I loved breastfeeding my son and feel very lucky that we had a relatively “easy” journey with it all. But no matter what kind of breastfeeding journey you have or how long it lasts, there is a laundry list of invisible struggles that most of the world doesn’t see. And that laundry list is LONG. Nothing on this list is easy. A lot of it also comes as a surprise. I truly never knew how much I would despise sterilizing pump parts and bottles, for example. It’s usually pretty hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced these things, so, if you’re feeling extra exhausted today, I GET you. Cheers to all you mamas carrying a pretty heavy invisible load that comes with breastfeeding. Here are 10 things that generally go UNSEEN and I want you all to feel SO SEEN right now.
Being the only one who can feed
It’s a lot. I loved the bond, but I also love sleep. And I was running on fumes. After a couple months, my husband and I started replacing one late night feeding with a bottle of pumped milk that I would pump right before going to bed, which would be right before my son’s next feeding time. This allowed me to get about 4 hours of consecutive sleep, which felt like I was winning the freakin’ lottery.
Being home alone and forgetting to put my water bottle right next to my body during a feeding felt like torture (that and forgetting my phone…). Breastfeeding makes you SUPER THIRSTY and it’s really important to stay hydrated. With the marathon breastfeeder I had on my hands, having water during each feeding was 100% necessary and, if I didn’t have it, my mouth would feel like a desert.
This really became a challenge for me when I went back to work. I had a really hard time making time to pump as often as I needed to pump and still feel like I was putting my best foot forward in my job. I couldn’t get everything done that I needed to in a day, let alone make time to eat as often as I did when I was at home. I pretty much ate a snack after almost every nursing session while I was on maternity leave. I didn’t have time for this when I went back to work and I saw it start to affect my supply. I ended up just making sure I had protein bars in my pump bag and tried to eat one while I pumped!
Getting touched out
It can be exhausting being a main source of comfort for baby. It’s a BEAUTIFUL thing, but I know I had moments when I just felt touched out. My son often nursed for an HOUR at a time – not EVERY feeding, but it happened often. His pediatrician also recommended that we keep Mason upright for 30 minutes after a feeding to help with his gas and tummy troubles. This meant that, by the time he was done nursing and I was done burping him/keeping him upright for half an hour, I only had an hour and a half until his next feeding!
Leaking milk, clogged milk ducts, mastitis, + nipple pain
Once I leaked milk through my shirt so much that it literally dripped onto the ground and onto my foot when I was changing Mason’s diaper once. And I’m pretty sure I’ve blocked the memories containing the pain of a clogged milk duct and all the hot showers I would take while squeezing my boob to try to unclog it. Thankfully, I never specifically had mastitis, but I have plenty of friends who had it (and some multiple times!). It is NO walk in the park and mama often feels SO, SO sick. Then there’s the nipple pain. While nursing SHOULD NOT hurt if baby has a good latch, there is some discomfort at the beginning while you get used to it. And there is ALSO some major discomfort when baby might be doing a lot of extra nursing when they’re sick, teething, cluster feeding, etc. because your nipple isn’t used to that much activity! My son also got into this weird habit of pulling on my nipple really hard when he was still latched. SO MUCH OW. When I would get him unlatched after he’d do this, it would look like my nipple had doubled in length.
Worry if they’re getting enough/you’re producing enough
Mamas always worry, right? And this worry is a constant one. Even after seeing a lactation consultant and verifying that Mason was getting sufficient ounces of milk during a feeding, I would worry. Even after him consistently gaining weight at each doctor’s visit, I would worry.
Only being able to leave for 2-3 hours at a time.
And this is if Mason had a really quick nursing session that did NOT last an hour plus.
Pumping, labeling, and storing milk
Packing a pump, finding a place to pump while out and about, setting up my pump, getting half undressed so I can pump, actually pumping…then doing all of that in reverse plus labeling and storing your milk appropriately. Then sterilizing pump parts and bottle parts once you get home. SO. MUCH. WORK.
Adjusting caffeine, alcohol, & diet
You already had a restricted diet while pregnant, and you continue to have a modified diet while breastfeeding. It’s definitely not as restrictive, but you DO have to plan out when you can drink coffee and how much you can drink. Same thing with a glass of wine. And some babies are very sensitive to certain foods mama might be eating, so then mama needs to cut those out of her diet until she’s done nursing. That can be a big bummer for some mamas, especially those that have to cut out things like dairy!
Limited wardrobe options
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know this is my BIGGEST PET PEEVE! This is the entire reason Ailana J. exists! You already have to think about SO much as a breastfeeding mama and AGONIZING over what to wear each day should NOT be one of those things. Limited wardrobe options for breastfeeding mamas is a TOTALLY SOLVABLE PROBLEM, but, for me, nothing out there was hitting the mark. When I was breastfeeding and shopping for nursing friendly options, I couldn’t find anything that I would be PROUD to wear and was super functional. The types of pieces that make breastfeeding EASIER and made getting dressed each day much quicker! The types of pieces that would make you feel really good and effortlessly draw compliments. I mean, we ALL secretly like it when someone says how cute our outfit is, right?! And, in this season of life, when our bodies don’t quite feel like home all the time, it’s really nice to receive a compliment or two!
If this last point is something you’re struggling with, Ailana J. can help! This is a TOTALLY SOLVABLE PROBLEM! It’s something I can just swoop right off your plate! And I can even sweeten the deal. For a limited time, the Mason Nursing + Pumping Tank, the ultimate desk to date night staples for a breastfeeding mama, is BUY ONE GET, ONE 20% OFF! Don’t miss out – once this promo is over, it is NEVER coming back! Shop HERE!