Congratulations! You made it through pregnancy, labour and birth, and now the unexpected things that have been happening to your body can stop. Right?
Well, not quite. As it turns out, breastfeeding can also come with a whole host of unexpected side effects that we’re pretty sure nobody warned us about!
From leaking at the worst possible times, to dryness ‘down there’ that you’ve never experienced before, here at the six things nobody tells you will happen to your body while breastfeeding…
1. You’ll be as thirsty as a woman who has broken down in the desert
Baby has latched on and in that instant, your mouth feels so dry that you can’t feel your tongue and you need a glass of water RIGHT NOW. But of course, you’re trapped under baby (see point 6) and you’re going to be there for a while.
Breastfeeding makes you thirsty. So, so thirsty. Invest in a reusable bottle and keep it by your side. Got a cup holder for your buggy? Turns out it wasn’t a gimmick. Pop a fresh bottle of water in it for when you’ve wrestled yourself and the little one out of the house mid-meltdown and realise you’re too parched to go on.
2. You start leaking at the WORST times
You’ve left baby asleep with Dad and made it out of the house for a quick whizz round to the corner shop, hands free. It feels oddly like a treat to go and get the essential supplies (bread, milk, chocolate biscuits and some fresh air) without a baby superglued to you.
But then, just like that, your top is soaked through with two tell-tale patches. It’s bad enough when you’re a few minutes from home, but it’s mortification levels x 1,000 when you’re having dinner with your in-laws or at a friend’s wedding. Arm yourself with breast pads to help minimise the damage to your outfit and your dignity. Disposable ones come in megapacks so you can always have some handy or try washable bamboo inserts, which are super absorbent too.
3. Your breasts don’t feel or look like yours
Boobs come in all shapes and sizes but when you start breastfeeding, it’s YOUR boobs that will be all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re full to the point of rock hard and engorged with milk; hand expression will help relieve this, but beware of blocked ducts and the warning signs of mastitis.
Sometimes you’ll feel lumps under the skin. After a feed, one might be bigger than the other. Your nipples will look darker and bigger and pointer than usual. Anything goes! Get fitted with a good nursing bra that will support you properly – and buy at least two to get you through.
4. Your boobs become your alarm clock
A miracle has happened and your baby is asleep, at night, for (whisper it) a few hours. Congratulations! Time to enjoy a well deserved sleep. Wrong! You’re woken by your breasts, full to dripping point. A little hand expression will ease the fullness, but who are you kidding? Baby will be feeding again in no time…
5. You may experience vaginal dryness (possibly for the first time)
You thought it was more of a menopause thing, right? Well, turns out breastfeeding can also cause vaginal dryness due to the hormone shift after pregnancy. This may lead to symptoms such as a sensation of dryness, burning, itching, soreness and pain (whether you have sex or not), and these symptoms can occur both internally (in the vagina) and externally (on the vulva).
Vagisan MoistCream helps to alleviate vaginal dryness, which you can use safely while breastfeeding. In addition, Vagisan MoistCream may also be used to alleviate sexual intercourse. See your GP if you are experiencing severe symptoms of vaginal dryness.
6. You’ll need a stash of necessities with you constantly
Cluster feeding? Embrace it with a box set and a feeding station so you can hunker down for that skin to skin with everything in arm’s reach.
You’ll need: pillows, more pillows, water, chocolate biscuits, the TV remote, your phone, a muslin cloth (in case of vom) and nipple cream (in case of soreness). You’re going in for the long haul. Expect to be stuck under the tiny tyke for the foreseeable so get comfortable – and make the most of this special time.