Ah, breastfeeding. A perfectly natural method, used for millennia to nourish and protect young children. But despite our countless years of practice, breastfeeding still isn’t a walk in the park for all new mothers – nipples can become cracked and sore, babies can struggle to latch on, and the frequency with which they feed can become a real drain. Sadly these are now expected from breastfeeding – but some things can still take us by surprise, like the following five titbits:
Lactational Amenorrhoea Method, or LAM, refers to the practice of exclusively breastfeeding a baby under 6 months before your periods have returned to normal, which acts as 98% effective form of birth control. This is because breastfeeding interferes with the release of hormones which cause ovulation – though given the uncomfortable nature of sex in the first few months after giving birth, you could probably avoid getting pregnant again by abstaining altogether!
Though we’d all like to imagine a stream of perfect white milk emerging from our breasts, reality can offer other plans. Normal breast milk is usually clear with a bluish tint to begin with – then as the fat content increases it becomes creamier and whiter. However it can also become other colours – foods such as spinach or seaweed can turn the milk green, whilst beetroots and orange drinks can cause it to take on a red, orange or even pink hue. “Rusty pipe syndrome”, when a small amount of blood from the nipple enters the milk, can turn it a not-too-appetising shade of brown, but much like the others it is usually nothing to worry about.
Though a mother’s breasts will be swollen soon after birth, their size will decrease dramatically as both she and the baby both get used to breastfeeding. A common misconception is that breasts are only “full” when they are swollen, but in fact waiting for them to fill up between feeding is counterproductive, as this tells your body that milk is needed less often than it actually is. Just go with the flow, as it were.
We may not give it as much thought as other aspects of post-natal period, but the womb will begin to shrink back to its normal size soon after birth. Breastfeeding can help trigger this process, because it releases the hormone oxytocin, which in turn causes contractions. These can be painful – possibly the more so the more kids you have as the uterus loses its natural elasticity – but they serve an important purpose in reducing post-natal blood loss.
Finally, Anything Can Set You Off
We’ve all heard of leaky/ squirting breasts around the time of nursing, but some mums have reported an unwelcome spray of milk just when talking about their babies. Hearing children and even thinking about them have also been known to get the ducts flowing, which just goes to show how connected mums are to their newborn babies.
For a bit of light relief after all of that, check out Toni Collette, Billie Piper and Shappi Khorsandi tackling the topic on The Graham Norton Show, along with another surprise they found out when they came to breastfeed…