12 Insane Facts About A Woman’s Body While Breastfeeding

I knew I was very interested in the idea of breastfeeding, and I knew that I was instinctually called to do it. I had dreams about it and how it would go during my first pregnancy.

But it was very hard to understand exactly how it all worked before I’d actually done it. It was impossible to know how it would feel, the subtle maneuvers I’d have to master, the patience it would sometimes require, and just how wonderful, close, and comforting it could be.

There’s just not a lot of info out there describing the real-life details of how everything goes and how it all works. And I know from experience that when you’re pregnant, it’s easy to feel like you want to read as much as you can get your hands on, the better to prepare yourself mentally for the important (and new and different) tasks ahead.

Well we think understanding some of the amazing facts about a woman’s lactating body is a great place to start in your quest for breastfeeding knowledge. It’s also a great way to appreciate just how marvelous – perhaps even miraculous – the whole process really is.

Without further ado, for your edification and entertainment, both, here are 12 Insane facts about the female body during breastfeeding.

12 It Gets Slippery

Sam-Fai-breastfeeding-pool

If you check out lists of what to look for as the first clues of pregnancy, this one (or these ones, rather) will likely always be cited. They’re called Montgomery’s tubercles.

From this name, you probably have absolutely no clue what they are, so we’ll explain.

At some point during pregnancy, especially if this is your first pregnancy, have you noticed that your nipples begin to look, well, different? Part of this change may be to their texture…

Itty-bitty bumps usually develop on the dark circle around the nipple itself (the areola). Well, it’s more like they’re becoming more prominent, actually.

These oil-producing glands help to lubricate the skin – which is something you will quickly realize that breastfeeding nipples need.

With these bad boys secreting oil, one vital element to breastfeeding will be taken care of.

11 Increased Intake

Elka-Whalan-eating-holding-newborn

After two pregnancies in three years, amid breastfeeding my second babe, and having spent much of my free time in recent years reading, thinking, and writing about pregnancy and babies, I have this one memorized:

Breastfeeding burns something like an additional 300 – 500 calories a day.

That’s why you hear of women swearing that any remaining “baby weight” “melted” off incredibly quickly after the kid was born – and started devouring milk hungrily every few hours (around the clock, at first).

This was me after my first pregnancy, so no, it is not a lie or some type of witchcraft when you hear of this happening. I could barely keep up with my nutritional needs.

For sure consult with your doc about all things health-related, but maintaining a healthy diet, getting some exercise, and perhaps even adding in a small healthy snack or two can often keep things in balance.

10 DO Let Me Down

Teresa-Palmer-breastfeeding-selfie

The “let-down reflex” is a phrase that probably rolls off a lactation consultant’s tongue more than any other. It’s a crucial step in the process of getting a mom’s milk flowing – each and every time she breastfeeds.

When the nipples are stimulated, such as by the sucking motion of a hungry baby, the hormone oxytocin is released. Milk then enters the ducts in the breasts, where it can be expressed into said baby’s mouth as he or she settles into a rhythmic pattern of sucking and swallowing.

There seems to be some variety in how it’s experienced and how quickly. Many women find that being comfortable and relaxed, such as holding baby close in a private place, is great.

Some feel a sort of rush and even a swelling or some leakage from whichever breast the baby is not currently eating from.

9 Hot In Here

breastfeeding-car

Some women report feeling noticeably warmer or even sweating once the let-down reflex is triggered and the milk starts flowing as the baby eats, or drinks, rather.

From simply feeling flushed to getting hot enough to require a fan blasting at your nursing chair, there’s certainly a range, and how you feel will of course vary depending on a variety of factors, including the weather / how warm the environment already is.

Some women specifically notice that their armpits begin to trickle sweat. It’s all part of the fun!

If the hormones involved in breastfeeding have you feeling uncomfortably warm, consider trying a strategically placed fan in front of your favorite nursing station. (And here’s a pro tip: I’d go ahead and invest in one with no accessible spinning blades, because in the blink of an eye you’ll have a crawler on your hands ready to stick curious fingers anywhere they’ll fit.)

8 Lacking Lubrication

Pink-Instagram-breastfeeding

If you’ve heard about the key hormones in the human body at all, then you’ve surely heard of estrogen.

Well estrogen levels in the lactating body are lower than they normally would be, and this can sometimes lead to a side effect that’s hard to appreciate: vaginal dryness.

The occurrence of dryness must be pretty common, because when I went in for my 6-week postpartum checkup after the birth of my first baby, my doctor cleared me for landing, so to speak, and then

completely unprovoked told me to purchase some lube. I guess he considered it pretty standard after being an Ob/Gyn for something like forty years.

I wouldn’t take it as a given, though, because not all of us find that it’s an issue at all. On the other hand, I suppose it couldn’t really hurt to have a lubricating product on hand just in case.

7 Spreading The Spray

It’s easy to envision that the milk will squirt right out of one hole in the nipple, isn’t it? That’s how stuff is emitted from other parts of the human body, after all, I guess.

But some moms are surprised to learn that there will be more of a spray effect, with many tiny openings releasing milk into that hungry babe’s eager mouth.

And if the baby unexpectedly comes off after the milk starts flowing, it sometimes continues to spray everywhere. Many nursing moms probably have dried up splatters of breast milk pretty much everywhere in their cars and homes.

And a baby may wince a bit in surprise as he or she gets hit in the face with it.

You might not even know, though, otherwise, except for when you’re pumping. Clear pump parts often allow you to see the milk spraying out of the multiple holes in various directions.

6 Free Flowin’?

mastitis-Instagram

We don’t want to worry you that breastfeeding will be challenging, uncomfortable, weird, or problematic. We also don’t want to lie to you and say that everything will be just hunky-dory and A-OK one hundred percent of the time. It may take patience and skill sometimes, and at others it may work out so seamlessly that it helps you to find a whole new beauty in life.

Well one of the times that it can get a bit uncomfortable and challenging is when you experience a clogged duct – when milk isn’t adequately flowing out of one or more areas of the breast –

and things can get hard, swollen, and super painful super-duper fast.

If the clog isn’t released in a timely manner through feeding the baby, pumping, hand expressing milk, or other measures,

an infection of the breast sometimes occurs. Referred to as mastitis, this condition should be immediately treated by a doctor.

5 Sizing Up

Candice-Swanepoel-Facebook-pregnant-bump

Some women notice their breasts have grown quite tremendously in size during pregnancy. For others, the most drastic changes seem to occur immediately after the baby is born, when the milk is really coming in.

Some of us (ahem) find we go from a 34-D to a 34-E, with the breasts becoming rounder and fuller during pregnancy and then even larger during lactation.

This is why I’d recommend making sure you have a couple comfortable wireless bras for wear during pregnancy, purchasing a new size as soon as your old bra starts to feel too snug – but I’d also recommend waiting to order a whole collection of nursing bras until after the baby is born and you’ve started to breastfeed. Then you can experiment with which size is just right and which style and brand are perfect for you.

4 Ups And Downs

breastfeeding-Instagram-beauty-queen

While we’re on the topic of size, there’s another interesting fact that just never seems to be included in any of the info I’ve come across in books, courses, or online:

Even throughout the course of a single day, lactating breasts can quite dramatically change in size.

And I’m talking like a whole cup size!

There’s an art, then, to picking the correct size of nursing bra – though the ones I’ve ended up going with and sticking with over the last baby-filled years have been ones with a very stretchy fabric and many possible adjustments to somewhat accommodate this rapid and repeating-daily change.

Even so,

you may wake up in the morning feeling like you’re bursting out of your bra only to feel that it’s sort of too loose to do much good by bedtime.

3 Something Swollen

engorgement-cabbage-leaves-Instagram

Much of the time, after breastfeeding is established and a mom and her baby have a comfortable routine of supply and demand going, juuust the right amount seems to be produced at a time and during the course of a day.

Still, especially during the early days and weeks after birth or when feeding schedules change (think dropping a nighttime feeding, traveling, the baby getting distracted and eating less than usual because of a new or different environment, and so on), breasts can become swollen with milk.

I bet you’d have a hard time finding a breastfeeding mom who hadn’t at least a handful of times experienced “engorgement.” It can be simply noticeable but can also range to quite distracting or even incredibly (like prevent you from being able to sleep) painful.

What helps? Feeding the baby or pumping or hand-expressing some milk.

2 H2O Fo’ Sho’

drinking-water-Instagram

How do I sum this up…? How about this: It takes liquid to make liquid.

Many a pregnancy book, doctor, nurse, and lactation consultant will probably include a few keep things that should always be considered when setting up a “nursing station” (the area where you will commonly sit to feed your baby). One top factor will be support: that you are able to comfortably bring the baby to the breast without hunching or slumping over.

The other oh-so-important consideration: hydration. You’ll always want to have plenty of water within arm’s reach.

I’ve written articles about things you really need during life as a new mom that no one seems to mention, and a big water bottle that’s easy to drink from with one hand – but won’t spill easily – is always something I mention.

Seriously, no matter where I am in the house or out and about in the world as a nursing mom, I always have a water bottle with me.

1 The Allure Of Sleep

celebrity-cuddling-sleeping-baby-Instagram

Sometimes I know I’m tired (’cause, duh, I have a baby and a two-year-old…), but I don’t realize just how tired until I’ve settled in to breastfeed.

Soon after the let-down reflex occurs and the milk really starts flowing, I sometimes feel suddenly – incredibly – sleepy.

If for some very odd reason I’m not actually really, really tired that day, I’ll usually just feel suddenly very sedated and calm.

But for the most part, it’s a heavy, sleepy feeling that almost rushes over my head, making me wish so, so hard I could crawl into bed myself after putting my little ones down for their afternoon naps. But hey, someone has to write all these pregnancy and parenting articles for you!

Though they may not mention it in your parenting or childbirth class or books about what to expect when you’re expecting, feeling drowsy during or after breastfeeding is certainly a possibility.

Sources: Livestrong.com, Parents.com, BabyCenter.com

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