It’s so easy to throw around the term “Breast is best.” We all know that breastfeeding is the best thing we can do for our babies if we can, and in this modern age, we can’t turn a corner without some celebrity or other tweeting or instagramming a beautiful photo of their breastfeeding experience. Stars like Miranda Kerr, Alyssa Milano, Jaime King and Natalia Vodianova make it look like the most beautiful experience ever. Like their gorgeous babies are the ultimate accessory and part of their beauty routine.
Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to to deal with the fact that I haven’t bathed in six days, my hair is coated in a layer of baby vomit, and I’m pretty sure my nipple is so cracked that my son is getting at least as much blood as milk down his throat.
Sure, nursing your baby creates this magical bond between the two of you. Holding your little one skin to skin while knowing you are providing nourishment, both physical and emotional is a breathtaking feeling that no one else can know.
But it also really freaking sucks sometimes. I submit for your amusement/judgement the 9 problems only nursing moms understand.
The Vampire Bite
The first day or two of breastfeeding (when all is going well) is a piece of cake. The baby is latching properly, but he’s mostly sleeping, so you are lulled into a false sense of security. “This is so easy,” you think to yourself. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about!” And then day three rolls around. You suddenly experience “the let down.” And all hell breaks loose. Suddenly you find that your little person wants to eat more. And this means your boobs see more action than they have in a LONG time. And every. single. time. he latches on, it feels like you are getting your nipple pierced by an ice pick! It lasts only a second or two before the sensation becomes a lot more pleasant – and just like one of Dracula’s victims, you give in and enjoy as your sweet nectar is imbibed by another.
Dress to Express
New mom fashion is already a difficult experience. Not only have you gained weight through your pregnancy, but you’re suddenly droopy and saggy in strange places, and your muffin top looks like a busted can of biscuits! And if you’re a nursing mom, you’ll also be sporting some newly GIGANTIC boobs. Nothing you owned previously is going to fit well, and most of the time we are forced to endure an extra few months of maternity clothes. BUMMER! But even if you’re one of the lucky ones who bounces back into your pre-baby form immediately, nursing moms have extra considerations when it comes to fashion choices. Turtle necks, tight sweaters and non-stretch fabrics are pretty much out. Having to whip out your boobs on demand means loose fitting shirts, low necklines and (if you’re like 99% of us) no bra. Simply put – don’t expect to be walking a runway any time soon.
Over or Under?
Ah, that timeless question that every nursing mom has to ask herself each time she feeds her spawn. Do I lift my shirt up or do I pull the top down? A lot of the time (especially if you’ve got a bigger bust to start with), grabbing your boob and pulling it up through the neck hole is a lot easier. You don’t have to worry about the shirt falling on the baby’s face, you don’t have to expose your saggy belly and you are basically getting extra support to hold up the hefty mammary. Then again, going underneath means you have a bit more coverage and privacy in what you’re doing. It’s a hard choice and doesn’t get any easier no matter how many times you do it.
Call the Plumber, We’ve Got a Leak!
While some women find breastfeeding a struggle because they don’t produce enough milk, others of us are burdened with an oversupply of it. We can’t go out in public (especially in the early days!) without stuffing our already overworked bras with as many breast pads as possible. We are forced to wear loose shirts with thick weave (see Dress to Express) in order to hide the milk stains that erupt whenever we hear a baby’s cry (any baby’s will do it)… or we go too long without nursing (too long = approximately 12 minutes)… or we accidentally put too much pressure against our breast (let’s face it – a feather would be too much pressure!). Don’t believe me? This is a photo from last night. I was nursing my son on my left breast, all the while, my arm was resting against my right breast, and I never noticed until I stood up that I was soaking through my shirt and pants.
Pump Up the Volume
Whether you’re a stay at home mom dedicated to nursing on demand or a busy working mom who wants to do her best, there are going to be times when you’ll have to/want to use a pump. Our pediatrician recently told us that it’s important to introduce a bottle (whether of breast milk or formula doesn’t matter) around 2 – 3 weeks old so that the baby can get used to it and not get too dependent on breastfeeding. I know from personal experience that this is EXCELLENT advice. My middle son refused to take a bottle until he was ten months old, and even then my mother had to add a teaspoon of sugar into it to get him to eat. If you ever plan on going out on your own or having a social life, your kid will NEED to accept a bottle. And that’s where the pump comes in. Besides the same “Over or Under?” question, we also have to deal with WHEN to pump (too soon and your baby may not be finished yet – too late and you might empty your breast just as he’s ready for more), HOW to pump (one breast at a time or two?), and WHERE to pump (should I just whip them out right here?). And don’t even get me started on what happens when you manage to express a whopping six ounces and proceed to knock it over as you are disengaging the funnel. Who says you shouldn’t cry over spilled milk???
The Cover Up
And once again we’re back to fashion. It’s all well and good to say you have no problem breastfeeding in public – it’s legal and nothing to be ashamed of, after all – but when faced with the reality of exposing yourself to the unforgiving masses, many of us are only too happy to cover up. Whether you use a spare blanket or actually invest in a proper cover, it can be a massive annoyance to feed your kid when you can’t even SEE him. If you’re outside, you might have to deal with wind blowing the cover around or the heat of the sun may make even the flimsy material feel like a wool blanket. Indoors, it is slightly easier, but depending on where you are, you might have to search hard to find an appropriate place to feed. I found this out when my middle son was only six weeks old. My husband and I took him to MegaCon in Orlando, and I spent ages wandering around looking for a place to sit and nurse. I wound up finding a tiny little nook in a wall next to the men’s toilets. It was not the most pleasant place to feed a baby, but I did what I had to do.
So you’ve made it through the first several days of breastfeeding, and you’re starting to feel like a pro. You’ve come to know exactly when your baby is ready for his next feed. It’s like clockwork, and you are ready and willing. And then, somewhere between the end of week one and the end of week three, your little cherub hits the first of several growth spurts. He finishes his feed, you put him down for his customary nap, and you go about your business. He wakes up twenty minutes later, demanding more food. You are confused, but you give him what he wants. You put him down again. And twenty minutes later he wakes up again. You start to panic. Am I not making enough milk? Why is he so hungry? It is not good enough? On and on, all day long. All night long. Again and again and again. Your nipples are like sandpaper. You are drinking gallons of water to compensate for all you are losing. You have not slept, and you just want half an hour to yourself without a child attached to your chest. And then, finally – as suddenly as it came on – it ends. Your baby sleeps for a solid three hours. Congratulations mommy. Only about six more of these growth spurts to look forward to in this first year…
Weight a Minute!
Everyone knows that breastfeeding means you lose the baby weight that much faster. And in those first couple of weeks, you really can see that it’s true. You check the scales every day, and you notice it’s just falling away. You can do up your pre-pregnancy jeans (HUZZAH!). Okay, they don’t look that great, but THEY FIT! You are told you need extra calories to make your milk as healthy as possible. After all, breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day! BEST. EXERCISE. EVER! So one day you eat a couple of brownies someone brought as a gift for the new mom. They are so good! And when you weigh yourself the next day, you find you’ve lost a whole pound! AWESOME. So you have another brownie. And a cookie. And a milkshake. And the scale is still your friend. BEST. DIET. EVER! And then you just give in and eat ALL THE THINGS. ALL THE TIME. And you forget to even weigh yourself because OF COURSE you are breastfeeding and burning up all those extra calories. So when you go for your six week check up with your doctor, you walk in with a big smile. You brag to the nurse about how you fit into your jeans, and she smiles at you, happy that you’re happy. She takes your blood pressure and asks you to step on the scales. You have gained seven pounds! The nurse is smiling and reminds you that you’ve still lost twenty pounds since you’ve had the baby, and you smile and nod because you realize she doesn’t know that you’ve gained weight. You silently vow you will stop gorging on the entire contents of your local bakery and start eating better. But then you hear your baby cry, and as you pick him up to feed him, you grab that spare chocolate bar in your purse and think, I’ll start tomorrow.
Bringing Sexy Back
It’s that time. Whether it’s six weeks or six months postpartum, eventually you’re going to want to be intimate with your partner again. Since the baby was born, you’ve been feeling decidedly motherly. And now it’s time you start feeling wifely. Maybe you put on some makeup and some forgiving underwear. You wash the spit-up from your hair and cook a nice meal. You know you don’t need to do all this (come on – your partner has been celibate this long – he’d have you any way he can get you!), but it is nice to make the extra effort. Your evening goes well, and then things start to heat up. You begin to hold hands. Your fingers travel up and down each other’s arms. You have a little cuddle on the sofa. Maybe you kiss. He grabs your hand and leads you to the bedroom, where he lays you gently down. He kisses your neck. He kisses your shoulder. You close your eyes and enjoy the sensation of – *giant record scratch* – HANG ON! What the hell? OH NO HE DIDN’T! He’s dared to touch your breast. And that has initiated milk let down. And now you are leaking all over yourself. He hasn’t even noticed. But the sensation is impossible to ignore, and you now can’t think of anything but your precious baby. You are back in motherly mode again. After waiting all this time, it’s over before it could even begin. You push him away with a “Not tonight, sweetie,” and you silently curse your traitorous tits for getting in the way of sexy time.
Can you relate to these? Am I deluding myself that all nursing moms go through these things? And have I missed any big ones? I want to hear your nursing horror stories! Leave a comment!
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.