Babies are so great. They are wonderful little creatures whose wonderfulness more than compensates for all of the crazy things that they do to your life and to your body. And that’s a good thing, because “crazy” is exactly what the things that they do to you are.
Today we need to go wayyy over there into OvershareLand and talk about boobs, and exactly what goes on with them in the weeks and months after the baby arrives…because when I was pregnant I read all the books about what happens to you post-pregnancy – hell, I wrote a book about this – and even when I had already gone through it once before, I was still floored by what happens to the top half of your body in the weeks following the birth.
I just got an email from a friend in London who had a baby a couple of days ago who’s in a complete panic about what’s going on with her breasts – “Is this normal? How can this be normal?!” – and I realized: for whatever reason, nobody seems to talk about this particular part of baby-having. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to scare you, or maybe it’s because they want to make sure that you prioritize breastfeeding, or maybe it’s because it’s just super-personal and a little uncomfortable to talk about…but regardless: it’s always better to know what’s coming, so you can be prepared and not have to do what I did, which is frantically google “my breasts are the size of basketballs and I think they might fall off” while yowling for your husband to bring you a hot water bottle.
A few days postpartum
So here’s what happens, for those of you who have yet to experience this (or who have forgotten, as I apparently did immediately after having Indy): a couple of days after the baby arrives, your milk comes in, and celebrates its arrival by providing you with about ten thousand times the amount of fluid required to feed an eight-pound infant. I went from a DD to something north of a G (for real) in what felt like ten minutes, and let me tell you: that is not fun. While your body figures out what’s going on, there is a lot of discomfort (ok, searing pain)…and a lot of leaking, which can be kinda embarrassing. The worst part, for me: with Goldie, I developed a plugged duct, which I’d never had with Indy – but oh my goodness, is this ever painful.
Have I scared you yet?
Don’t be scared; the bad part doesn’t last all that long; your body will settle down in two or three weeks, and breastfeeding should start feeling, if not like second nature (not everyone takes to it the same way), at the very least not painful or excessively stressful. That said, it can help to have a few tricks at the ready for that time period during which everything’s going a little nuts.
Presenting: The How-To Guide For Boobs After Baby
- Before you go into the hospital, stock up on supportive nursing bras…or supportive sports bras that are stretchy enough to pull down so you can breastfeed. My advice: skip the underwire bras entirely; underwires not only contribute to developing blockages, but are insanely uncomfortable during those early days. Honestly, you know what my favorite bra was for the duration of my breastfeeding? A sports-bra-style (meaning supportive and with decent coverage) swimsuit top. Whatever works.
- If you develop a plugged duct, you will know it: it makes the part of your breast where the milk is blocked get rock-hard, and it hurts like crazy. (In a worst-case scenario, a plugged duct can develop into mastitis; click here to read Jessica Quirk of What I Wore’s story.) What to do: take a hot shower, then wrap the affected area in hot (as hot as you can stand) towels, and then feed your baby from a bunch of different positions to help release the blockage (you’ll know when you’ve hit the right angle, because it will both hurt and feel amazing, like rubbing on a sore muscle). Repeat as necessary, feeding the baby as often as you can, and call the doctor right away if you notice any signs of mastitis (fever, redness, et cetera).
- If you’re going out in public to places where leaking would be embarrassing (or just don’t feel like doing laundry every thirty seconds), stock up on nursing pads.
- If it hurts when your baby latches, skip the pricey creams: a little olive oil works just as well. Put it on after every feeding, and it should help a ton.
- Finally, once you stop breastfeeding, wait a week or two for your breasts to go back to something approximating their “regular” size, and then get thee to a lingerie store and get yourself measured: I can virtually guarantee that by now you have absolutely no idea what size bra you should be wearing, since your breasts are almost certainly smaller and located further south than they were pre-baby (sorry about that). I just stopped breastfeeding recently, and made this discovery at a Victoria’s Secret in Miami, where I picked up this pretty thing to make myself feel better about the whole Post-Baby Boobs deal.
Did I forget anything? Any other questions? I’m obviously no expert on this, but I have been through it a couple of times now, so feel free to ask away.