Before you were blessed with your little bundle, you probably hadn't heard that your legs might get hairier or your nipples would darken as your baby bump grew bigger. Now, if you’ve decided to breastfeed, you might be wondering what nursing-related secrets lie ahead! After all, you can learn the fundamentals in a Breastfeeding 101 course, but you simply cannot comprehend the things you’ll experience until you actually begin nourishing your newborn.
Please note: This post does not intend to support any feeding methods over others, we recommend you choose whatever works best for both you and your baby. But, for those who have chosen to nurse or are curious, read below to see 6 things that new mums should know about breastfeeding.
1. You May Not Have Periods for a While
Of course, everyone is different, but many mums can enjoy the unexpected perk of not menstruating while exclusively breastfeeding. If you’re doing a combination of bottle feeding and breastfeeding it’s hard to say when your period will return, but according to the NHS it could start as early as 5 – 6 weeks after you give birth.
The reason your cycle can be stopped lies with the hormone Prolactin. Prolactin production is stimulated by your baby’s suckling, and causes your body to produce more breast milk, which can also lead to a shift in the number of hormones produced to control your periods. Think of it as a push-and-pull situation – the more you breastfeed, the less period controlling hormones you’ll produce, and the longer you could go without a period! As you start weaning your baby and breastfeeding less often, you might notice some light spotting as a sign that your cycle is starting up again.
Keeping things simple when it comes to the questions of ‘how long for’, if a mother breastfeeds for more than one year, they often won’t get their periods for an average of 14 months, but obviously every woman varies and this largely depends on if they breastfeed exclusively both day and night, use a dummy, have started on solid foods, and more.
Just remember, you can get pregnant again without having started your period, so starting a birth control method may be your answer if you don’t want another bun in the oven so soon. Some types of birth control are not recommended while breastfeeding, so speak to your GP before resuming any methods you used pre-pregnancy.
2. The Lazy Looking Breast
At first, your breasts will become larger, usually making them one-two sizes bigger - oh, the joy! If your baby becomes more accustomed to one breast or you forget which side you last fed on, the most active side will look a little lazy compared to the other that is still full of milk.
FYI: Between feeds, your breasts may leak milk, so for these unwanted seepages we recommend our bestselling Close Pop-In Reusable Breast Pads which come in a handy pack of 6 with a little mesh bag for storage, and can be machine washed to be used time and time again.
3. Nursing Induces Sleep
You may have heard that babies fall asleep while feeding, but did you know that sleep-deprived mums can nod off, too? When the body releases the hormone oxytocin, it has a calming effect that allows nursing mums to relax - sometimes a bit too much!
FYI: Falling asleep with your baby can pose an extremely high risk of SIDS. For more information, visit the Lullaby Trust.
4. Say Nope to Soap?
Sounds strange to say but experts have suggested women avoid using soap to clean their breasts. The reason lies in the idea that lathering your breasts with lots of soap can dry out your skin, which could lead to uncomfortably cracked nipples.
Having said that, plenty of women use soap and find it causes no issues other than a nice clean body! Gentle cleansers that are fragrance free and suitable for sensitive skin usually do the trick. We suggest trying different soaps and finding out what works for you.
To relieve the pain of sore or cracked nipples, we recommend using the Mama Mio Keep Calm Nipple Balm which uses organic ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter to help soothe sensitive nipples.
5. Drink with Caution
A little bit of drinking can be okay, but time your cocktail consumption carefully because according to La Leche League your milk-alcohol level equals your pre-pregnancy blood-alcohol level, and too much could harm your baby.
In other words, if you’re still feeling that G&T buzz after a social gathering, alcohol is still in your milk! The NHS recommends waiting at least 2-3 hours per unit after your last alcoholic drink to breastfeed again. But, if your baby is scheduled a feed within that three-hour time frame, you can always make sure you’ve pumped enough before the party. To ensure your milk supply doesn’t diminish and to avoid uncomfortably full breasts, we would also recommend pumping at your scheduled feeding time whilst your baby drinks previously expressed milk and discarding the alcohol-tainted milk. This does not however, mean any milk remaining is free of alcohol – it will still take the previously mentioned 2-3 hours to clear.
6. You May Get Bitten
Some new mums decide to call it quits once their baby’s first tooth arrives for fear of being bitten, but this needn’t be the case. A curious baby may nip you after they’re done feeding or as they attach to the breast it may feel uncomfortable even though they aren’t actually biting down. This could be due to teething or a general interest in the different textures and may only happen a couple of times. However, it is worth noting that babies will explore with their mouth all the time! You've likely been bitten on the nose, neck and more as they start to discover new sensations. If they start a habit of nibbling once they’re finished feeding, you could be able to avoid this by paying attention to their cues and ending the feed before they have time to explore with their teeth. For more information, visit La Leche League.