When I was pregnant with Eloise I actually initially planned to formula feed. I was 18 and had literally no idea about babies and didn’t really give it a lot of thought. Fast forward further into my pregnancy I decided I would give breastfeeding a go. I did a lot of research and the main thing that stuck out to me was the amazing bond it creates between mother and baby. I found photographs of wonderful smiling Mums looking lovingly at the babies as they feed so peacefully. You could almost smell the oxytocin through the screen.
“Nipple to nose, tummy to Mummy”. Sounds easy right? Wrong.
1. What they don’t tell you is that as soon as that tiny little human pops out of you that you, yes you, have sole responsibility for feeding that child and that can feel like a very lonely place at 3am on the 9th feed since 10pm with your partner snoring next to you. On the good days you will feel like superwoman but on the bad days you’ll feel like a walking, talking pair of tits.
2. That it does hurt, so many people tell you breastfeeding doesn’t hurt. It does. Your nipples will hurt for at least a while which you and baby get your latch down. Cracked nipples are painful but not forever. You’re learning and you will both get it wrong and that’s fine and prepare yourself to feel some degree of pain but don’t ignore it completely. Get someone to check your latch to rule any major issues out. But unless you’re used to someone sucking on your nipples at all hours then there will be some pain and discomfort whilst they adjust.
3. A newborn will feed approximately every 3.5 seconds. Even the apps cant keep up with the amount of times you have to update the feed log. Okay that was an exaggeration, more like every 5 seconds. You get the picture. Newborns feed very very often because 1. their tummies are super tiny and 2. they need to let your boobs know how much milk they are going to need. Your body produces colostrum at first and your full milk will not come in for at least a few days yet. Baby is feeding often because they need to, not because you aren’t producing enough (in most cases). Eloise fed every hour for half an hour for the first few days. I remember being absolutely terrified I was starving her. Tonnes of milk don’t magically appear the second baby pops out. Colostrum is supposed to be in small amounts. You won’t get your porn star boobs for a little while yet.
4. On the subject of porn star boobs, fuck me. They bloody hurt! Make the most of it though because this is the best your boobs are going to look ever again after having a baby (yes, pregnancy is what ruins your boobs, not breastfeeding). If you’ve had a baby and have perfect boobs that aren’t covered in stretch marks and don’t look like they’ve packed their bags and are moving down to Cornwall then I secretly hate you with a fiery passion.
5. It’s sleeping on a towel or one of those awful crunchy sheets for when children are potty training, so your milk doesn’t stain the mattress beyond buggery and leave it smelling like the Morrisons milk isle like 90% of your bras currently do.
6. Your entire wardrobe will now be centred around how easily you can get your tits out in it and any acceptable bras are ugly as fuck. Not that it’ll matter when paired with your ugly as fuck granny pants.
7. On the topic of clothes, all of your tops will be stretched at the neckline from where you have had to wrench out a boob in 0.2 seconds flat whilst wrestling a tiny human who’s screaming at the top of their lungs and you couldn’t be fucked at attempting to find your tits under more than one layer because that would be next to impossible with a toddler super glued to your torso.
8. You will also at some point open the door to the postman with one of you boobs out. Its inevitable.
9. Your name has changed, you’re not Emily or Rebecca or Mrs So and So anymore, hell, you’re not even Mummy. Your name is milk and you’re positive your baby just sees you as a pair of tits with legs.
10. They also don’t tell you about breastfeeding an older baby or a toddler. Toddler nursing gymnastics are a thing and you will quickly learn what a nipple twister feels like (spoiler, it’s not fun). You will also get kicked in the face/jugular and every other available body part within reach of one, or all of their limbs.
11. Babies nails are like tiny razor blades and your chest and/or face will at some point (and also probably more than once) look like you lost a fight with several thousand kittens who have access to angle grinders they used to sharpen their claws into points. There will be days when you think “fuck it, I can’t do this anymore” and tell your other half to fuck off and buy formula and a load of bottles only to change your mind by the time he gets back.
12. The night shift is an incredibly lonely place. Your partner can’t do much because he doesn’t have working boobs (baby will probably have found that out themselves by now…haha) and the sleepless nights with an unsettled, teething baby are a killer. You will probably want to chop your nipples off and sly kick your other half in the dick for snoring his fucking face off whilst you are on, what feels like the 156th feed in less than an hour. If he dare mention that he’s tired the next day then God fucking help him because you may actually punch him in the face and rip out his liver with your bare hands.
13. There will be several days when your baby spends more time attached to one of your nipples than not. I say several but really I mean way way more than several. Probably more like most. Anyway, these days are fucking hard. You’ve probably been awake most of the night, your nipples feel like they are giving up on life altogether hanging off the end of your fun bags which roughly resemble a deflated beach ball right about now, and you contemplate running away to another country (hell, another fucking planet) just so you can have a piss without a baby pawing at your chest. You then spend the rest of the day feeling like the shittest Mum ever because Suzie posted a photo of her breastfeeding Daisy whilst doing fucking yoga or some shit with a beaming smile on her smug fucking face with her none existent eye bags. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Suzie is a fucking liar and her face is probably more photoshopped than Kim Kardashians arse.
14. There will be days where you feel like throwing in the towel along with your tits. It can be normal to hate breastfeeding. I have D-MER which roughly means my body makes me feel impending doom whenever my milk lets down. It’s difficult to accurately describe how I feel but it’s definitely not that oxytocin filled loveliness and I spend a large portion of my time feeling incredibly guilty for not loving breastfeeding. I had no idea D-MER was a thing until a little way into my second breastfeeding journey. I fed my first for 4.5 years and spent the entire time bullshitting about how much I loved breastfeeding, fake it til you make it and all that. Except I didn’t make it and just continued to fake it until she self weaned. I’m 14 months in with Lily and I still feel like I’m missing out somehow and I’m not going to pretend like I don’t feel shit about it.
15. You will worry about feeding in public, all those horror stories about Mums being told to leave shops and ignorant fucks who make nasty comments so you stay in just in case or go back to the car and feed a screaming baby in the most awkward position known to man. Hanging upside-down from a tree next to a wasps nest would probably be more comfortable. I spent the entire 4.5 years of feeding my first feeding in the car or just not going anywhere. I never fed her in public and it was a shitty, lonely place to be. I have fed Lily in public a handful of times and I still feel incredibly self conscious. I even leave the room in my own house sometimes if she needs a feed and someone’s visiting. I feel shit for feeling like I still need to go somewhere private to feed and spend ages beating myself up about it but guess what? It’s okay to be nervous but still royally fuck the haters. Free the boobies. Honestly, it’s ok to feed your baby wherever you need to.
16. Two words – Growth Spurt. Need I say more? it honestly feels like they may as well take out a loan and start paying rent to your chest because that’s where they are going to be 150% of the time right now.
17. Pumping isn’t easy either. Honestly, if you exclusively pump or pump at all then you are flipping superwoman. When I was pregnant I thought much the same about pumping as i did with breastfeeding, shove it on your boob and away you go. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Maybe it’s the pump maybe it’s me but it’s like squeezing blood out of a stone. I tried expressing some not long ago to help Lily’s conjunctivitis and got literally a drop. Not like a drop of milk like you would have in tea, literally a droplet. I know woman who pump ounces and ounces and donate it and you ladies are bloody fantastic! But not everybody can pump and that’s okay.
18. They don’t tell you that having a baby in general completely changes you as a person. It changes relationship with your partner. It changes everything. It’s a huge responsibility and breastfeeding is an even huger responsibility. Its fucking shit scary that a tiny little human depends entirely on you to survive and this will impact on your relationship. You will probably snap at each other. You will probably go days without properly hugging each other. Your partner will see you crying whilst you try and feed a baby who can’t decide if they want to be fed or not and will cry and fuss then latch and cry and fuss again times infinity (which is what it actually feels like). They will feel helpless because they can’t just take the baby and feed them for you and then end up feeling guilty themselves.
19. You probably won’t remember the last time you had sex or even properly hugged your partner. Kisses will turn into the odd peck as you pass each other in the hall whilst picking up sleep suits covered in shit and last nights dinner with a baby in a sling attached your left tit. And cuddles in bed? Fuck even contemplating that. You need a qualification in gymnastics to even attempt spooning someone with a baby attached to their tit without cutting the circulation off in your arm.
20. You will feel so touched out that you fantasise about no one fucking touching you or coming within 3 feet of your being for longer than 29 seconds. Your other children will want Mummy cuddles but your skin crawls at the idea of anybody breathing near you let alone touching you but you hug them anyway and then hate yourself for feeling that way.
21. You also become a pacifier, a comforter, warmth. They will want your boobs when they are overtired, when they fall over and bump their little knees, when they are upset, when you accidentally scroll to far down and they can’t see Teletubbies on the screen anymore, when they’re scared or poorly, when you decide in your head you’d really like a bath, or when you need a wee. The second you get up to start cooking dinner or the moment you’ve strapped them into the car and began to drive off. Boob solves everything which is incredible but it makes you feel anxious about leaving them with anybody else in case they need the kind of comfort only you can give.
22. Lest all take a moment to think about all the super cute photos of your baby that you can’t share because you nipple photobombed it.
23. Thought you ate a lot when you were pregnant? Well, welcome to feeling constantly ravenous. Pregnancy made you feel like you could eat a horse but now you could probably eat 20 and still be starving. Thank fuck for the 500 odd calories breastfeeding burns a day.
24. There is such a thing as a favoured boob. Find out by looking down and whichever foot you cannot see, voila! That’s your babies favourite boob. Constant wonky tits here.
25. If you had a penny for every time somebody asks when you’re going to stop breastfeeding you could probably buy an island and fuck off away from the nosey shits. Apparently “hopefully by the time they finish college” isn’t an acceptable answer…”When are you going to stop being a nosey prick” also isn’t acceptable. But do you want to know what is acceptable? FEEDING YOUR CHILD FOR AS LONG AS YOU BOTH FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH! 4 days? 4 years? Whatever.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to find breastfeeding hard. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It does get easier but even then it is still incredibly demanding. By only posting the happy, chirpy, lovely things about it we are just setting other mothers up for feeling like they’re doing something wrong. Breastfeeding IS fucking hard. Your entire breastfeeding journey is such an awfully small chunk of you and your baby’s lives. You carried and birthed that baby and your body is no less than amazing for that alone.
We are all in this and if you’re reading this as a struggling breastfeeding or bottle feeding Mum then you are absolutely not alone. You got this Mama. You’re doing great.