I breastfed my two children for a combined total of 29 months and I learned a LOT along the way — mostly that it’s really obnoxious when parents refer to everything in months instead of years.
While it wound up being the right decision for our family, I had an extremely rocky start with breastfeeding. It was frustrating to hear stories of how it seemed to come naturally to everyone else. I felt like everyone was staring at me. I had no idea what I was supposed to wear or act, or if I was doing everything wrong. Pulling up my shirt in public was new and terrifying.
1. The beginning is not going to be pretty.
I know you’re determined to make it work, and that stubborn streak is going to come in handy. Breastfeeding may come naturally for those serene ladies in the brochures, cradling a newborn with ease as it models the perfect latch, but it’s not going to be easy for you at first. You’re going to be a sweaty, frantic mess as you awkwardly hold the baby’s head and squeeze yourself and try to smoosh Tab A into Slot B.
2. People are going to touch you.
Welcome every single squeeze and reposition (um, from medical professionals only) because you want every bit of advice you can get. Nurses, lactation consultations, experienced moms — whip ’em out for anyone who can either offer a suggestion or reassure you that you’re doing it right.
3. It’s going to hurt at first.
This isn’t true for everyone, of course, but it’s true for you. In the very beginning, the pain will curl your toes and nurses will blame the latch, but that doesn’t do anything to help the pain. There’s nothing to do except to keep working on that latch and load up on the good prescription nipple cream.
4. But then it won’t.
In that first week, you’ll tearfully wonder why women choose to put themselves through the torture of having their breasts feel like they’ve been rubbed raw by a cheese grater. But little by little, it’s going to stop hurting like that. Three or four weeks in, your skin will heal and the baby will get his latch-act together and it’s not going to hurt at all. You’ll wonder if you were exaggerating about the pain. (You weren’t.)
5. You don’t need to buy nursing clothes in order to breastfeed.
Stop wasting your money on ugly $40 tops (two for $55!) that tie awkwardly and promise no one will see your goodies. Wear the V-necks, button-downs and tank tops you already own, and stop buying into the hype.
6. Seriously, you bought a nursing nightgown?!
(So did I.) You do realize that is just a stretchy-necked nightgown that’s three times expensive because it has the word “nursing” on the tag, right? Yes, I know it’s cute, but just wear your regular old PJs and yank up the top! You’re in your own home!
7. Your nursing cover does not need to be as large as a tent and as thick as a duvet.
You’re concealing boobs, not gold bars. You will try out many different styles of nursing covers and in the end, your favourite will be the short, simple one made of the thinnest, lightest cotton imaginable. *gasp* All of your silly worries about an errant splash of milk making it “see-though” will be forgotten because it’s so cool and comfortable.
8. Don’t hide in the bathroom.
You know that “breastfeeding-family” bathroom at the mall where the rocking chair is almost touching the toilet? Ew! Skip it! I know you’re years away from the advent of really nice nursing lounges and signs in restaurants inviting you in for free cups of tea while you’re nursing (how great are those?!) but there are still chairs, benches, food courts, and lots of perfectly acceptable places to sit down in public and breastfeed.
9. Not everyone is looking at you.
I know, I know — it feels like every perv in sight is ogling you as you struggle with your baby’s latch, but they’re not. Some senior citizens will tsk-tsk you but it’s only because they’re set in their ways. And, yes, there is always going to be that one creepy man hoping to sneak a peek. He’ll keep walking if you give him the Death Stare and maybe snap your teeth at him.
10. You will miss it when it’s over.
It doesn’t feel like it when you’re the only one who can feed the baby in the middle of the night because he hates thawed breastmilk.
It doesn’t feel like it when you’re hooked up to your breast pump like a dairy cow, trying to juice your own body just so you can leave a fresh bottle on the counter and escape the house for an hour.
It certainly doesn’t feel like it during cluster feeds when your breasts feel like two empty wallets.
But there will come a day when you wish it was still that easy to feed, nourish and comfort your child. You’ll miss the lazy way lifting up your shirt was a quick fix for anything — hunger, boredom, exhaustion, a scary tumble off the couch.
You’ll long for the days when they looked up at you with those big eyes and tangled their chubby fingers around your hair.
You’ll smile fondly at the nervous nursing mothers you pass, trying to erase all of her self-conscious worries with a little nod that says “I’ve been there. You’re doing a great job.”