My third baby is three months old and he’s my first breastfed one. Even though I always had a feeling I’d be excellent at breastfeeding (because I’m excellent at most things, obviously), for various reasons it never worked out with my first two.
Thirteen weeks after having given birth, I can finally say that I got a hang of it and that I now know what I’m doing. I’m hoping my experience can help someone who might be struggling.
Here are my thoughts and advice on breastfeeding, as they randomly cross my mind:
- You have to learn how to do it! Surprisingly, breastfeeding does not come naturally. It’s a skill that needs to be learned and practised. I read about various feeding positions, I watched youtube videos, I practised the right way for my baby to latch over and over again. I was fully committed to making it work. It was a glorious moment when I heard the baby loudly swallow for the first time.
All this being said, I did the same with the first one and it didn’t work out. So go figure.
- Your nipples will hurt like hell. For the first couple of weeks, my nipples were sore and cracked and bruised, and I literally cried at the thought of having to feed my baby. Who would’ve thought that a toothless baby can actually pierce your nipple? Both milk and blood were coming out of holes which, I’m pretty sure, weren’t supposed to be there. I could only take a shower with my back turned to the water. Creams and ointments helped. But time passing helped the most.
Spoiler alert: It gets better (I promise)!
- Your breasts will hurt, like, a lot. When the milk first comes in, your breasts will be very painfully engorged for a few days. One night, when I must’ve been in pain but too tired to wake up, I dreamt I was breastfeeding a six-year-old child to get some relief (Yes, it was a weird dream, but sorry not sorry – I have no control over my unconscious mind).
A few times I literally had to wake my precious sleeping baby up and beg him to feed to relieve the pain (Surprisingly, he wasn’t too happy about it).
Spoiler alert: This too gets better (I promise)!
- It’s exhausting. For the first few weeks, you’ll feel like you’re only feeding and feeding and sleeping and feeding. You’ll feel that way because it’s true. You’ll get absolutely nothing done – so you might as well make peace with it. Turn your bed into a comfortable space, have snacks, water, books and films around and just relax. It could be worse.
Spoiler alert: Unfortunately, you won’t necessarily lose weight just because you’re breastfeeding. Especially not if you spend all your free time eating chips and spoonfuls of Nutella. I did some research for you, so you don’t have to. That being said, losing weight should be the last thing on your list of things to worry about at this moment.
- You will worry. A lot. My baby wasn’t gaining enough weight for a couple of weeks after he was born. This made me worry about his health, but I also felt like I was failing him, not being able to provide enough food. I found not having an overview of how much he was actually eating very stressful.
To make myself feel better I downloaded an app where I tracked when I fed and how long for. This gave me some sense of control. I also found out that if you can hear the baby swallowing and if for the first few weeks s/he has about six wet nappies and two poopy nappies a day – s/he’s getting enough food.
I’m not worried about any of this anymore but I still track my feeds because I enjoy looking at statistics as a fun activity.
(In March, I spent 5056 minutes breastfeeding! In May it was down to 3287. Fun, right?)
- Your breasts will change size about ten times a day. You’ll wake up with enormous, painful balls for breasts and go to sleep looking like all life has been sucked out of your poor boobs. You’ll go through that process several times a day.
- You will leak. You might wake up wearing soaking wet pyjamas, sleeping on a wet sheet. Also, your body might leak out of the blue, when it decides that it’s time to feed. Or it might leak when you take a hot shower. Or when you briefly look at your sleeping baby and think about how cute he is. Guess what? Walking around with wet patches on one’s T-shirt doesn’t make one feel extra-confident.
Pro hint: Don’t forget to wear your bra pads.
- Quite a few situations will make you laugh or cringe with embarrassment or both. Like, baby unlatching and your breastmilk spraying all over McDonald’s? Yes, that happened. That was the day I learned my baby doesn’t like it when I use his head as a nipple cap.
- Breastfeeding gives you some quiet time. Yes, you can lie down in the dark with your baby to quietly recharge. But you can also disappear at random times to “breastfeed” and no-one will ask any questions. Just remember to bring the baby with you.
All that being said, no-one else can take over when you need a complete break from the baby which kind of sucks.
- It’s a no-hassle. Since I bottle-fed the first two I know how complicated it is to drag all the bottles, water and powder with you and then having to find a way of warming it all up to the right temperature. When breastfeeding, you always have your breasts with you so it’s one less thing to worry about.
Just as a side note: I felt very self-conscious about breastfeeding in public until I realised no one looks at a breastfeeding lady – it makes them uncomfortable. Also, you only have to dress in the right way (pull the undershirt down, lift the shirt up) and your precious boobs will stay hidden. If you want them to.
- It gets better. It does get a lot better after a few weeks, I promise. I went from absolutely hating it to mostly enjoying the quiet time with the baby. I found a whole new appreciation for my body and for what it can do. And Oskar can now pull my nipples like chewing gum and I won’t even wince (Yes, I’m saying it like it’s a good thing).
Breastfeeding can be stressful, frustrating and painful at the start – at least it was for me. My hope is that this post helps those who are struggling to survive those first couple of awful weeks.
It’s important to keep in mind that the most essential thing is staying sane, stable and mentally healthy, so if you feel overwhelmed and like it’s all too much for you to handle, read here about how I dealt with bottle-feeding my first two.
Whichever way you decide to do it, just don’t forget to feed your baby and it will all be fine. You got this.