If I could go back in time, I would go back and wipe the smug smile off my pregnant face as I skipped the section about breastfeeding in my ‘What to Expect When Expecting’ book. As a nurse, I’d done a whole day course on the ins and outs of breastfeeding, I totally had this in the bag.. WRONG.
Yep, if I could go back, I would tell myself the truth about breastfeeding.
And so we begin, the great breastfeeding letdown (see what I did there?!).
Unless of course the breastfeeding gods are smiling down on you (which they do for some), then every time you read/are told “breastfeeding isn’t painful,” you are being lied to. It’s all a big lie to try and trick you into giving it a go. Because they think that if you knew the truth, you’d be mixing a bottle of formula before the umbilical cord has been cut. When, I’m my case, had I known that it can be challenge initially, I probably wouldn’t have spent all that time crying and thinking I was the ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD who was struggling to breastfeed.
‘Breastfeeding is a learned skill.’ True. But keep in mind, you’ll be learning this new trick while being completely sleep deprived and sporting more hormones than a Bieber concert. AND more often than not, you’ll have a starving baby screaming in your face while you try for the seven billionth time to ‘correctly latch.’
Your once perky breasts and ornamental nipples are soon transformed into enormous, tight, veiny, ROCK HARD, red-hot, obtrusive mounds which leak milk every time you lay eyes on your babe (and at numerous other, often inconvenient times), and are working around the clock to nourish a little person. These puppies are no longer just for show, they’re workin’ girls. Like Dolly Parton – working nine till five (and then all through the night, without being paid overtime).
And these enormous jugs need to be emptied approximately every four hours, by a baby who’s head is half the size of one of these obscenities, and who’s mouth can barely open wide enough to fit in a nipple, let alone half your areola – the way they’re meant to.
They say a baby’s tummy starts off about the size of a marble, and yet, your baps are producing enough milk to feed a small flock of lambs. Every time you undo that little clasp on your maternity bra, you treat anyone within a three metre radius to a free breastmilk facial. And speakin’ of leakin’ – you’ll also be told that your letdown will feel like a slight tingling sensation. Yes. A tingling similar to falling boob first onto your grandma’s embroidery needles.
Oh and when your babe does feed, they’ll probably only empty one boob at a time, so you’re probably going to end up so lopsided that you develop a permanent limp.
Your baby’s tiny, gummy mouth might look cute when they smile.. But don’t be fooled, they can shred a nipple in 2 seconds flat.
Here’s a fun fact that you won’t learn in a breastfeeding pamphlet – nipples are like lizard tails. I swear to god, they are designed to be eaten off – like literally, in small chunks – and then grow back.
My mothers advice while pregnant – to rough my nipples up with a toothbrush. I remember laughing at the time; man, did it get some mileage.. The only thing funny about it now, is that she suggested a toothbrush and not a ball of steel wool.
About a week into feeding my first babe, a nurse commented on my ‘grazed nipples.’ Really?! Grazed?! Like I’d been running around on the asphalt with my top off, tripped over and taken skin off a knee and a couple of nipples. They’re not grazed, they’re freaken’ MAULED!
The whole “breastfeeding is a natural and learned behaviour, which is not painful” went out the window and was replaced by a haze of nipple shields, breast pumps and lanolin.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.. I’m pleased to say that the battle raged on, until one day the breastfeeding gods removed their heads from their cleavage, saw that I was struggling, and magically made everything better. My rock hard baps softened. My milk slowed from raging rapids to a babbling brook. My babe opened her mouth wide enough to stop mincing me. My nipples healed like happy lizards. And we all lived happily ever after. Breastfeeding PAIN-FREE for the next 14 months.
The other day, my now three year old asked if my boobies could talk; I think if they could they’d probably say “happy breastfeeding week everyone!”