My baby loves to breastfeed through the night. So, we spend all nights changing positions so that he gets to empty both breasts.
One night last week, I was very tired and he preferred to feast on just one breast. When I woke up, I went to work and faced my day.
An hour into work, I felt a wetness down the side of my arm. Then it dawned on me. That breast was full. I hadn’t used a breast pad or a padded bra. In a few minutes, half of my top was wet. I had to close early because it was distracting for everyone.
I tweeted about it and some of my friends reacted in different ways: some made remarks like ‘ewww’ while some said they were not looking forward to that part of parenting.
So it occurred to me that if you have never breastfed a child, you would not understand how icky and life disturbing that can be.
In that spirit, today, I am filling in the gap and educating you today on exclusive breastfeeding.
Here we go
10 THINGS NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT BREASTFEEDING
1. People think that breastfeeding is just plunking the nipple in the baby’s mouth and voila! The baby begins to suck and life goes on. This is so not true. Breastfeeding can take a while before you get it right, both for mother and the baby. The first milk (Colostrum) can take a while before it lets down. It also takes practicing to find the perfect position that is comfortable for you both. The baby has to latch properly or it will be hell for you. A baby with no teeth will cause you pain that can move straight to your head by sucking wrongly. Getting things right can be distressing and discouraging. Just thought to add that a baby with teeth bites very hard too…
2. Colostrum stinks. It is thick and when it dries up, it hardens the clothes or bra. At this stage, you will change bras daily or it will smell. If you lactate well, you will need breast pads. The reusable ones are mostly ineffective and the disposable ones are expensive.
3. A week or two after giving birth, you will experience a turgidity previous alien to your breasts. They will be as hard as rocks and that is not a good thing. When I experienced this with my first birth, I needed assistance to even get my boobs out for feeding. The person helping me said gleefully; “Don’t be worried, by the time your baby is through with you, they will become like slippers.” Very comforting. My baby’s sucking improved so while it hurt for a while, it did not last long.
4. Have you heard of a milk let-down? When your breasts are full of milk, they will just start ‘weeping’. It doesn’t matter if you are in the market, speaking to a client or speaking in tongues in front of a congregation. Because this happens, you have to wear breast pads at all times. Accidents can happen so you have to be careful with the sort of fabric that you wear. I prefer dark coloured chiffon tops. If you wear pastel colours, you will carry a giant map on your chest area all day.
5. Speaking of clothes, you must always consider the ease of getting them off to breastfeed. I prefer loose tops that you can lift up and hide your boobs while your baby suckles. Or you can go with V-necks where you just pop the boob out from the front. On a supposed quick trip to the airport with my husband. I wore a dress with a small neck and without a zipper. I figured baby was fed enough for the 1 hour to and fro trip. I was wrong. He began to cry in the car. Luckily for me it was night. So I lifted the whole dress and breast fed just sitting with my ‘dross’ in the car.
6. A baby can sleep through the night with a nipple in their mouth, especially when they are between five and seven months. You may have been used to feeding them and putting them to bed before then but at that age, they will cry a million times and you will get tired and just push the nipple in the mouth. This will mean you will not be able to change your sleeping position easily. So if you were a restless sleeping-on-the-tummy type, you are in trouble.
7. When I was unmarried, I always hid my breasts. No cleavages allowed to show. I was modest in my appearance and if you ever saw a hint of anything, this was strictly accidental. When I got married and had a child, I wanted to continue this tradition. HAHAHAHAHAHA. If you are exclusively feeding your baby on demand, you will also be serving your breasts for people to see even when they do not want to see. I initially thought that I would time-feed and control things in such a way that I did not have to expose myself. But a baby suckles not only for food but for comfort as well. You will be in public and the baby will begin to get antsy. You bounce him. You coo at him. You even try to give him the neatly packed-pressed breast milk but the young man with still be revolting all round. He is now in the middle of a full blown tantrum. Nothing but the nipple will do. You will now remove those breasts you hid since they were little buds in JSS 1 and settle this baby. This can happen in the church, in the airport lounge, in the hospital, you may even be given a stool in the market sympathetic traders, in an eatery, in an airplane, in a bus or taxi, in front of your in-laws, in front of your father… every single place you frequent. The alternative will be to become a recluse.
8. This should be a subset under 7. But because people can be mean about it, I am giving it its own set. When a baby is very young, he/she cannot coordinate their hands and feet to achieve purposeful action. So till a baby is about 3 months, you can quietly breastfeed with a cloth covering your breast and even the baby’s head partially. But when that baby begins to move, it is almost impossible. The baby will wriggle and yank off whatever it is you are using. Or even start to cry. So for people that are always shaming breastfeeding women, stop it. Or go and try eating under a cloth and tell us if you like it. Nigerians are usually well behaved on this issue. But since we are great at copying oyinbo, on this, please don’t.
9. A growing baby that can twist and turn and sit and stand will do all this while breastfeeding. In fact my little chin-chin baby will bend at his waist, raise a tiny leg up while on my breasts. He will dive on my chest and lie sprawled with one hand tugging at the other nipple. If I dare go braless, he follows me to the bathroom and suckle while I am on the toilet seat. He does what my second son calls baby-nastics all over my body while sucking. He even hums in happiness like some people do when they are eating food.
10. My baby is 14 months. Some women are done by this time. I am not yet done because I work during the day. It is the way we bond. But a breastfeeding child at this age keeps doing things that say you should wean him. My baby can remove your breast from the bra. If it is a struggle, he will take your hands and place them on your breasts. Madam now now!!! A friend’s child that started talking early would ask to suck and would even specify “no, give me the big one” i.e the bigger breast. Kids like these are ready to be weaned and it will be a nightmare because they are wise already.
There you have it.
If you did not ask for this elucidation, I am (not) sorry. If this scares you, don’t mind me. It is not that terrible (it is though). And finally, if this was useful in preparing you for what to expect, contact the editor for my akant details!!!