To be clear, I don’t think any doctor— at all, ever—really told me much of anything about breastfeeding. I’ve been pregnant twice now and the handout they gave me the first time that I was pregnant (as a first-time expectant mother) noted a course at the local hospital I could pay for and attend, so I did. This was led by nervous nurses who talked about breastfeeding in a way that was either far above our level of knowledge, trying to get us to bring our own darn pumps to make things easier for the hospital, or just spewing out facts about why breastfeeding was “good.” Hmm.
Doctors didn’t really speak on the topic at all.
I kind of get it, though. It’s one of those things that each mom sort of has to figure out for herself. I’d say it’s good, in retrospect, to know that there will be struggles. And it’s really good to know what these struggles might be in order to feel prepared and to know it’s “normal” — and also get the necessary supplies ahead of time.
So check it: Here are 20 awkward breastfeeding situations that doctors don’t warn moms about.
There was a particularly unpleasant incident that had me in tears and posting to my online mommy group real quick. I’d rather not revisit it. Suffice it to say that people who understand the hardship of new parenthood might go so far as to catch your eye for the okay, gently move your car door while you sit feeding in a warm parking lot, and smile nicely as they reopen it and go about their day. Then there are those who confront and accuse you about getting in their way.
I really, really don’t think it’s good to make women feel like people will inevitably judge them for breastfeeding uncovered. Where I live, they don’t. They can’t! But I do of course acknowledge that there are still some ignorant and insensitive enough to tell people to cover up instead of just feeding their baby in the way that works best right then and there. Thank GOODNESS for progress.
I have two very young kiddos. I can count the times I’ve gone out as a real solo person on my own, well, let’s just say very quickly. Especially when you have one or two breastfeeding babies, you have to follow their set schedule or both your body and their tummies and patterns get thrown off, resulting in all sorts of day-spoiling trouble.
When babes are like three or four months old, they start to get really, really cute. No more little old men. No more snoozing surreal alien looks. Just increasingly pudgy and smiley baby goodness… mmmm… babies. So everyone wants to take a peak, from co-workers to friends to strangers on the street, and it just so happens that the baby is becoming so alert and interactive that this interrupts an entire (crucial) feeding sesh.
It’s a classic, and it happens most especially in the early weeks. I didn’t know at first that new moms who are breastfeeding really can’t leave the house without pads, as leaks are often, and sometimes abundant. Luckily, the hubs subtly pointed it out at the front of the market checkout line and I could pull my Chambray Overshirt closed rather than flaunt my wet spot.
There are those bevs served in old-fashioned or pint-sized or stemmed glasses. And then there are those brewed from luxuriously dark and fragrant beans (or scooped into a “clean” mug at 5am and adding warm water, then chugging it — for the instant variety). Many, apparently, have an opinion about the times it’s okay or not for a new (breastfeeding) mom to partake, and unfortunately, they’ll sometimes share it.
I had no idea! But it is really common. Many new moms I met in my postpartum days had to completely avoid cheese. Or milk. Or spicy sauce. Or something else. Because they noticed that their babes had a digestive issue due to whatever it was being aten via their breastmilk! Seriously!
Don’t be scared, and do not even let this deter you from breastfeeding because girrrrrl, this is really not even a drop in the parental bucket… but if you breastfeed, your baby will probably bite you. It just happens. If you know ahead of time not to overreact, and to stay calm, you might be able to avoid a nursing strike.
So, as a work-from-home, take-care-of-two-tiny-tots, crazy-life parent, one of my main means of socializing myself and my babies is, like, a free library story time. Or going to the park. Or something where I’m pushing it to just get out between nap times, and glad to interact with the other mamas and babies there. Feedings will be necessary during this time. And other babies and toddlers WILL come in close for a stare and loud shouting of “BOOBIES!” — and to me, it’s just natural/cute. Except for when it makes the baby so distracted they skip the feeding.
I realized in a really big way how much my emotions were affected by breastfeeding with my second child. Nursing has a way of coming in ups and downs, especially if you continue it past like six months and then on into the toddler years, and when that shot of oxytocin doesn’t come, it can really affect a mom, leaving her anxious, restless, and engorged.
One thing that very commonly throws off a new mama’s breastfeeding schedule, perhaps leaving her baby fussy and herself engorged and distraught, is teething. It is such a big deal — it’s not even funny. Some babies, at some times, will want to nurse more when growing a new pearly white. Some will want to stop entirely because the sucking motion hurts.
So when babies are having trouble breathing out of their noses, or they have sore throats, or generally feel unwell, it can really be awkward for their moms, who are like, “what in the world am I supposed to do with this ticked-off baby and these overinflated balloons that I’m now carrying around atop my body?” Answer? Pumping and bulb syringes and steam and doctor as needed.
You know when you’re super gassy or have diarrhea or feel nauseous and someone even talks about food and you’re like, “Gross, be quiet and get away from me”? Babies sometimes go on little nursing “strikes” as those of us in the mom community call it, and it might seem totally random, but it’s actually because that tum is struggling for one reason or another.
True tip: You can “fart” as well as burp your baby.
As a newborn baby nurses, it aids in the process of the mom’s uterus contracting back down to more like it was before this whole pregnancy thing happened. The thing is, especially with a second or subsequent baby, this involution process can HURT. It was sort of like a little (nah, BIG) labor aftershock in the early weeks with my hungry baby. I had to rock and rock in my glider while feeding to get through it.
Some moms seek help from skilled lactation consultants. Some persevere and figure it out along with their babies: the whole “proper latch” thing, that is. The thing is, though, that particular skin is NOT used to being suckled on, and then it is at least every two hours, leading to some serious skin irritation in some cases. Seek help, get lanolin, and air dry.
I saw motherhood as a precious chance to REALLY connect with real women also experiencing it. But I cannot even tell you what it was like to see the look on the face of a parent sharing that they were unable to breastfeed their child. I would say, like, one out of about five that I encountered in my early postpartum days didn’t look like they were about to burst into tears. But sharing is good, and so we talked through it best we could.
So, where I live, many moms do have to return to some form of work postpartum in order to hack it. Continuing to produce milk during this time can be tricky, and this is why many of the more awesome companies out there are super supportive of babies being brought to moms at work to feed as well as the pumping and storing of breastmilk. The problem I encountered is that small businesses sorta like to find loopholes rather than raise a culture of support.
The attachments look sort of like funnels you’d buy at Williams-Sonoma. They often anchor you to a wall. The parts need careful cleaning each and every time. I managed to write hundreds of articles while I was hooked up to a pump, but it was probably one of the more awkward and *bleh* things I’ve ever done in my life. Welcome to motherhood!
In the first few weeks or even months, the baby will eat every two or three hours. The reality of this may not sound extreme at first, but believe me, it is. Baby wakes from sleep. Baby gets a new diaper. Baby is awake for a few minutes of “active” time. Baby wants that sweet white stuff! A baby nurses for 10 to 30 minutes, or something like that. It can easily become a never-ending cycle, and I’d just like to say that husbands may also make good mama’s sandwich feeders.
I shall tiptoe around this topic: Partnered couples often have special times together. These times have a way of stimulating the flow of oxytocin in the mama’s system, sometimes most especially at certain very special or almost-there types of moments. This can result in the spraying of milk. Ya feel me? #MomLife
Sources: Trader Joe's, Baby Center, Web MD