After surviving labor and delivery, breastfeeding is not quite so intimidating. In a way, a new mom is even tougher than Rambo. She handles the blood and gore of childbirth, and then endures milk shooting from her body, all without the aid of an assault rifle.
When a mother nurses her baby for the first few days, she is not actually supplying milk, but a substance called “colostrum.” Colostrum provides all the nutrients that a baby needs until his mother’s milk comes in, usually around day four. Engorgement, a painful yet short-lived occurrence, also happens at this time. For a few days, your breasts will be painfully swollen with milk. You may experience The 9 to 5, the cruel irony about how you always wanted to look like Dolly Parton, but now it hurts too much to enjoy it. Sometimes the breasts become so hard and swollen that the baby has trouble latching on. For relief, you can express some milk by pumping or massaging circles around the breast.
Mothers have to be courageous in order to stick their breasts into a pump that looks and sounds like a mini-blender. (Even the bravest of men would hesitate before sticking a private part in there and trusting that all will be well.) Pumping milk may sound scary at first, but it is a completely painless process with all of the new fancy electronic equipment that is now available. Some women even pump both breasts at the same time – a true octopus maneuver – during breaks at the office. That could be a little awkward if your boss suddenly walked in at that moment. (Did you see the game last night? Go team!)
If no one has prepared you, the first time you have milk “let-down” can be shocking. Whenever your milk is about to flow, you will feel a tightening or tingling in the chest area. After this sensation, the milk will be “let-down” or released from your breasts. Sometimes your baby will have to suck for a while before the milk flows. Depending on your milk production, the milk may come in as slowly as a leaky faucet or as quickly as a monsoon. If you happen to have an overly abundant milk supply, this steady stream will be convenient for your baby, but messy for you.
Supply and Demand dictates that the more frequently you nurse, the more milk you produce. A baby’s cry will also stimulate milk production. You could be on a date with your husband when a crying baby in the restaurant stimulates your milk let-down. Since any crying baby can start your milk flowing, you have to be prepared for leaking.
THE LEAKY FAUCET
It is both annoying and amusing that when a baby nurses on one breast, the OTHER breast leaks at the same time. You need to cover the other breast with a cloth or towel to prevent making a mess. In an emergency situation, do The Hans Brinker to decrease the flow of milk by pressing firmly against the other breast. (Hans Brinker is the story in which a little Dutch boy saves his country by plugging a leaking dike with his finger.) Nursing pads for the bra can be handy, but they are small and expensive. Cut a maxi pad and stick it in each half of your bra. Maxi pads are twice as big and absorbent, and you can buy them in bulk inexpensively. Newborn diapers are another alternative.
The first time your milk comes in, you may have two huge wet circles on your shirt if you are not prepared for leakage. You will want to prevent that embarrassing moment of talking to someone and feeling milk leaking down your shirt. (Got milk?) To avoid looking like an advertisement for a wet t-shirt competition, use pads.