20 Stages of Breastfeeding
For years, I did not have cable television or any streaming services like Netflix. But, I am not the type of person who likes to do things in complete silence, so I depended on my DVD collection to keep me entertained while I did chores around the house. What I did have, was Friends: the Complete Series box set. Therefore, I had Friends DVDs playing every day for hours at a time. Needless to say, I kind of know the show pretty well.
When I was still pregnant with Alex, I thought breastfeeding would be easy. I took all the necessary classes, and come on, pigs and dogs and other animals all do it… Why would human babies have any problems? My boobs should magically fill up with milk, and my baby would naturally know what to do with my boobs. Wow, was I dead wrong. The breastfeeding journey took me by surprise and with scenes from Friends burned into my head forever, I can not think of a better way to express the stages of breastfeeding through my favorite TV show of all times.
1. When You Start Producing Colos…trum?
When your baby pops out of you and the nurse hands you the baby, you are in a state of joy and confusion. You have this little tiny human being on your chest who seems to barely be able to stay awake, and somehow the baby is supposed to latch on to your nipples? On top of that, the “milk” coming out of your nipples is yellow and sticky, and the baby seems to only take a few gulps before falling asleep. Did the baby eat enough? And what’s with the sticky, black poop?
2. When Your Milk Comes in.
I do not have small boobs, but I was not prepared for how large my boobs got when my milk first came in. I woke up a couple of days after giving birth, looked down, and WHOA. Did I somehow sleepwalk to a plastic surgeon’s office and get an upgrade? All the sudden all the tops you own fit super tight and your lower cut shirts make you look like you are trying to pull a Jessica Rabbit.
3. When You First Open Up the Breast Pump.
I remember opening up the cardboard box that contained my breast pump and slowly taking out the different parts. Now, I am an engineer, so normally I love putting together puzzles and furniture and all that jazz. However, when I saw tubes, little white round thing with holes, the machine with various knobs, and other accessories, I was so confused. THIS is supposed to get milk from my boobs? What happens if I do it wrong and it sucks too strongly and I start bleeding? OMG there is going to be a bloodbath! AHHHHHH!!!
4. When People Tell You that Your Milk is Not Good Enough.
There are always breastfeeding haters. Most of the time, unfortunately, are those who are closest to us. Just keep in mind that they are trying to help you even though they may be misinformed and that your breastmilk is the best for your baby.
5. When Your Let-Down is Way Too Strong.
I feel like a baby has a love-hate relationship with let-downs, especially if the let-downs are too strong. When the babies first latch on, they get impatient that the milk is not flowing fast enough and they smack your boobs like they are playing bongo drums to encourage the let-down. However, when the milk finally gets released, they can’t drink fast enough and need to “come up for air.” More often than not, when they unlatch and turn their face away from your boobs, they get a face full of breast milk.
6. When Your Baby Cluster Feeds.
5-8 PM was what I called Alex’s “witching hours.” He would be extremely fussy around that time, and the only way to calm him down was to nurse him. Every single day, I would nurse him for 3 hours in the evening time, until Marc returned home around 8 PM and helped put Alex to sleep. I would forget to turn on the light when I sat down to nurse around 5 PM, so by the time Marc got home, I would be sitting in the dark, with my legs and butt numb from not being able to move for so long. Oh, fun times.
7. When Other People Notice Your Breastfeeding Boobs.
Finally get the chance to go out back into society after surviving the first few weeks with a newborn? You may have lost quite a few pounds, or if you are one of the genetically superior moms, you may already be back down to your pre-pregnancy weight. A couple of things, however, have not gone back to their original sizes – namely, your boobs. I remember going out for the first time after giving birth. I went to a friend’s birthday party, and I was wearing a tight cocktail dress. One of my friends who I had not seen postpartum hugged me, looked down, and said, “Breastfeeding?”
8. When Antiperspirants Just Don’t Cut it.
Have you noticed that your baby turns into a little heater when he/she is sleeping? On top of postpartum sweats (as your body is trying to get rid of the excess water you retained during pregnancy) and crazy hormones, your baby sometimes feel like a thermonuclear reactor radiating as much heat as the sun. I am not a sweaty person usually, but I am usually covered in perspiration after nursing my baby to sleep. I know, super sexy.
9. When You Misplace Your Libido.
The crazy hormones that got you sweating like you just ran a marathon are also responsible for your lack of sex drive. This does not mean you are no longer attracted to your partner! Find other ways to create intimacy in your relationship, like a candlelight dinner or give each other a sensual massage. It’s important to talk to your partner and maintain your relationship during this time. Just keep in mind that this is only temporary – You can’t breastfeed forever!
10. When Your Breastfeeding Cravings Kick in.
I know you thought you were done with cravings after pregnancy. Well, no one warned you about breastfeeding cravings huh? While breastfeeding cravings are most likely due to sleep deprivation and lack of calories, they are strong cravings nonetheless. Just the other day, I randomly wanted pound cake. Who craves POUND CAKE of all things? I can’t explain it, but I wanted it, I needed it, and if I didn’t have it in my mouth that day, I would have stayed up after the kids had gone to bed to bake myself one.
11. When Your Baby Gets Distracted Easily.
Around 2-6 months of age, babies start to get distracted by everything around them. All the sudden they turn into Daredevil and seem to be able to hear a car beeping its horns 10 streets down, and they have to see what’s going on. The bad news? They tend to forget to let go with their mouths, and now your nipple looks like the Stretch Armstrong action figure (remember those?). OUCH.
12. When Your Baby Bites You.
Teething… The stuff nightmares are made of. You think you know fear? Try nursing a baby who does not seem to know there are pearly whites in his/her mouth and likes to use your nipple as a teething toy. Double… no triple… no CENTUPLE OUCH.
13. When Your Baby Bites You… in Public.
14. When You Get Mastitis.
Imagine getting run over by a truck, and before you can raise your hand to signal for help, the truck backs up and runs you over again. Now, combine the excruciating pain you would feel from getting flattened under the truck tires with the discomfort you would feel with the worst flu of your life. That’s about what mastitis feels like. Your inflamed boob(s) feels so bruised that you can barely wear a shirt over it, and you are extremely weak and achy all over. Bad new – to get the lumps out of your breast(s), you need to feed the baby as much as possible with your painful nipple(s), and massage the lumps while feeding to “unclog the drains.”
15. When You Realize How Much Money You are Saving Breastfeeding.
While you are recovering from the shock and pain of getting bitten or trying to survive mastitis, remember this – You save $1,000 to $3,000 per year breastfeeding. Victory dance!
16. When Someone Tells You to Stop Breastfeeding in Public.
People are dumb. I don’t care how much people may be bothered by the fact that my boobs are out of my shirt – I am feeding my baby. That said, I usually use a cover or the two-shirt method so you really can’t see anything, so when people still can’t mind their own business, I get pretty pissed.
17. When Someone Tells You that They are Afraid to Nurse in Public.
You are sustaining another human being’s life. You are providing your baby the best nutrients that he/she can get. It’s not like you are flashing everyone your boobs for no reason, and just use a cover if you are paranoid of someone seeing your nipples. Be proud that you are a nursing mom and both figuratively and literally, stick your chest out.
18. When You Meet Another Breastfeeding Mom.
Yes, breastfeeding moms are strangely proud. I know I am. It’s not an easy journey and there is a lot of pain and blood throughout. Therefore, when you meet another breastfeeding mom, you know you share a special bond that no others can understand, and you secretly applaud each other for toughing it out for the sake of your babies.
19. When You Breastfeed Past 1 Year (or Longer!).
It is recommended that you exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of the baby’s life. Beyond 6 months, a lot more factors come into whether or not you will continue, such as the baby eating solids, teething a lot more and getting too distracted to nurse. According to the CDC, only 26.7% of women are breastfeeding their babies at 12 months in 2014. So go ahead, be proud that you have made it one whole year breastfeeding your baby… You deserve it!
20. When Your Baby Weans Off Breastmilk
Sadly, all good things come to an end. As much as you may hate the breastfeeding journey, I promise you, some part of you will miss it at the end. You will never again cuddle with the baby as close as you did while breastfeeding, and you will miss the serene look on their faces when they fall asleep nursing, drunk on your breastmilk. I am currently nursing my 7 months old daughter and I cannot imagine the end, and I don’t want to.
Feeling a little low? Check out this post to learn ways to boost your milk supply!
Struggling with weight loss while breastfeeding or not sure what to eat while nursing? Read about the right way to eat as a new nursing mom from a breastfeeding consultant here!
At what stage are you on in the breastfeeding journey?