Books, classes, Internet searching and friendly advice will not prepare you for breastfeeding. You won’t rack up any AP credits for studying ahead of time, so you might as well rest. The only way to gain experience and figure out how to nurse your baby is to be in the trenches.
Before you leave the hospital, at least ten complete strangers will see your breasts. No, they will not be buying you dinner.
You will be pummeled with information. Fenugreek. Kelly Moms. Nipple shields. Power pumping. Sterilizing. Freezing. Thawing. Football hold. Cross cradle. Lanolin. Cabbage leaves. Luckily, you’ll be up all night around the clock feeding the baby, so you’ll have plenty of time to let these little gems swirl around in your mind.
In the first few days of breastfeeding, it will literally take a minimum to two additional people to support the baby’s head, secure the baby’s arms and hold them in place till you can unhook the nursing bra, express colostrum, and reread the latching “suggestions” you jotted down at the hospital.
The thought of quitting will enter your mind within the first 10 days. Your goal of breastfeeding for 1 month… 6 months… 1 year will seem so infinitely far away. Reaching said goal will seem akin to climbing Mt. Everest while simultaneously breastfeeding your baby.
At some point – in your hormone-crazed, sleep-deprived state – you’ll come to the overwhelming realization that your body is solely responsible for creating the required nutrition for your new family member. Tears will ensue. Significant other and/or closest friend will talk you off the ledge. Life will continue.
In the beginning, you’ll nurse as if you were performing brain surgery in a Johns Hopkins Operating Room – full lights and every possible breastfeeding device properly positioned for immediate one-handed retrieval. Fast forward six months: You’re now a stealth, blind ninja nursing in total darkness.
MyBrestFriend > Boppy
You’ll discover the single greatest registry item was your glider. You and your glider will become one. How you ever lived without your glider is a complete mystery, because nursing and gliding is pretty much the bees knees.
At 2am, you will loathe the fact that none of your Facebook friends have updated their status since 10pm. HELLO PEOPLE – I’VE ALREADY SEEN ALL THESE PICTURES. By 4 am, you’ll find yourself realizing you’ve actually reached the end of the Internet. There is nothing left to look at.
Several months into breastfeeding, you’ll develop your own personal breastfeeding quirks. For example, you’ll find one pillow that properly supports you and you will tote that pillow to the end of the Earth because it is so critical to the routine.
When you finally find a nursing cami or bra that fits, you’ll buy it in tan, grey and black. You’ll wear it for months, have it on a strict washing schedule, and think to yourself, “I can’t wait to burn these things when I’m done breastfeeding.”
Your baby will bite you. And it will hurt like the dickens.
You’ll hear the breast pump “talking.” Depending on the speed, the sound of the breast pump might be saying something fun like “It’s time to party. It’s time to party. It’s time to party.” Or your hospital-grade pump might be a Debbie Downer: “You’re puuuumping. You’re puuuumping. You’re puuuumping.”
No matter the current state of relationship with your mother-in-law, she can immediately gain ten gold stars by offering to wash the pumping equipment.
During at least one 4am feeding, you’ll attempt to mathematically calculate in your head exactly how many breastfeeding sessions this baby will receive. Without a calculator this might as well be quantum physics, so you’ll send yourself a reminder to figure out the number in the morning. Over coffee, you’ll share this amazing discovery with your husband who will stare at you blankly, then quickly recover and congratulate you on breastfeeding the kid 2,340 times.
It will feel like you are constantly breastfeeding. See #16. And now you can feel completely validated.
Upon weaning, you’ll discover the gorgeously-plump-high-and-at-attention nursing breasts you HAD have now become sad-Sally-slopes. You will never judge another woman with a boob job again. Ever.
Someone will make a completely inappropriate comment (to your face) about breastfeeding your child. It might be in support of breastfeeding. It might question breastfeeding in public. It might be rude and it will be awkward. But rest assured, this comment will not be from a newly breastfeeding mom. In fact, this comment will not be from a new mom at all. Why, you ask? Because ALL new moms are so self-focused, self-conscious, and so barely keeping their heads above water attempting to feed their own babies, ain’t none of these mamas have time to be worrying about what you’re doing.
Regardless of when and why, weaning your baby will be bittersweet. Breastfeeding is like running a marathon without even training for a 5k. It’s physically and emotionally draining…It’s physically and emotionally rewarding. So at six weeks or four months or three years, when you cross the finish line, your heart will be filled with mixed emotions. Your body will again be yours, but a chapter in your baby’s life has closed and it will never reopen. And that is a bittersweet pill to swallow.