What No One Ever Tells You About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby is a natural process but it’s not always effortless. There are plenty of surprises in store for first-time mothers, says Hansa Makhijani Jain.

By Hansa Makhijani Jain

When I was pregnant, the experience I most looked forward to was breastfeeding a tiny little baby. This vision gave me the strength to go into the operation theatre for a C-section after a challenging pregnancy. But what happened afterwards was the real challenge.

Here are 10 things they don’t tell you about breastfeeding.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world: Breastfeeding may be natural for most mammals but it’s not effortless. The nipple size and shape also matter. Then there is the latch – I haven’t paid as much attention to angles since geometry classes. If your baby doesn’t get a good latch, breastfeeding is an #EpicFail.

Breast milk comes in after two or three days: When it does, your breasts will feel stone hard and enlarged and maybe even disproportional. Till then, you have potent colostrum or pre-milk to take care of your baby’s teeny-tiny stomach, which is about the size of a walnut and can only hold about 30ml.

Photo credit: Liv Bruce on Unsplash

The more you nurse, the more milk you produce: The only way to produce enough breast milk is to nurse your baby as much as you can. Breast pumps will not help your body manufacture the same hormones (prolactin and oxytocin) essential for producing breast milk.

Breasts leak: This is embarrassing! Sometimes there will be a gush of milk coming in and the baby won’t have the appetite for it or will be napping. This mostly happens at night so a sleeping bra with nursing pads will be your saviour. You can also pump to relieve your breasts.

Hello, mom guilt! Is my child getting adequate milk? Is that all the breast pump can suction out of my boobs? If I eat this or drink that, can I produce more milk? Sundry such thoughts occupy your mind 24X7.

The hormones are crazy: Right from fertilization to getting your first period after delivery, there’s a hormonal hullabaloo inside you. Breastfeeding is just as important for the mother as the baby because it acts like a hormonal reset (it can even help you lose the baby weight). So don’t give up on it.

Pregnancy was the easy part: So you thought not being able to sleep while pregnant was the hard part? Do yourself a favour and pamper yourself before the bundle of joy arrives. You won’t get a full night’s sleep (or a mani-pedi, facial and hair spa) for a long time to come.

Baby Dhruv in Santa Claus cap.JPG
The writer’s baby, Dhruv

Everyone has advice for you: From your domestic helper to your neighbour, breastfeeding is everyone’s business. While most advice is good-spirited, it can get annoying if you’re struggling with latching on or maintaining a decent supply.

Re-lactation is a thing: Even if you couldn’t breastfeed because you had a complicated delivery or a premature baby, there is a ray of hope for latecomers: you can trick your body into lactating again. It may take effort and a lot of patience (and maybe the help of a lactation consultant) but it’s possible.

Formula is not the devil: While breast milk is the best meal for your baby, formula is not all that bad either. In fact, even if you are breastfeeding, one serving of formula a day will make weaning easier.

Lead image: Leandro Cesar Santana on Unsplash. First published in the January 2018 issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here, or buy the print edition.

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