Think you know everything there is to know about breastfeeding? Think again! Even if you’ve already learned a lot about lactation, you might be surprised by some of the details of just how [breastfeeding] works. Some facts are fun, some are downright fantastic, and some might even seem a little weird. But if you’re thinking of breastfeeding once your baby arrives, you’ll want to be well aware of all that could be in store, including the potentially surprising and strange.
You’ll burn a ton of calories
When you [nurse], your body is working overtime! Experts estimate that it takes about 500 calories to make the 24 to 28 ounces of breast milk that the average mom makes each day. That’s the caloric equivalent of a serious brownie (or if you’re eating healthier, about 20 medium carrots). Burning anywhere between 200 and 500 extra calories each day for milk production is typical.
Hearing a baby cry could make your breasts start to leak [for the husband breastfeeder, perhaps being alone with him does the same?]
When your baby latches onto your breast, her sucking triggers release of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates milk production. This release of breast milk, called the let-down reflex, usually happens after Baby has been sucking for about two minutes. Some women feel the let-down reflex as a tingling or a warmth. But other stimuli can trigger the production of oxytocin too, including emotional ones like looking at a picture of Baby, thinking of her, [or hubby] or hearing a recording of her. Sometimes hearing any baby cry, not just your own, can trigger your let-down reflex. Sometimes this can be awkward – or leaky – but it’s just your body’s way of knowing what to do when a baby needs milk!
You might get cramps
Not only does Baby’s [or Husband’s] sucking causes the release of oxytocin so that your milk can flow freely, but oxytocin also creates uterine contractions. Some women don’t really notice these cramps, and others might feel them kick in like clockwork while nursing in the early days after delivery.
Bigger breasts don’t mean more milk production [I’m not completely sold on this one, as I think there’s a slight correlation between the two]
Though you might assume otherwise, milk glands are what matter when it comes to milk production, not breast size. The larger the breast size, the more fatty tissues that exists, but it doesn’t [change] the milk glands at all, so a woman with an A-cup can actually make the same amount of milk as a woman with a double D, she just has less fatty tissue compared to glandular tissue. Even if your bust is on the smaller side, you’ll likely be able to make plenty of milk…!
Your nipples may get uncomfortable
This isn’t a fun fact, but it’s the truth. While you might hope that breastfeeding will be nothing but smooth sailing, things can be somewhat painful for the first few weeks or even months. … those initial 8 to 12 feeding sessions a day with a newborn can leave your nipples feeling raw and sore. The discomfort can range from slight tenderness to cracked and bleeding skin.
Fortunately, most women find that their nipples do toughen up a bit in just a few weeks, … In the meantime, you can use nipple salves or balms like lanolin, nipple shields, or warm or cool compresses to provide some relief. …
However, certain types of breast pain could be evidence of infection or other problems. And since every woman’s experience with breastfeeding is different, do speak to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about what’s normal in terms of discomfort and what might help you feel better.
Your milk will change over time
The nutritional composition of your milk will change over time to keep up with … nutritional needs. The first few days … instead of what you might usually think of as milk, you’ll actually produce a fluid called colostrum that is rich in protein and antibodies. … In just a few days, this colostrum will transition to mature milk, first thin and watery and then thicker and creamier. As you continue to feed your baby [or husband] over the coming months, the composition of this milk will continue to change …
Your milk comes from many holes, not just the obvious one
If you had to guess the spot where breast milk comes out, you might guess that it’s right in the center of the nipple. In reality, milk comes from many openings in the nipple. Called milk duct orifices, these tiny holes usually number from around four to twenty per breast. Babies who are correctly latched onto the breast will have their mouths covering the entire areola, not just the tip of the nipple, so they can drink the milk from these multiple holes without a problem and without too much mess.
You can breastfeed with body modifications
Many women with breast implants can still breastfeed successfully. Implant incisions made through the armpit or underneath the breast tend to interfere with breastfeeding the least, whereas incisions around the areola can potentially increase problems with feeding like reduced nipple sensitivity or blocked milk ducts. And implant placement below the pectoralis muscle usually leaves the milk glands intact for future feeding.
If your body mods include nipple piercings, the hole created as a result shouldn’t interfere with feedings either. As mentioned above, breastmilk comes from many holes at once, so one extra hole won’t cause a problem. Just make sure that you remove your nipple jewelry before breastfeeding. And keep in mind that newer piercings have an increased risk of infection, so they should be fully healed before you attempt breastfeeding.
Your partner might sexualize it [: )]
Although your breasts will take on a new role once they’re responsible for being nutritional providers for Baby, the way your partner views your breasts might not change much. Chances are that your partner has a special fondness for your breasts, and seeing them – even with a baby attached to them – could still be a turn-on.
You’ll have a lot more success with breastfeeding if your partner supports you, so make sure they respect and understand just how important it is that your breasts have this new job to do. Certainly, this doesn’t mean your breasts can’t still be a turn-on! Just make sure you can work with your partner to strike a balance that doesn’t feel strange.
You might get turned on
Speaking of getting turned-on, arousal during breastfeeding can be a common, if confusing, side effect. The fact of the matter is that the nipple is an erogenous zone, and erogenous zones usually feel good when stimulated; this doesn’t stop just because you’ve had a baby. Rest assured knowing that even if it’s taboo to talk about, this physical response is experienced by many women. And, most importantly, the physical arousal you feel is totally separate from how you feel emotionally towards your baby, so there’s really no need to be weirded out.
- Lisa Marasco. “Common breastfeeding myths.” llli.org. La Leche League International, November 4 2012. Retrieved July 18 2017. http://www.llli.org/nb/lvaprmay98p21nb.html.
- Jahaan Martin. “Nipple Pain: Causes, Treatments, and Remedies.” llli.org. La Leche League International, July 17 2016. Retrieved July 18 2017. http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/lv/lvfebmar00p10.html
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast-feeding tips: What new moms need to know.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, November 23 2016. Retrieved July 18 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breast-feeding/art-20047138.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Post-partum care: What to expect after a vaginal delivery.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, March 24 2015. Retrieved July 18 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/postpartum-care/art-20047233.