I'll admit I was fairly unprepared to breastfeed when I had my first child.
And believe me, this was not from lack of trying to prepare. In fact, I'd read all the books and I'd taken all the classes, but it became abundantly clear, rather quickly, that all the reading material in the world wasn't going to ready me for the actual thing.
But after having three children and various degrees of success feeding them all, there's one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty: virtually nothing will go as planned.
I can also tell you that there are certain things you'll wish you'd known prior to undertaking the task that is feeding your baby with your own boobs. You also need to know that there will come a day when you'll look back and laugh about the cracked nipples, the embarrassing milk leakage and the mastitis. Okay, maybe you won't laugh about mastitis so much …
So here are 11 things you should know about your breasts and breastfeeding before you have a baby:
1. On about the third day postpartum, your boobs will start to look as though you've had an amazing boob job. Unfortunately, this isn't as hot as it sounds and if your partner so much as even looks at them sideways, it will cause you pain.
2. At some point in time, you will find yourself expressing milk into a takeaway cup. Without a doubt, you will get caught short at some point in public, and just to get some freaking relief you'll be asking the barista for a plastic cup and directions to their bathroom facilities.
3. There will come a time when you send your partner to a 24-hour chemist for some nipple shields. And although you believe this will be the answer to your prayers, they will be pretty much useless. Sorry.
4. You will have many in-depth discussions and seek advice on what are the best creams to sooth your bleeding, cracked nipples. Yes, that is correct. There will be cracks in your nipples. Your nipples will bleed. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. And that will be your nipple situation for a little while yet to come. Again, sorry.
5. The first time you attempt to feed, it will hurt. So will the second time. And the time after that. In fact, if you can persevere, around the two week mark is when you can start to tolerate and not flinch when the baby attaches.
6. There will come a day when you will shoot your partner in the face from a distance with your breast milk. Simply because you can.
7. You may have to stock up on cabbage leaves at some point. Mastitis is one of the most awful and debilitating illnesses that can happen when breastfeeding. It helps if you can recognise the symptoms early though. For starters, you will feel like you have the most god awful flu you've ever encountered. The other dead giveaway is that your boob (or boobs) will feel like they are on fire. For some reason, one I never bothered to investigate when I had mastitis FOUR times in a row, cabbage leaves placed upon your breasts soothe the condition. But you also really need to get yourself to the doctor as antibiotics may be necessary. And I cannot stress this enough - you need to do this doctor visit immediately.
8. Your baby will bite you. There will come a point in the breastfeeding relationship – obviously once your baby has cut their teeth – when they will bite your nipple. Just because they feel like it and they're testing out their new chompers. It will feel violating and shocking and this is sometimes a clear indicator that it's time to stop. For others, though, it's just a blip, and you can continue on as normal.
9. Your boobs will never quite be the same. And hey, this isn't such a bad thing. For those of us naturally small-breasted women it can mean an increase! Although to be fair, often it just means we are left with boobs the consistency of gym socks that can be rolled up and placed inside our A cup bras.
10. It will get easier. The thing is, it's easy to give up early on if you think it will painful and difficult forever. But like riding a bike, to use a really shit analogy, it actually gets easier if you can hang in there.
11. You will most probably beat yourself up if it doesn't turn out as anticipated. But please don't. My advice? Go in open-minded with no expectations, and if it doesn't work out, you (and your baby) will be just fine.
I guess the last one is the most important, as mothers, especially new ones, put so much pressure upon themselves to be perfect. Know this though: your baby will be just fine whether they are breastfed or not. I mean, tell me you can look at a fully grown human right now and determine if they were breast or bottle-fed as an infant. You can't, right?
Most important is your health and your baby's. Always.