Author: Jessica Moffitt, BS, CHES
When I started writing this blog article, it was supposed to be a quick bullet point list. But you’ll find my passion and love for motherhood has been poured into it, and I had to split it up into a few different articles. But don’t worry- this isn’t a season finale of Glee- I’ll post them all at the same time. No need to wait until next year to read what happens. Let’s begin.
How do you properly prepare a new mother for the wonderful journey of breastfeeding? For starters, you have an OBGYN. However, I found in my personal experience that there are quite a few stones left unturned with this approach. You can attend childbirth classes, which talks about the first few days of breastfeeding, and describes it with phrases like “golden moments”, and “feels like a gentle need to urinate”. These classes are absolutely amazing, but they are a TON of information all at once and are generalizations at best. Not to mention you are probably taking them during a season of life when your brainpower is not at optimal levels. #mombrain. You can fall into a black hole of google searching about breastfeeding basics, and read countless mom-blogs (like this one!), with all sorts of information, but again, you don’t know what to look for until its 2 am and your little one is doing something that “wasn’t in the textbooks” and you are completely lost on how to proceed.
So, here. A compilation of information I have picked up along the way, things that worked for me, and helpful resources I wish I would have had access to when I was needing the information in the moment.
First, I would like to take just a moment to tell you that even though I may not know you, I love you, and I am proud of you, regardless of what choices you make about feeding your child. Breastfeeding is an INTIMATE, and often intimidating, part of motherhood, and isn’t always possible for women. However, if you are interested in breastfeeding, and learning more on how to help make it simpler for you and your little one, keep reading.
Prior to Childbirth, you will begin to get what looks like porous plugs forming on your nipples…. Well, let’s back up. Let’s look at the anatomy here, so that we are all on the same page.
The breast, consisting of the nipple, the areola, the tissue surrounding it, the milk ducts, and the mammary glands, is MADE FOR THIS. As you are progressing through your pregnancy, the body begins building up its production of Prolactin, a hormone that is responsible for the production of breast milk. After you have delivered your sweet bundle of joy, the body will continue to produce this hormone as long as you ask it to (in an ideal world), and will release oxytocin when your need your mammary glands to “let go” of the breastmilk and pass it along to your little. Simple enough, right?
Okay, so back to the clogged pores. The mammary glands, tiny little bump-like bits on your nipple and maybe your areola, are where the milk when come out. There’s over a dozen of them! No, unfortunately, milk does not come out in one smooth line from a centralized location. It’s a bit messier than that. But as your prolactin increases, you may see signs of the first stages of milk production, where tiny bits of dried milk will be visible hanging out the very opening of these glands. It’s not harmful, and it starts at different times during pregnancy for different individuals. As long as it’s not odorous or discolored, it shouldn’t be something to be alarmed about, but you can always show it to your doctor just to make sure!
As you near the end of your pregnancy, and your hormones begin changing once again, you will begin to produce the very first type of breastmilk, colostrum. Colostrum is only produced for a couple of days, and it is VERY THICK! This colostrum is jam-packed with nutrients and will feed your baby anywhere from 1-3 days (typically). Then there’s this in-between stage, where your colostrum will turn into milk, but isn’t quite there yet, and it’s a combination of thick and thin. And then finally, you end up with this glorious breastmilk.
And let’s talk about that milk for a minute. One, ask any mom who is open about her breastfeeding experience and she will tell you it does NOT feel like a gentle urge to pee. As your breasts fill with milk, the feeling is a simple pressure. A fullness, you may say. But when you hearing that child screaming in the grocery store, or your little one latches, the oxytocin flood gates open, and the breast milk is let down. And that- my friends- is NOT the feeling of a gentle need to urinate. Once “let down” has commenced, the feeling subsides though. Don’t panic. It lasts such a very short time. For the remainder of the feeding, the feelings at the breast are mild, but the hormonal surge! Oh- that surge! It’s like the best feeling of happiness, euphoria, and pure love all mixed together in the perfect concoction. Probably my favorite feeling I have ever experienced in my life. If you and your little struggle to connect at first, don’t lose faith. I promise- you’ve got this, Mamma!
It was around day 8 of mom-hood that I had “that moment”…. My story continues here