Boobs were made for feeding babies, right? On paper it might sound like the most natural thing in the world. For some mums it’s easy, for others it’s not. But for all breastfeeding mums there are some very weird things that the books don’t prepare you for, as Rachel Tompkins explores…
Any crying baby can make your boobs leak
That’s right, it doesn’t just have to be YOUR baby crying that sets off those mammary glands. In fact, in the first few weeks of breastfeeding many new mums experience this strange (and shocking the first time it happens) phenomena. I’m no scientist but apparently, this is caused by your body releasing Oxytocin, which causes cells in your breast to contract and push out milk. Usually this does ease off after a few weeks once your letdown reflex becomes more used to the sensation of your baby feeding. So fear not, that oh-so-practical solution of avoiding crying babies won’t last forever!
Your milk contains more water in hot weather
The hot weather makes us more thirsty, so it stands to reason it makes babies more thirsty too. Which is why our boobs have acquired the ingenious ability to increase the water content within breastmilk when the mercury rises. Usually breastmilk has a water content of 88%, however, at times of extreme heat this can increase to help keep babies hydrated. It’s why lots of mums notice that their boobs feel bigger when it’s hot, or discover wet bedsheets in the morning due to the breasts carrying more water than usual.
Stopping breastfeeding makes some mums very sad*
*totally lose their shit!
Some mums hang up their breastfeeding hat with nothing but utter joy/relief/excitement. For others, that last nursing session with their baby brings about feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and mood swings. In other words, you can’t stop crying and you feel like you’ve got the worst PMT ever!
There haven’t been vast amounts of research into why this happens, but it’s believed to be caused by the hormone changes in your body. Namely the drop in the hormone prolactin, which is required for milk production. Prolactin also brings a feeling of calmness and relaxation. So it’s no surprise that when this hormone isn’t needed to make milk any more, the body suffers a bit of cold turkey. For most mums this subsides within a week. And on the plus side, you can now indulge in a guilt-free bottle glass of wine to take the edge off a bit!
Breastfeeding is gadgets a go-go
Aside from the breast pumps that sound like you’re milking a cow, the nursing bras so heavy duty you could carry your shopping in them, and the huge apron-like pieces of fabric that you might use to keep your modesty intact while breastfeeding, there’s a whole world of weird and wonderful breastfeeding gadgets out there.
The cryptically named milk collection ‘shells’ were one of my nocturnal internet purchases. Forget all associations with relaxing shoreline walks whilst collecting beautiful shells, they’re basically pieces of silicone that hang on the boob you’re not feeding with to collect the milk.
Something slightly more practical is something a friend used. They’re ‘nursing reminders’ – small pieces of fabric with little magnets in that clip onto your bra to remind you which boob you last fed with.
And if you’re wanting to keep a breastfeeding diary too, there’s a nightlight which doubles up as a feeding diary as well as remembering which side you’re due to feed the baby on.
As for the gadget to inject a bit of life into my post-breastfeeding boobs – I’m still searching!
Strangers want your breastmilk!
Some women produce an oversupply of milk, some don’t make enough. Others, like me, had some left in the freezer when I’d finished feeding my son. Those hours of pumping had left too big an imprint on my soul to just pour it away, and when I enquired at my local neo-natal unit about donating it I didn’t fit the criteria, so instead I found a Facebook group on which you can give away your milk to mums who need it. Obviously, there are no medical checks, so it’s on a totally trust basis. But it meant it didn’t get wasted and hopefully it made one new mum’s life a bit easier. Here’s hoping for some good mum karma in return!