Here is the story of my breastfeeding journey and the four tips I now give everyone mom to help them thrive breastfeeding!
And if you are a breastfeeding mom or have one in your life, check out my gift giving guide for breastfeeding moms!
My 16-month-old baby boy is a boob man.
I’m pretty proud of this because breastfeeding is a struggle but also pretty awesome.
As a first time mom, breastfeeding was overwhelming. Surreal. And freaking hard.
My kiddo came out of the womb suckling and ready to nurse.
In my post labor haze, I couldn’t get his mouth lined up with my nipple so we waited and tried again when we got to the recovery room.
I was able to get him to latch with the help of my partner and a nurse but mentally was like…when did my boobs get so big?!
WHERE WERE MY NIPPLES?? That was part of my problem.
My breasts had swollen during pregnancy and labor so it was hard to even see where to aim his tiny little mouth.
The lactation consultant kept telling me to “make a hamburger and shove it in his mouth.” So glamourous. So sexy.
Welcome to the world of nursing where you are now a completely unsexy food source sometimes.
I’m a lucky mom who breastfeeds.
I have a solid milk supply and multiple friends who breastfed or are still breastfeeding their kiddos to 24 months and beyond.
These women were full of advice and support before and after I had my baby.
I texted and called with weird questions about discharge, clogged nipples, and all the questions new moms have that can feel very personal but are part of the universal experience of giving birth or taking care of a newborn.
Even with all the advice and 24/7 support, I was caught off-guard by a couple of things that happened when I started breastfeeding.
And because moms love giving other moms advice and shedding light on the shadow-y parts of mamahood, I’m sharing my top four breastfeeding tips that even my lactivist BFF didn’t tell me…
1. My Messiest Surprise…
When your baby starts to nurse, he or she will suckle in a specific way that will cause your boobs to start releasing milk.
This is a called a letdown.
Some women get a strong tingly sensation when they let down, some don’t.
BUT HERE’S THE THING! You let down in both nipples.
Obviously, I knew that milk would come out of the nipple that my baby was nursing on but what I didn’t know was that milk would come out of the other side too!!! This caught me off-guard after my milk came in and I soaked through my nursing tank multiple times. This leads me to tip #2…
2. Stock Up on Nursing Pads
Reusable and/or disposable – mama’s choice.
I usually work to avoid disposable products in my life and love a good reusable napkin…but here’s the thing about reusable nursing pads, once you have a letdown (especially early on when many moms’ supply is like WOAH), that pad is soaked.
You need to be prepared with a whole bunch of extras – either disposable or reusable. I went disposable because they were more absorbent, and I just didn’t have the time to hand wash my nursing pads in my new mom haze.
Here are two more things about nursing pads
When you go to nurse your baby and remove your nursing pad, PUT IT SOMEWHERE SAFE!
I lost quite a few of the disposable pads when nursing and they would awkwardly turn up under a table, under the car seat, etc. It was weird for me when someone would politely pick it up and ask if it was mine…
You will spring a leak.
At the weirdest, most inopportune time. I was at the mall with a bunch of our family and looked down and it looked like someone had thrown a glass of water on my chest.
A friend dripped (DRIPPED!!!) on the table during a meeting with her boss.
Keep an extra shirt or scarf at work, in the diaper bag, in the car, lots of places for this moment.
You will also leak during sex. Especially when you orgasm.
You and your partner may be cool with this new adventure into sex as parents – or you can buy a few sexy bras to wear during the act. Up to you – just know it will happen.
3. Breastfeeding is Isolating
You will step out of parties, family gatherings, shopping trips, meals, etc. to nurse the baby.
Some women will power through all of this and nurse on but know that at one point, you will most likely miss out on all the fun and may resent it. (I did at times!)
I try to be a woman warrior and nurse publicly. I did really good at this for the most part – except for family parties.
The baby would get all worked up with the noise. I would get frustrated and awkward (aka hot and sweaty) trying to get him to latch.
And then a cousin would scream and we would start again.
So I found it easier to go to a quiet room and nurse. Sometimes I resented it and, to be honest, sometimes I relished the quiet time during a chaotic party. Some women find ways to maximize their nursing and baby cuddle time to self-care and chase their dreams as well!
4. Learn About D-MER
My final and most important tip.
D-MER stands for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex which means a mom gets a strong sensation of sadness or other negative emotions when she has a letdown (check out d-mer.org for some great info and resource).
I stumbled upon an article that a friend shared about D-MER on Facebook.
I had to read it twice to really grasp the realization that I was having.
The first few months that I nursed, especially the first few weeks, I would get an extreme sense of shame and loneliness when I let down.
It was so strong sometimes that I braced for it mentally just like I braced for the uncomfortable feeling that happened when my son latched when I had a pleb or clogged duct.
A wave of hot, liquid guilt and shame would wash over me and I thought it was a mixture of baby blues, my hormones going wonky, and my anxiety all wrapped up into one giant emotional bomb.
I never told anyone about this.
Mostly because I never KNEW to tell anyone about this.
Not once was I asked by a doctor or lactation consultant if I had negative emotions when I let down.
I coached myself through it with breathing and reminding myself that my anxiety around parenthood was ok and that I was a strong woman and mom.
The wave only lasted for a few minutes but it happened almost all the time for the first few months. What I learned from that Facebook article was that I had a minor case of D-MER.
That this is something that happens to a lot of women. That it has a name. But no one knows about it so no one ever talks about it. Not even my lactivist BFF.
We can’t normalize these emotions and face this as new moms if we don’t talk about D-MER.
We can’t support new breastfeeding moms if we don’t give them a heads up that this COULD happen and, if it does, you are ok. You are normal. And you can get through it. And it’s also ok if you don’t want to deal with it for whatever reason and need to examine if nursing is right for you.
So if you are a mom currently breastfeeding or a mom-to-be planning to breastfeed, know that there is a world of resources at your fingertips!
Push through the hard parts and find a support system. And know, you will be a wonderful mama no matter how you feed your baby.
Are you a breastfeeding mom or have one in your lift? Check out my gift giving guide for breastfeeding moms here!