6 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Body Before You Started Breastfeeding
You learn a whole lot about your body when you birth your baby, but it’s not over just yet. Now you will learn a whole lot more about your amazing body as you start to breastfeed:
1)The Dolly Parton effect.
Although your boobs have probably already grown a few bra sizes during pregnancy, the real ‘boob job’ begins as your milk ‘comes in’ a day or several (it varies) after you have your baby. These bouncing bazookas will be hot and tender and you may even have a slightly elevated temperature as your body prepares to make milk for your little one (although of course, if you feel ‘fluey’ or suspect you have a fever at any time you need to check with your health carer in case you have an infection or the beginnings of mastitis).
If your breasts are really engorged and sore take heart, this is only temporary: breastfeeding won’t be like this for more than a day or two and there are steps you can take to sort this quickly. A lot of this swelling is due to increased circulation to your breasts as they prepare to make milk, not just the milk itself. It can also be due to extra fluid if you have had IV fluids during labour.
Tip: keep your breasts soft by feeding frequently (at least 10 times in 24 hours), try gentle massage and apply a cool compress to soothe your aching boobs and reduce swelling. You can soak a disposable nappy in water and freeze it then wrap it around your swollen tatas or you can embrace a popular old wives’ solution and apply cool washed cabbage leaves. Don’t over do this as it may reduce your milk supply, just pop them on for 20minutes, two or three times a day and leave your nipples uncovered as baby will find the smell and taste of wilted cabbage pretty awful.
2)Your breast sizes will change throughout your breastfeeding journey
After your initial engorgement, your breasts will ‘settle’ and may seem smaller. You may worry about your milk supply as this happens because your breasts don’t seem so ‘full’ but there is no need to. As already mentioned, this initial swelling is not all about the milk. Also, at first, your body has no idea you don’t need to provide milk for triplets: as your placenta is released, levels of progesterone (one of your pregnancy hormones) drop and lactation hormones start to ramp up initial milk production.
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis which translates to the more your baby drinks the more milk your breasts will be signalled to produce. As your breasts become attuned to the needs of your baby, they will make milk according to your baby’s needs – not for imaginary triplets, unless you actually have triplets.
For the most effective techniques to boost and maintain your milk supply, download our FREE ebook ‘Making More Mummy Milk, Naturally’ by Pinky McKay, IBCLC lactation consultant.
Sometimes your breasts will be more full, after a feed they will feel softer and ‘empty’ (they are never really empty as milk production is continuous); many women have one breast that seems to make more milk than the other so not only do your breasts change size between feeds and as your baby grows (or you lose baby weight), but they can be uneven sizes with one boob bigger than the other. Please don’t worry though, when you stop breastfeeding you will even out again and here are some tips to encourage your baby to feed well from both breasts.
Check out the beautiful soft, comfy Arden bra – it’s an all-in-one nursing and pumping bra that has individually adaptable cups (with an easy to manage row of press studs under each side). This is a great investment as it fits whether you have uneven sized boobs or as your breast sizes change during your breastfeeding journey, so you don’t need a stash of different sized bras.
No this isn’t some sort of disappointment or mood problem. It’s actually a reflex: when your baby starts to feed, he will use a rapid sucking action at first, this stimulates nerve endings in your nipple that signal your brain to release oxytocin, the hormone that triggers this ‘milk ejection reflex’. It can feel rather like pins and needles and you may feel a bit light headed for a moment – then your breasts will leak. Or, if you are feeding, you will notice your baby start to gulp as the milk flows faster and you are likely to leak from the ‘other side’.
4. Your milk comes out of multiple nipple ‘holes’.
Mums often express surprise about this, saying, “I thought my milk would just squirt out of a single hole, like water comes out of a hose. I wasn’t expecting it to spray like a sprinkler.” However, research from the University of Western Australia shows that there will be between 4 to 18 ductal openings and, as your milk ejection reflex is triggered, you will see milk ‘spray’ from these multiple openings. For a quick anatomy lesson check this link.
5 - Waking up in puddles.
As you are relaxed and sleeping during the night, your milk making hormones power up. Prolactin, the milk production hormone peaks in the very early morning, around 3am. And, because you are relaxed, without the influence of stress hormones, your oxytocin will be freely flowing too – along with your milk! This means your milk can leak quite prolifically, especially if your breasts become over full while your baby is sleeping, this is why good 'overnight' nursing pads are more absorbent.
Tip: If you feel ‘full’ during the night but your baby is sleeping, it’s perfectly OK (and easiest) to gently pick up your snoozing baby and offer a feed.This is great for maintaining your milk supply too! Usually, babies will calmly drink and relieve you without waking fully so you feel comfortable and you both go back to sleep very quickly. In case you are worried this could wake your baby and encourage him to stay awake, please relax, your night milk has some amazing chemistry that assists with sleep, so he may barely even wake – that could be why the name ‘dream feed’ exists.
6 - How amazing and efficient your body is.
Although at first, breastfeeding is a learning curve that is steeper for some mums than others, with good support and sound information, you will learn to trust your body, just as you trusted you could grow your beautiful baby. And soon, breastfeeding will be an easy way to nourish and comfort your baby with perfect nutrition that adapts to meet his changing needs and support his immune system however long you are breastfeeding.
Have you checked out our FREE ebook 'Making More Mummy Milk,Naturally' by Pinky McKay, IBCLC Lactation Consultant and best-selling baby care author? Pinky is also the creator of Boobie Bikkies - delicious, all natural and organic cookies to nourish and support you as you breastfeed your baby.