This post isn’t going to help you find a lactation consultant or give you loads of “breast is best” type stats. The purpose of this post is to give you the secret, behind the scenes scoop on what it’s like to be a breastfeeding mom. There is so much stuff that nobody ever tells you. Classes and books are great for technical info. Magazine articles and the general public are great for scaring the crap out of you with their bloody nipple and starving baby horror stories. Some blogs are known for rainbow and unicorn-filled “I love to nurse my baby!” stories – those are lovely. We’re not doing any of that today. Or probably ever.
Today, we are talking about all the random shit that makes up life as a nursing mother. Starting with your wardrobe. I’m sure most people have heard of nursing bras. Very helpful and expensive little items to hold the girls in place until you suddenly need to feed someone with them…that’s when you employ the handy “trap door” mechanism and let your boob fall out for someone to munch on. You know, it’s part of the deal with breastfeeding and I think the average mom kind of expects this. What you don’t really expect is how this one activity renders the bulk of your wardrobe completely useless. Say you’ve just recently had a baby. You’ve been resting up at home but now you’re getting stir crazy and you’re ready to go out! This is exciting! You will see people who are not your husband and your mom. You will be required to wear shoes. This is a big day for you! What will you wear?! That super flattering maxi dress? Nope. You can’t get your boobs out of the top and clearly lifting up the entire dress to expose one nipple isn’t exactly efficient…or flattering. Ok, what about those pants and that tank top? Wrong again! You can lift the shirt to nurse the baby but all of those damn nursing bras have straps that border dangerously on being sleeves, this is not cute in conjunction with regular tank top straps. Anything that requires a strapless bra is out of the question. Nursing and strapless bras are pretty much incompatible. No tube tops for you. You find another top that fits and will cover the ugly bra straps but the style of the neckline is such that you’d pretty much have to go up and over with the girls (as opposed to lifting the hem of your shirt) and while that’s not the end of the world, sometimes you just don’t wanna have an entire breast hanging out in the middle of Starbucks. Or maybe you do. (In which case, go for the tube top. It would be like a buffet! For babies!) Bottom line, I’ll never forget the day I saw a cute dress in a store, grabbed it off the rack then put it back immediately thinking, with genuine despair, “Oh this will never work. How would I get my boobs out?!” It’s an odd feeling to realize that you now evaluate every article of clothing based on easy breast access. I thought I’d left all that behind in my 20’s.
Something else I feel you should know about is the overwhelming hunger and thirst you will experience. Nursing burns through calories like crazy. It’s kind of like going to spin class for 20 minutes at a time 8+ times per day. Except there’s very little actual movement involved and you can read or watch Food Network while you’re doing it. Also, you can (and will) eat while nursing. It’s my second favorite form of exercise. There’s a little bit of a learning curve though. First, you need to keep food stashed all over your house. If you do not, you will find yourself trapped underneath an eating baby while slowly starving to death yourself. You will not enjoy that. So keep food nearby at all times. You also need to figure out what kinds of food are good to eat while nursing. As a general rule you’re going to want to avoid things that are saucy, drippy or gloppy. Which, sadly, includes many delicious foods. Like tacos with guacamole on them, for instance, are not really a good choice. You will inevitably end up having to lick beans and guac off your baby’s head and that’s cool if your baby is bald but decidedly less cool if your baby has a lot of hair. It’s hard to get a good lick in on a headful of hair. Or so I’ve heard…ahem… Oh yeah, and about the overwhelming thirst I mentioned: I recommend strategically placing fountains of water throughout your home. If this is not an option, cases of bottled water will suffice. When your baby starts nursing and your milk lets down you will immediately start to dehydrate very rapidly. If you do not guzzle down buckets of water right away you’ll probably turn to dust on the spot. It’s nearly happened to me twice. Very unpleasant.
Yet another sweet and gentle aspect of breastfeeding is a little something I like to call “Taking Inventory”. This is where you sit around looking confused and holding your boobs in an attempt to see which is heaviest and due to be nursed from next. I find that this is where your partner suddenly takes an interest in the breastfeeding process.
Partner: What are you doing?
You: (gently groping yourself) Oh, just Taking Inventory.
Partner: I see! Do you need any help with that?
You: Nope, I’ve got it.
Partner: Are you sure because…
You: No. I’m good.
Partner: Really, it would be no trouble. I think I’m probably great at Taking Inventory. I went to college.
You: I see. Thanks, but no thanks. College boy.
And if that doesn’t bring you and your spouse closer together (how could it not?!?) this next one should do the trick…
The ever popular Wardrobe Malfunction. Except in your case it’s not a malfunction it’s more like a way of life. See, your baby is going through a growth spurt and is eating ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Constant eating. Around the clock EATING. At a certain point you just give up on putting your boobs away. There’s no point. They really are a buffet for a baby right now and after you’ve resigned yourself to this fact you kind of…forget. Hopefully it’s your college educated spouse who comes home from work to find a boob or two on display and not, say, the UPS guy at the front door. Now I’ve never actually answered the door with my, umm…”buffet” hanging out but there have been some very close calls. Like that time I finally got the baby laid down in her bed, went to the kitchen, had a little snack then beelined for the shower only to realize that I still had one boob hanging out of my shirt and nary a baby in sight. I’ll be honest, it was a little disconcerting but I was too tired to care.
While we’re on the topic of crazy, constant, growth spurt feedings here’s another bit of advice. Go to Sephora and ask them to give you the best under-eye concealer on the market. I don’t care if it costs you $100 for a container the size of a quarter, just do it. Because when your baby decides that he needs to eat every 90 minutes for 3 days straight the dark circles under your eyes are really more like black holes. Instagram hath no filter with which to remedy the likes of these. You’re going to need some spackle or some putty or something. Or at least some big sunglasses because you’re going to look like you’ve been punched in the face. Repeatedly.
Let’s recap what we’ve learned here, shall we?
- Replace all your shirts, keeping the phrase “easy access” in mind while shopping.
- Buy lots of foods that are not guacamole.
- Drink. A lot.
- Cop a feel from time to time.
- Consider just going topless.
- Invest in good quality makeup and/or sunglasses.
Bonus Tip: Get a charger with a really long cord for your smart phone. You don’t want to have your phone die while you’re nursing your baby and pinning stuff at 3am, right? How would you ever find that cupcake recipe again?!