13 things I wish people told me about Breastfeeding

In Momlife, Thoughts by Sara Ann K1 Comment

So this post right here is for the breastfeeding mommas, or the mommas who intend to breastfeed and pump. 

For noobie mom’s….. I FEEL YOU. For mom’s to be…. here we go:

1) No two boobs are alike. Not even my left and right. 

Most women tend to get a “feeder boob” – THE MASTER BOOB.

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Mine was good ole’ righty. And often it could produce as much as 100ml more than my left.

Don’t worry. YOU ARE NORMAL.

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You can pump a little more on your non-master side, to stimulate more production. In my case, I have had three prior surgeries to remove lumps from my left breast, so the scar tissue probably affected my milk production as well. 

2) You will touch yourself. More than you ever have in your life.

 All the time. Once you start breastfeeding, you definitely will be touching your boobs every other minute or so. In the first month alone I probably touched my boobs more than in my entire life. 

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You will touch to see if they are full. Touch to see if they are leaking. Touch to see if you have lumps – the first sign of mastitis. Touch to see if you should be feeding soon. Touch to see if your nips are still in working order. The list goes on.

3) Your funbags won’t be yours anymore. 

For hubbies, I’m sorry. They won’t be yours either. 

From the get go, when a nurse or a lactation consultant, roughly grabs your nip and stuffs it into your babies mouth, you will not only get a rude shock, and be a little confused… your relationship with your boobs, and body in general, will never be the same again.

4) There is no turning back.

 I’m sorry to report post-breastfeeding, that all those rumours are true. Your breasts do shrink. My pert grapefruit halves are now, small papayas. A friend said this is only true if you bf for more than 2 mths. I went 7 mths. So…… 

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UPDATE: Yeah. It is not ideal. But, it is not something completely 100% irreversible either. I have found that with the help of a good shaping system – I am currently using a D’elegance set – helps shape the fat and pushes stuff back more or less into place. Shaping works only because fat is malleable.  After using my new shape set for 1.5 mths – my boobs are bigger than before with a bonus – no more armpit scallops! WOOTZ. But more about that in another post.

5) Your aerola and nipples will change. 

Aerola like saucers during pregnancy? YUP. Weird right? I kept being told that I had small, short nipples. I didn’t even know what that meant. Oh, after 5 mths, they were small and short no more. At one point, they could FOLD. O_O (They are slowly going back to normal now.) 

6) You will see a lot of different boobies. 

Besides being blasé about your boobs. Yes, you will start whipping them out all the time because you are the factory. If you have mommy friends, you will see more boobies. And truly. No two nips are alike. 

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UPDATE: I have seen friends with nips like raisins. Mine were tiny, and then became a bit long…. and thankfully are back to normal. I’ve also seen nipples that were as big as a 50 cent coin. Yes. The nipple. And in different hues ranging from beiges to pinks, from browns to black.

It is all normal. Everyone’s NEW NORMAL, is just different from each other. Because we are each unique individuals.

7) If you need to increase your supply, pump after feeding/ power pump

Clear your breasts entirely of all milk after feeding. And you will find your supply will steadily increase. You can also power pump once or twice a day to increase your supply. It definitely helped me within two days.

Power pumps are really simple to do and I thank my friend, Freda, for introducing it to me. It basically takes an hour – which is time I use to chill out and Netflix. And it is 20 mins pump + 10 mins rest + 10 mins pump + 10 mins rest + 10 mins pump.

The process supposedly mimics a baby’s feeding pattern during cluster feeding, and stimulates your body into producing more milk. It generally is recommended that you do this power pump around midnight. (Though do note that the milk produced at this time, does contain hormones that will make your baby sleepy.)

8) Breastfeeding is like a rollercoaster 

For me, it was ok initially. In the second month, it felt like a cheese grater was bring pulled through my breasts, and out through my nipples. And after the third month, my boobs were so numb to the pain. I was also very lucky and didn’t suffer any milk blisters, or need lanolin much, save the first few days when I was getting used to the whole deal. 

There are so many ups and downs though. Milk supply dropping when I was sick. I would be huge from having too much milk at times. Leak every time I was in the shower. And when the baby latched on, I would spray so hard, the baby would choke and I would feel so bad. And all the late nights. And lack of sleep. I was barely coherent.

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9) Do what feels right for you 

Ok. Screw what other people say. Some will judge you for feeding your baby till they are toddlers. Others will judge you for not breastfeeding at all. Everyone has an opinion and something to say. I did a good 7 mths of breastfeeding, and then slowly started weaning onto formula. Only because the baby was already taking big amounts of solids for lunch and dinner, and he started BITING me. A lot. He had already started teething at about 6.5mths, and everything was a chew toy to him. Including my nips.

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Yelping. Pinching his nose. And a host of other tips and tricks I tried, did not work. So I chose to save my nips in case I have another baby. Breastmilk is great for the baby. Yes. Doctors recommend that you breastfeed for at least 6 mths. Yes. But we grew up on formula just fine as well. Don’t stress. You do you. Because YOU are the best mom your baby can get.

10)  Breastfeeding isn’t the most natural thing on earth

I am sick and tired of people thinking that they will just magically know how to breastfeed. Or it will be magically easy for them. Everyone has their own struggles with breastfeeding. But not everyone has a great experience. Because basically, you are living your life in 3 hour blocks. That is exhausting enough as is.

You feed the baby. That generally takes about 30 – 40 mins or so. With 15 to 20 mins on each side. You need to keep baby and yourself more or less awake during this process, if not they don’t eat enough. After this, you have about two hours to eat, sleep, rest, maybe brush your teeth, and if you are lucky, take a shower and wash your hair. And the cycle starts again. But that’s just when you already have gotten the hang of it. Let’s start at the beginning…..

First of all, some babies don’t latch on easily. You’d think it’s a natural survival skill right? But no. Your baby was basically getting a direct food source when it was in your belly… and never had to worry about food. Or breathing. Or pooping or peeing. So EVERYTHING IS NEW TO THEM. AND YOU!! And some times, you both need a little help. Cue : Lactation consultants.

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Also, sometimes, just like arteries, your milk pipes can get clogged, because your milk also has oil and fat. Again, cue lactation consultants. Though if you have a good jamu or post-natal masseuse, they usually can help with that as well. Don’t expect it to be a soothing experience though. Clearing your milk ducts can be rough and painful.

Different things work for different people. A nursing pillow that helps elevate the baby, definitely helps your arm not to give up on you. Some people find that co-sleeping with the baby and letting the baby side-latch, is the best method to allow both mother and child to sleep well. But this, is really not comfortable for the mom at all, because you will be hyper conscious of the baby in bed and sleep in awkward positions because you will be deathly afraid to roll over the baby.

Yup. That’s just the start.

My hubby kept trying to get me to stop breastfeeding after three months, even though before the baby was born, he had told me he wanted me to feed the baby for eight months at least.

The change of heart came from how tired he saw it made me.

Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy the bonding and the moments I had with the baby.

But after I stopped, I enjoyed getting my life back. And being able to get back into the swing of things, without having to worry about leaking through my clothes during meetings.

(Yes. It happens. Happened to me 3 times.) But after I stopped, everyone kept telling me I looked so good, or looked so fresh. 

11) Breastfeeding doesn’t always help you lose weight

Breastfeeding is not magic. It’s not going to help you lose weight. BUT EVERYONE SAYS IT DOES. Right?

Well. Let me tell you this. 7/10 of my friends who got pregnant at the same time as me, did not experience weight loss during breastfeeding. Maybe it is because we are older mom’s and our metabolism is already slower as is. But not everyone loses weight while breastfeeding.

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Some mom’s do. And make snapping back into shape look absolutely effortless. But like I said, everyone is different. EVERYONE”S MILK IS DIFFERENT TOO!

In general, breastmilk takes like diluted, evaporated milk. It has a sweetness to it, with different taste profiles depending on what you eat. This is also why people tell you don’t eat spicy food while you are breastfeeding. More because they are concerned that the baby will reject the taste of the milk that comes after the food. 

Some people have very fatty, thick, oily and almost yellow milk. Mine, tends to run thinner. Not as fatty and oily as some of my pals. And most of the friends that produced almost yellow, thick milk, tended to lose weight slightly faster.

In general, everyone’s body metabolises whatever they eat, differently. And this is the same.

So don’t go eating like crazy, expecting it all to be burned off while you are breastfeeding. Eat healthily. Eat what your doctor, or your confinement lady is suggesting. Drink LOTS of water, at least 3 litres a day. And eat things like oats and granola if you want boosts.

Personally… my favourite boosters were teas, and bigbigmummy brownies, as well as the cookies and muffins and brownies from Singapore Lactation Bakes. (#miloGMT hated when I ate too much fenugreek capsules – it gave a grassy, herby taste to my milk that he didn’t like.)

Also… FACT – I lost a bulk of my weight AFTER I stopped breastfeeding. I put on 30kg during pregnancy. I’ve lost 22kg to date, 9 mths after baby. That said, I’ve also not exercised at all. And I suspect that because of the calcium supplements I took during pregnancy and breastfeeding, my bones are generally heavier now as well. So I am hoping to lose about another 3-5kg.

Apparently there are a few different kinds of people – one type is the kind that magically metabolizes any fat they gained during pregnancy, into milk. Another kind burns up whatever they eat during breastfeeding, and produces milk. And there are women like me, who retain fat and water during the breastfeeding process, because the body stores it for milk production.

As long as you don’t overeat and GAIN weight during breastfeeding, you are good. And your weight should go down slowly and steadily.

12) WHY Breastmilk is MAGICAL

A lot of people don’t understand why people recommend breastfeeding for the first six months of a babies life. They get that breastmilk is good, but they don’t understand the logic and reason behind it. So let me try to explain.

Remember how I said breastmilk is different at night?

Well, to be perfectly honest, breastmilk is different ALL THE TIME. If your baby is latching directly, the breastmilk you are providing for your baby at each feed, is completely different, and unique to that feed.

Let me explain. You know those dots on your aerola? The ones that look like they’re spelling SUCK HERE in braille?

Basically, when a baby is suckling on you, the backwash is fed back into your body via those dots, and your body immediately produces milk catered to your babies immediate needs. If the baby is dehydrated, the milk will be thinner. If your baby needs a boost of immunity because you’ve been exposed to a virus, a booster goes in. If it is at night, your body produces a hormone in the milk to make baby sleepy. 

AMAZING RIGHT?

This is also why I marked my stored milk. I always tried to give the baby milk pumped in the day, during the day. And that pumped in the night, I would give him at night. So labeling is important.

13) TASTE YOUR BREASTMILK

Sounds gross? Don’t be silly.

Would you taste fresh milk from a cow, to make sure whether it is still good or not, before you give it to your child?

So where’s the difference?

Because IMHO – cow’s milk is from another animal’s nipple.

Labelling  your milk – date, time, and quantity, should be done if you are storing your milk. And always taste it, so you know how your milk should taste like. And will figure out why if your baby is rejecting it.

This will help you understand if your baby prefers different tastes. And, if milk goes bad.

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There have been times where the milk was kept in all the right conditions, but still went bad.

There was one time, my fridge broke down, and all the milk in it went bad. Another time, the milk went bad within 3 hrs of leaving it on a table.

Yet another time, I had packed milk I had expressed two days before on an outing in an insulated bag with ice packs, an in six hours, it was already on the edge of turning.

Also…. there is a difference in the taste between fresh and frozen milk. I hated the taste of frozen milk as well, so I totally understood why my son rejected it. It had a stale, oily taste to it.

Part of it is due to the way it is heated back up again. Some times, it is due to the storage methods.

So here is my last tip on breastfeeding for you, based on Singapore weather:

  • Room temperature. Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to four hours in Singapore’s heat. It is best to store before then. If baby has drunk from the bottle, taste test it before you feed it to the baby again at the next feed. (in my experience, it can go bad really fast after baby has already drunk from the bottle.)
  • Insulated cooler. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to one day. (Personally, I’d recommend 12 hours, tops). For milk that was expressed before, about 6 hours or so. Flying conditions are a lot cooler, so don’t worry.
  • Refrigerator. The optimum fridge temperature for storing milk is between 2-4 degrees Celsius. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to three days in clean conditions. However, use or freezer storage within three days is optimal. Note that if you put the milk on the fridge door, the temperature will be between 5-7 degrees Celsius, and the milk should be consumed within a maximum of two days.
  • Freezer compartment. (within fridge – 1 week.) Separate compartment – 2weeks to 3 mths. This is provided the freezer is -4 to 0 degrees Celsius.
  • Deep freezer. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer, like a chest freezer for up to 12 months. However, using the frozen milk within six months is optimal.

Keep in mind research suggests that the longer you store breast milk — whether in the refrigerator or in the freezer — the greater the loss of vitamin C in the milk.

Here is a quick guide to storage and heating from https://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/milkstorage/milkstorage/ – note that the conditions for storage are in a temperate country, and not sunny Singapore. So I’d halve most of the timings. 

Hope that helps everyone.

May be force be with you.

 

xx

sara

P.S. Read: Breast Pump Reviews for noobs

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