Every pregnant woman is repeatedly told breastfeeding is the best thing for the baby…but that doesn’t make it easy in the slightest. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt since the birth of my daughter three months ago:
1. Your boobs will never be as uncomfortable as the day your milk ‘comes in’ after the baby is born. They will feel like giant rocks attached to your chest. Expect to be told repeatedly that you look like Dolly Parton because you are literally carrying about a pint of milk around in your fun bags.
2. Expressing milk becomes a major source of excitement and filling a 5oz bottle in one go is like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. On the other hand, spilling or losing expressed milk is like losing liquid gold. God help the husband who accidentally pours 3oz down the sink because he thought it was finished with…
3. You will feel smug every night when your baby wakes up for a feed and you DON’T have to get up, go downstairs, sterilise a bottle, make up formula, take it back upstairs and then try and placate a by-now screaming baby. All you have to do is pick them up, plug them in and then doze.
4. Your boobs have a life of their own and will squirt milk everywhere at will. If the baby unlatches during a feed milk will go everywhere. Even if the baby doesn’t unlatch you’ll still somehow find yourself covered in milk. You’ll smell vaguely of milk for the entire time you choose to breastfeed your baby.
5. You’ll find you can’t go anywhere without the baby as nobody else can feed them. If you go somewhere you can’t/don’t want to take a baby it will require some military-level planning. You’ll be very jealous of your partner because he can swan off for an hour and doesn’t need to start thinking about it days in advance. There will come a point when you’ll find yourself expressing from one boob, feeding the baby from the other and trying to push the jealous cat off your knee with your foot. Warning: this is the point at which you’ll feel hormonally, ragefully jealous of formula-feeding mums.
6. You’ll never be on time for anything (especially not ridiculous 9am baby groups) as your baby will inevitably want to settle in for a marathon feeding session just as you’re about to leave the house. When a breastfed baby cries for food there’s nothing for it: you just have to sit down, attach them and wait it out. This also means you’ll never fully complete anything and your house will be full of half-dusted rooms and half-hung washing.
7. Realising you’ve run out of breast pads will be The Worst Thing In The World. There’s no horror like the horror of putting your hand in the box and realising you unwittingly used your last two and all your reusable ones are in the wash. A mad dash to Tesco will ensue as you desperately try to avoid wet patches appearing on the front of your top.
8. A breast pad will make a bid for freedom at some point. With any luck it will slip out discreetly (perhaps peeping out over your top) and you’ll be able to push it back into your bra without any fuss and without anyone noticing. If you’re unlucky it will fall right out and hit the floor while you’re full-on shimmying away in a Zumba class and you’ll have to try and pick it up and get it back in without looking like you’re groping yourself. This is slightly more tricky.
9. For someone who used to be uncomfortable in a bikini, you’ll become strangely accustomed to getting your boobs out in public. In fact it will become completely normal. At a friend’s house and the baby’s hungry? Pull out a boob. In a restaurant and the baby’s hungry? Pull out a boob. Sitting by a lake on a cold winters day because you thought a bit of fresh air was a good idea? You guessed it! That knocker is coming out! And yes, it will be slightly blue by the time the baby has finished feeding.
10. You’ll become sick of the clicking sound maternity bras make. They’re genius inventions but that noise is annoying as hell.
11. Despite the minor annoyances and inconveniences, there’s nothing like knowing you’re sustaining your baby all by yourself. Breastfeeding also goes a long way to creating a bond with your baby quite unlike any other you’ll ever have. When he or she looks you in the eye while feeding you’ll feel a surge of pure love – and all the complaints will seem trivial.