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10 Things That Surprised Me About Breastfeeding

Yes, I once lactated in front of a barista.

"Wow, yeah, she's a lip-smacker."

“Wow, yeah, she’s a lip-smacker.”

You can read every book, blog, forum and magazine article about breastfeeding – and closely observe Robert de Niro’s technique in Meet the Parents – but, like most everything in parenting, all the research in the world won’t prepare you for the surprises that inevitably will arise. Having nursed both of my children, I can tell you that going through it once still did not prepare me for some of the speed bumps that popped up the second time around. Although such surprises are unique to each new mom, I thought I would share mine with you:

Top 10 Things That Surprised Me About Breastfeeding

  1. Babies are not always chomping at the bit to eat when they get here. Instead of arriving with cookies in hand and a “Got Milk?” sign, my son basically wanted to sleep for three days straight. I found myself poking him and tickling his lips and saying, “Dude! Wake up! It’s time to eat!” Which he would do… for about ten seconds at a time. *Sigh*
  2. That “myth” about lactating at the mere mention of a baby? Not such a myth, as the barista with whom I was talking about my newborn daughter – and who pretended not to notice my two wet spots – can attest. Which is the day I learned what “nursing pads” are and sent my husband to the store in search of them. (Lucky him.)
  3. Even if your baby is nursing like a champ, as my daughter always did, you may still become engorged. On the bright side, I got those rock-hard breasts I had always wanted! (Yes, it hurt. A lot.)
  4. You can have two children and have completely different breastfeeding experiences with them. My firstborn nursed like a pro from the get-go, even though I hadn’t even planned on breastfeeding (more on that story here) and had done zero preparation for it, while my son had some initial latch issues and never took to it with the enthusiasm that my daughter did. So you just never know.
  5. Oh, and speaking of my son’s latch issues: nipples can bleed. And nursing can hurt so much that it actually makes you cry out in pain and your toes curl. (Ah, the things we do for our kids.)
  6. Wearing a bra at night became commonplace. I know, I know… usually, nothing feels better than taking off your bra at the end of a long day, but not so much when your breasts are leaking milk. (Never thought I’d see the day when I bought my bras based on absorbency.)
  7. It doesn’t always get easier. Just when I would think my son and I had hit our stride, he would hit a milestone – such as rolling over or crawling – and suddenly become very distracted when he ate. You know how you’re obsessed with The Bachelor? That’s exactly how your baby can be, only instead of obsessing about the final rose, he is thinking about his new trick: “ALL I WANT TO DO IS CRAWL RIGHT NOW, WOMAN!” It can be very, very frustrating.
  8. I didn’t need to wear a nursing bra. When I decided to breastfeed my daughter, I went to the store and bought a ton of truly ugly nursing bras (much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m sure). But I eventually learned that I could pull down a regular bra just as easily (much to my husband’s relief, I’m sure.)
  9. Babies can really smack their lips when they’re nursing. Forget trying to be discreet. I once ducked into a department store dressing room to breastfeed; the only thing the other customers could hear in my stall was the sound of my daughter suckling at top volume. Nice manners there, kid.
  10. How much I cherished that bonding time with my kids. Even when my husband would offer to get up with the baby at night, I would drag myself out of bed to feed the little one because I loved one-on-one snuggle time so much. Yes! I enjoyed breastfeeding so much that I would willingly get up at 1AM and 3AM to do it! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

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