Breastfeeding is an amazing opportunity to bond with your baby and it is a great way to give your baby the best. But there are some surprising things you may not know happen while you are breastfeeding.
I have been breastfeeding for three years now, two different kids, and through pregnancy. I have been through a lot of ups and downs and despite doing a whole lot of reading I was not prepared for everything.
And I’m sure you are feeling the same way.
This post contains affiliate links which means with your purchase I receive a small commission at no cost to you.
23 Surprising Things That Happen While Breastfeeding
I can not say enough how much breastfeeding my girls has meant to me, but I have had plenty of did that just happen moments.
Is this normal?
Am I the only one who deals with this?
Please, someone say this normal.
I didn’t have the family support or even other moms around that breastfeed to help me. I have now made some amazing mom friends who parent like I do and I wish I had that support from them years ago.
Related Post: The importance of finding your mom tribe
Colostrum First Than Breast Milk
Did you know that you don’t have actual breast milk you have colostrum or what people refer to as “liquid gold.” It can actually take 3 to 5 days for your breast milk to come in! And that is perfect fine.
Kelly Mom goes more in depth with what baby needs and why it takes time for your breast milk to come in.
Your baby has such a small stomach that colostrum is all they need. How do you get your milk to come in?
Nurse, nurse, and nurse some more!
After the birth of my first which was a c-section she was born at 3am on a Tuesday and my milk came in on Friday around 5pm. With my second she was born on a Thursday at 4pm and my milk was in by Saturday morning.
I was still nursing my oldest so maybe that had something to do with how quickly it came in.
Related Post: 5 Tips for breastfeeding after a c-section
After birth Cramping
When you breastfed your newborn you will experience cramping of your uterus. This is completely normal, but it is painful. Some even say worse than labor. Why does this happen?
When you breastfeed the release of hormones help shrink your uterus back down to it’s normal size which is incredible but hot doggy does it hurt.
And the more babies you have the more painful it is.
Cravings while breastfeeding
Pregnancy cravings were nothing compared to my cravings while breastfeeding. I honestly didn’t have much for cravings while pregnant other than I wanted to eat more, but while breastfeeding I couldn’t stop eating.
I craved chocolate milk, oatmeal, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but the jelly had to be my grandma’s raspberry jam! I could eat ALL day. And I could drink a gallon of milk and water daily!
I had find some healthy snacks or the baby weight was never going to come off!
Breastfeeding might hurt
In the beginning it might hurt to breastfeed. I know that experts say it shouldn’t hurt at all, but I mean you went from nothing to something sucking at your nipple all day long.
Think of it this way, if you started to suck on your thumb every day for hours would it hurt? Heck yes it would!
Your nipples aren’t the only thing that will hurt. Letdowns or when your body releases milk can be excrusiation especially in the first weeks to couple of months.
This is normal and for everyone it feels differently. For me it was pins and needles from my arm pits to my nipples. Some times it hurt so bad I wanted to cry.
So what helps?
Honestly nothing really. Sometimes massaging my breast or just holding on to them helped, but it just took time. With my first it hurt for about 6 weeks and with my second for about 3 months.
I don’t know if the difference was tandem nursing and I was just making so much milk or what the deal was, but it was painful.
It doesn’t last forever, so don’t worry!
Your family might not be supportive
I hate to say it but not everyone is going to support your decision to breastfeed. I wish I could say everyone would be helpful but that just isn’t the case.
The truth is generations before us were pressured in to formula and told that it was better. It isn’t but that is what they were taught and what they continue to believe.
It is up to you whether you give them some information or you just ignore them. You know them and know if they would be willing to read and learn or if they are just set in their ways.
I have a friend of mine who’s mother in law was all over wanting to buy formula and was the least supportive person of her wanting to breastfed. And then any little struggle she had while pumping and working made it even harder for her to put up a fight.
I did on many occasions donate some of my breast milk freezer stash for two of kids because I have an over supply and sometimes she had to work more hours and just couldn’t keep up.
But you know what that is what mom friends are there for! Support and understanding!
Related Post: Online Breastfeeding and Pumping class
Breastfeeding might make you tired
While having a newborn can be exhausting on it’s own, breastfeeding can be so tiresome all on its own. When you sit down to breastfed you might immediately be tired despite not being tired before.
Your body burn so many calories while you are breastfeeding and it can just be exhausting. The sleepiness could also be your lack of resting. Putting too much on your shoulders can wear you down even faster.
Remember to get your rest and let some things go. Dishes and laundry will always be there!
Breastfeeding benefits for mom
We all hear about how amazing breastfeeding can be for babies but what about mom? Guess what you benefit too! From happy hormones to a delay in the return of your period.
Yes aunt flow stays away for longer! Took 14 months for her to make her visit when I was tandem nursing my girls and 7 months when I was just nursing my first.
Check out these breastfeeding benefits for mom to found out more.
The sound of your own baby can make you have a letdown leading to you leaking. But it doesn’t have to be your baby crying to trigger the same leaking.
Shoot it doesn’t even have to be a baby that triggers it. I have had a squeaking door cause a letdown. Who knows why that happened? I don’t even think it sounded like a baby, but my body did.
In case of times like this breast pads are your best friend. I can not say how many times I have walked around with a wet spot on my shirt. Yeah it happens.
They will be your best friend!
Covering up might not work
Trying to use a breastfeeding cover may not work for you. It is hot and baby may not be a fan it especially if it is hot outside.
Not only the temperature but if you are just starting to breastfeed using a cover will make it difficult for you to see your breast and help your baby latch. This just leads to you being stressed out and baby getting upset.
Related post: Know your babies hunger cues
If you have to ditch the cover than ditch the cover. Everyone else comfort in your feeding your baby does not trump your babies need to eat and your stress level! Not to mention you can do the two shirt method or there are some amazing breastfeeding shirts and dresses out there!
Public breastfeeding discomfort
Speaking of breastfeeding clothes and covers not working for you breastfeeding in public can be so difficult. Knowing that it is your right to breastfed where ever mom is allowed can help give you the confidence to breastfeed no matter where you are.
It is now legal in all 50 states to breastfed in public but that doesn’t mean you have people say things to you about it. It didn’t take long for me to have my first issue in public.
In the parking lot none the less. The lady was far enough away that confrontation couldn’t happen but she yelled it loud enough for me to hear.
why can’t you just do that else where
I mean for real. My daughter was 3 weeks old!
And Dang straight I was going to feed her when and where ever she was hungry. Which for her was like all the time. There was no working around her eating schedule, because there was no schedule.
It might take some time but you will gain the confidence to tell those people off. You don’t have to mean but just tell them baby is eating because baby is hungry.
Your breastfeeding baby won’t take a bottle
It is pretty common for breastfeeding babies to not take a bottle. A bottle is just not the same as snuggling up to warm mommy with the perfect temperature milk.
Some babies do great and take a bottle right away, and you may have to go through a ton of bottles to find one that will work.
Just remember that introducing a bottle too soon can cause some nipple confusion or baby to fuss at the breast because a bottle is so much easier to get milk out of.
Don’t give up hope though in this post of 50 breastfeeding resources you can find some great tips to getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle.
Oh if you thought the letdown was painful get ready for engorgement. It is so painful. The fullness and heavy feeling will make you want to cry. And if you don’t relieve it fast enough you may get painful lumps which are clogged ducts.
Lucky for you nursing your baby is most often the best way to relive both engorgement and clogged duct. But if it doesn’t work there are many other things you can try.
- pump (I prefer a manual for clogs)
- hot shower
- heating pad
- massaging your breast
- dangle feed (standing above baby to nurse)
Keep trying these things and if you just can’t get the clog to pass a vibrator can help.
I know what you are thinking, but the vibrations will help to break up the clog. It is important to get this clog out because leaving a clog can lead to mastitis which is a serious infection that needs to be treated.
Side note I have been breastfeeding for 3 years and have had plenty of clogged ducts and tons of engorgement due to a major oversupply.
Leaking during letdown
During a letdown your other breast might leak. This is normal and it too will stop at some point. But in the meantime get use to it! I had many a soaked shirts because I would easily leak a few ounces during let down.
My breast pad did not handle that well. After many soaked shirts I learned to keep a towel on my chair where I breastfed. And by the time I had my second I found out about the Haakaa and it was such a game changer.
The Haakaa is a silicone pump that just attaches to your breast and catches the let down! Some women find this to be a great way to get some extra milk and eliminate a mess!
Breastfeeding calorie burning
As I said before breastfeeding will make you so hungry and this is because your body burns so many calories to produce milk.
Please don’t stave yourself because you think you are eating to much. Just try to make healthier choices with the food you do eat and don’t eat a bunch of junk.
Your body is craving food because you need food and your body needs food to make breast milk.
The extra burning of calories is often why women lose weight quickly when they are breastfeeding. But don’t count on it! I lost some weight but then just stopped and stayed the same weight until my next pregnancy. Some women’s bodies hold on to fat because their bodies know they will need a food source for breast milk production.
Which ever way your body handles the extra calorie burning, take care of yourself and eat.
What is cluster feeding? Cluster feeding is when a baby nurses often.
And I mean nursing 30 minutes after finishing. This is when many start to panic and think their supply just isn’t keeping up. And it is so easy to feel this way, but it is normal.
Cluster feeding is your babies way of upping your supply. If baby is going through a growth spurt (which happen constantly the first two months), or just needing comfort baby is going to cluster feed.
Allowing your baby to nurse when baby wants to is the best way to keep your breast milk supply.
Want to know if your breast milk supply is enough for your baby? Keep an eye on your babies diapers. Your baby should be having 6 to 7 wet diapers a day with two of them being soaked.
Want to keep track of those diapers? Check out this breastfeeding and diaper tracker. Subscribe to get yours sent to your email.
Breastfeeding goals are great to have and give you something to strive for but what happens when you reach those goals? Do you make new ones? Wean?
For most the first breastfeeding goal is 6 months, but baby still needs milk at that point so you continue. Then you make it to a year! YAY you did it!
But weaning at a year might be way harder than you think and you may not want to even try to wean. I know I didn’t want to wean at a year, but it took until I hit that year of breastfeeding to decide to not wean.
You may go in to breastfeeding thinking you will wean at one but you end up breastfeeding in to toddler hood. I have not only breastfed through a pregnancy, but gone on to tandem nurse for over 20 months, and tandem nurse through a pregnancy!
These were not plans of mine at all while I was pregnant with my first, but here I am. And I wouldn’t change it for anything!
You might find yourself touching your boobs way more than you ever did before. Not only when you are in pain or are trying to massage your breast, but also to decide which side baby should nurse on.
Sometime it is really obvious which side baby nursed on last and sometimes you have to like weigh your boobs to decide which on is fuller!
This may sound funny, and I am sure looks funny to someone on the outside but it will happen. I have seen braclets and clips to put on your bra to remind you which side you nursed on last time. But in the moment boob feeling just works faster.
Some women do not respond well to pumps and that is okay. Your baby does a much better job emptying your breast then a pump could ever do.
Don’t let low pumping outputs get you down. On average a women will pump 1 to 2 ounces combined! If you are in any Facebook groups you will see women showing off pumps of 9 ounces in one session and it can be discouraging but know that is not normal.
And your baby does not need that much in one feeding. A breastfed baby will eat about 3 to 4 ounces in a feeding even as they get older because breast milk changes to suit your babies needs.
I am one that could easily pump and pump a ton. My girls never took a bottle and I donated my breast milk. If you have an over supply you can check out my post about donating breast milk. I have donated over 2500 ounces and done both milk banks and local moms.
If you are like many who struggle to pump the Haakaa may be just the answer for you. Like I said before it is incredible to catch a letdown with out stress. And many have great success with it.
Your baby may try to nurse off anyone. When your baby is hungry they really don’t care who is holding them they will turn their head towards a chest and hope for some milk.
This is normal even if some find it odd and “gross” they are just in need of some education.
I can not count how many times my girls tried to nurse off their dad. One time while laying in bed I had gotten up to pee and my oldest was searching for a nipple to just hold on to and found daddies…
Well needless to say she was not happy about it and lost her mind. I died laughing!
As your baby gets older baby will know who has the goods and who doesn’t, but until then enjoy the humor.
Boob obsessed baby
As your baby gets older they may become obsessed with your boobs. This means they will be shoving their hands down your shirt just to make sure they are still there. Or getting giddy when you take off your shirt.
This is normal as odd as it may seem. To your baby your boobs are their food and they get excited and protective over them.
My 3 and 1 year old still get excited when they see mine. It is so sweet. Why?
It is comfort and what they know to bring them the perfect food source and mommy snuggles. Who doesn’t love a good snuggle with food?
Nipple twiddling while breastfeeding
What is nipple twiddling? Twiddling is when a baby is nursing and twist, pinches, or squeezes the other nipple. It is normal and actually can help stimulate a letdown and help boost your supply.
But that doesn’t mean it is comfortable or something you want to let your baby do, and that is okay. You can find more about why babies twiddle while breastfeeding and what to do if you don’t like it in my twiddling while breastfeeding post.
You may find that while you are breastfeeding your breast are uneven. Whether this be because you just nursed on one side and the other side is very full, or just as they grew it was not even.
Again, very normal! My breast have always been uneven and as I went from a B cup to a DD cup the difference in the two has been dramatic. And due to the over supply I have when baby nursed it was only ever on one side and my other side would be left looking twice the size.
I often had to just pump quick to not only help relieve some pressure but make myself a bit more evened out.
I hope you have become a bit more prepared for just what could happen while you are breastfeeding that people just don’t seem to talk about, or maybe you hear and just don’t listen to.
I find that breastfeeding has such a stigma around it that many people don’t talk about it to pregnant moms because they don’t want to “offend” them if they are going to formula feed. Which leads to more confusion and women giving up on breastfeeding early because they just didn’t know.
I really hope to see this change in the future and I for one and on a mission to share what I know, what I have learned and to continue to openly breastfeed my kids.
Shoot me a follow on Instagram for some more confidence boosting in public breastfeeding and support.
And if you are one who love the research and information be sure to check out my post of over 50 breastfeeding resources for breastfeeding moms.