warned about that one. I even bought nursing pads in anticipation. But let's be real, as a new mom getting used to the roller-coaster of parenting, you don’t always do what you know you should. I didn't have time to think about no stinking breast pads. I would come to regret that.
The letdown sensation is one of the weirdest parts of breastfeeding. There you are, minding your own business, and suddenly, you get this bizarre boob tingle. And then... oh sh*t. Of course, had you used the nursing pads you'd purchased and left at home, you wouldn’t have to pace through public places like you’d won the world’s weirdest wet t-shirt contest.
Sadly, no matter how many times I experienced this sensation, it was not enough for me to proactively use the nursing pads. I paid for that decision with my dignity, over and over again. I wet all kinds of clothes in all sorts of places. Learn from my mistakes and be prepared.
5. Your breasts are totally going to change (and it’s OK to be really sad about it).
For me, the worst part of breastfeeding was when it was over. Before pregnancy, I was a small C cup. But by 20 weeks, my boobs were huge, and all of the struggles seemed worth it. The fun new size even stuck around for the first few months of breastfeeding.
But alas, once my milk regulated, my beautiful new grapefruits shrank. And worse, as the months passed, they transformed into something I can only describe as bags of sand. I was sad all the time. Everyone around me thought I was mourning the end of breastfeeding. Nah. I was just mourning the loss of great boobs.
6. It can be so hard to juggle with your work schedule.
If this sounds like A LOT to deal with if you’re employed, you’re right. I was lucky to delay working until we had the milk thing under control, but many of my friends juggled breastfeeding and working.
If you find yourself bringing home the breastmilk and the bacon, you’re gonna have to do some pre-planning. Your pump will be your best friend and your worst nightmare. A friend of mine coped by pumping at work and between meals, which was hard but worth it for her.
Breasting is a weird mix of beautiful and horrific moments. It doesn’t make you a better mom than those who choose to bottle feed, but it does give you an amazing motherhood experience. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to breastfeed my son. I hope it’s great for you too.A. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a diversity content specialist who produces materials relating to mental and physical health, sociology, and parenting. Her work can be seen on several national platforms. Check her out on Facebook and Twitter.