Things I Wish I’d Been Told About Breastfeeding

One adorable Chipmunk having cuddles and snacks at the keyboard.
One adorable Chipmunk having cuddles and snacks at the keyboard.

One of the joys of motherhood is that of discovery. No matter how well informed you think you are, there are always surprises in store. Here’s a few I’ve discovered in the process of breastfeeding my daughter, roughly in order of revelation.

Even with a wrap, there’s no such thing as having two hands free for the first few months. Tiny babies need head support, and usually a hand supporting the breast while they feed. The best you can hope for is having one hand free while you lay them along the other arm and struggle to make yourself a sandwich.

Popping from one boob to the other multiple times during a feed is annoying, but completely normal. The first milk out the breast is more watery, so it slakes baby’s thirst without filling them up. On hot days when we’re home, I tend to just take my shirt off and get comfy somewhere the Chipmunk can easily reach me, and let her snack as she feels the need. She’s not that interested in water as a thirst quencher yet, but I keep offering whenever she starts popping off and on.

Speaking of easy access, lying on your back while topless is an open invitation to be dive-bombed by an overjoyed crawler. (This goes for men, too). I often use these, um, opportunities to marvel at Chipmunk’s stellar aim. I don’t think she’s ever missed her target or needed to relatch after she goes in for the kill.

Likewise, a baby can be completely unconscious and still chase your nipple halfway across the bed.

At some point you’ll feel like little more than the world’s biggest sippy cup. And that’s ok. After a certain point, there’s just not enough happy feel-good breastfeeding hormones in the world to stop you feeling tired, stressed, or downright resentful of the amount of time spent feeding an infant. I personally started feeling touched out not long after Chipmunk started crawling. At first I felt guilty for this sudden need to NOT be close to her, even when it was blindingly obvious that she wanted me. Then I realised that I’d averaged twenty hours of physical contact with her, every day, for the last ten months. After such a long time of sharing my physical space, I needed five minutes to breathe sometimes. And she was capable of dealing with that, even if she didn’t want to.

While feeding, older babies will fiddle with your spare nipple like they’re trying to tune the damn thing to FM radio. The evolutionary reason for this is to help stimulate let-down. Some women aren’t bothered by it. I’m not one of them. I find it an intensely horrible sensation, so I’ve always discouraged Chipmunk as much as possible. The earlier you discourage it, or provide an alternative, the easier it is to stop them from twiddling. I put Chipmunk’s hand on a nursing necklace or let her run her fingers up and down my arm.

I’m sure there’s plenty more for Chipmunk and myself to discover on our breastfeeding journey. What have you discovered during parenthood that you wish someone had warned you about?