It's completely normal to have a barrage of worries as a new mom, especially in the early days, when you're trying to figure out whether breastfeeding is going to work for you and your baby. Here, Toronto-based lactation consultant Taya Griffin spills the milk on what her clients are most surprised by:
1. Crusty nipples One of the most common questions in pregnancy is, “So…what is up with the crusty substance covering my nipples—it looks like my nipples already have scabs?!” Don’t worry. The crust-like, sometimes yellow substance is simply tiny amounts of colostrum, the first milk, which leaks out and dries on the nipple. Some pregnant mothers may leak enough to require a breast pad, others may be able to hand express and get a few drops out, while others may never notice any signs of milk before giving birth.
2. Is she getting enough? The resounding, most frequent worry is always, “How do I know that my baby is getting enough milk?” Your doctor or midwife may tell you to track diaper output; you may also be fixated on weight gain. We can also confirm that the baby is getting enough milk by simply watching what a newborn does at the breast. Your care provider should show you the difference between a suck and a drink, and help you adjust your latch to increase drinking.
3. Is nursing to sleep OK? In the first few weeks, a baby constantly falling asleep at the breast could signal trouble. The baby may not be transferring milk well due to a poor latch, then falls asleep due to lack of flow. But if your baby is drinking well and falls asleep while nursing, this can be heavenly. Sure, your non-breastfeeding partner may have to work out his or her own way to put the baby to sleep, but it’s not a necessity. Enjoy the sweet babyhood for as long as possible.
Take home a peri bottle from the hospital or order one on Amazon. It will be your most prized possession for the first two weeks at least (aside from your baby).Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No one told me how much I’d love the hospital-issue disposable mesh granny underpants for my post-C-section tummy. They didn’t rub or cut across my incision but made me feel covered up. I wished I’d snuck more out in my bag.” —Lauren FB.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“That breastfeeding your first baby will most likely hurt like hell. That no matter what fun and excitement your nipples have seen in the past, they’re about to go through marathon training at warp speed and will feel raw, hot and horrible for ages. With my first baby, despite having a great midwife and hiring a lactation consultant, it was literally six weeks before I could breastfeed without thinking that I’d rather chew nails. While everyone says that it can be ‘tough’ or ‘challenging,’ I don’t think we’re honest enough about setting expectations around this for new moms. Those of us who have been through it are sometimes afraid to scare our friends. And like most things childbirth related, the pain kind of fades with time. But yeesh. I wish I had known to expect it. I would have been more mentally prepared and I would have cut myself some slack.” —Jessica L.
“Your baby might be born with a full head of dark hair, but sometimes it falls out after a few weeks or months and grows back in, possibly in a different colour.” —Ariel B.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I was surprised that I didn’t feel the instant, overwhelming love for my baby that I’d heard people talk about. My partner had a C-section, so I was the first to hold our son, and I felt like he could have been anybody’s. He was just a baby, and I didn’t feel a special bond with him immediately. But by the end of the first week, I really fell deeply in love with him.” —Tom T.
“Not all diapers fit the same and not all babies are shaped the same. Different brands work for different baby butts.” —Tara-Michelle Z.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“Nobody told me about labour after-pains! I almost went to the emergency room. The second time around, I was more prepared, so I got some good drugs in advance.” —Tammy S.
“When your milk comes in, your boobs will feel like giant, painful, angry basketballs.” —Mandy M.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
How much time you’ll lose to googling the weirdest, grossest, most specific things.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“Babies grunt a lot and make tons of noise when they’re sleeping!” —Adam S.
Just how willing you will be to keep walking (or driving) to extend a nap.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“You might need someone to hold the baby during your postpartum exams. Bring your partner or a friend—or ask a nurse.” —Sasha E.
“I was surprised by how much I didn’t care who saw my breasts, even if I wasn’t actively nursing right that second. I got to the point where I would totally forget they were out and about.” —Miki G.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
Go for sleepers that zip up, not the ones with a snaps that never line up. Faster is better when your baby is wiggling around and it’s the seventh outfit change of the day.
“Try to do only one thing a day—make that your goal. Sometimes it will just be showering and sometimes it will be an errand or bigger task.” —Tara-Michelle Z.
“I wish someone had told us to invest in a swing ahead of time. I’ll never forget coming downstairs at 2 a.m. to see my baby on the couch, screaming, and my husband frantically putting together the newly purchased swing, like some demented version of Christmas Eve. That swing was the only place our baby would nap that wasn’t on me. It was where the grandparents would put him when they didn’t know what to do, and it was where I would put him when I didn’t know what to do, either. Total lifesaver. Our next kid is living in the swing for the first three months.” —Vanessa M.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I wish someone had told me, sooner, how awesome and convenient formula can be. For the first six months I struggled and stressed about pumping enough extra milk for feedings when I had to be away from the baby, but as it turns out, he was totally fine with the occasional bottle of formula. I was so relieved, and I felt pretty dumb for worrying so much, needlessly.” —Ariel B.
It takes a complex work-back schedule, two hours and at least one diaper blowout to MacGyver everything you could possibly need into the diaper bag and leave the house.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“A friend told me the fussiness peaks at six weeks and subsides by day 100. I marked both in my calendar and crossed off the days. It was true.” —Mandy M.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I was amazed by bazooka barfing, and I was stunned by how much poo comes out of a little person.” —Alex F.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I had no idea how hard breastfeeding can be. I know it’s easy for some, but for us, there were a lot of difficulties: engorgement, the baby didn’t latch very well, he had a smaller than average mouth, and he may have been tongue-tied. We spent the first two weeks at hospital breastfeeding clinics and having lactation consultants come. There was a lot of desperate microwave cleaning of pump stuff at all hours. That was really the worst. I knew there could be ‘difficulties’ but didn’t know how intense consequences would be. Everything turned out OK in the end, once he grew a bit more and became better at nursing. It was touch and go at first, though.” —Tom T.
“I was surprised by the arrival of my maternal super powers: hearing your own baby’s cries in a room full of screaming little ones, waking up from a dead sleep when the baby merely wiggles, and the ability to suddenly just handle getting puked or pooped on like it’s
no big deal.” —Vanessa G.
“I’m not a touchy-feely guy, and I hadn’t been around many kids before we had a baby, so I was surprised by the comfort my son finds with me. A tiny being wanting to lie on top of me and sleep, because it is such a safe refuge to him? That’s something I never knew could exist.” —Mohammed H.
“No one told me that formula is actually recommended for some babies. My son was a preemie, and the doctors in the NICU recommended one bottle a day of phosphate-rich formula to replace what he didn’t get in utero and what breast milk could not provide. I was still actively breastfeeding, but needed a bit of formula as well. Formula and nursing can, and did, work just fine together.” —Sasha E.
“I’ve been surprised by just how outrageously funny I think my baby is. We laugh so much more deeply and regularly than I’d anticipated. This is not generally hailed as a reason to pro-create, but it should be.” —Jacob K.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“Babies are pretty good sleepers the first 24 hours they’re alive. So you should sleep, too, even though you’re excited and want visitors.” —Mandy M.
“Nobody tells you that you don’t actually get to decide what type of parent you’re going to be—your baby decides for you. Sure, you can decide ahead of time that you’re going to co-sleep, but if your kid keeps you up all night kicking, you’re probably going to get a crib (or vice versa, if your kid screams in the crib). Or you can decide to be the kind of cool, easygoing parents you’ve seen with their kids at hip restaurants, staying up to 11 p.m.—the ‘I’m not going to adapt to my baby, my baby will adapt to me’ crowd—but if you have a kid who melts down at 8 p.m. on the dot no matter what, those late dinners get old fast.” —Kalli A.
Your breasts will leak at the most inopportune times—if you’re wearing something nice, it’s basically guaranteed.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
When you sit down to feed the baby, your phone, the remote and your water glass (if you’re nursing, you will be dying of thirst) are always JUST out of reach.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“That your baby’s sleep the first few days or weeks may not be indicative of what kind of sleeper they’ll be for the rest of the first six months.” —Patrick F.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
Ah, the irony: When you need those sleep books most, you’re too tired to read them. And why are they all longer than War and Peace?Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“I thought the very beginning with a newborn was easier than the four- to six-week mark. I hit a bump in the road when the visits tapered off and the excitement started to fade a little. Then the real tough part begins. But it’s OK to feel that way.” —Jacqueline L.
“Glow-in-the-dark pacifiers (if your baby uses a soother) are a game-changer at night. No more fumbling all over the corners of the crib, frantically trying to pop the paci back in.” —Ariel B.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No one told me that breastfeeding might actually be easy, or at least not that hard. I was really, really worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Maybe I’m in the minority, but it worked just fine for us. I think buying and preparing formula and washing and sterilizing all those bottles would have been much harder. Boobs are convenient. Boobs are free. Yay for boobs!” —Emily S.
“That babywearing might not work for you. I felt guilty or somehow like less of a mom because my baby hated the carrier. Yet all the hipster Instagram moms were all about taking babywearing selfies with their newborns snoozing peacefully. I lost patience with the complicated wraps and after about month 4 or 5, my son would totally freak out in the Ergo. Now I know he’s just a super active kid who wanted to crawl and walk and not be strapped to a larger human.” —Ariel B.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“How much mess my kid would make! She spit up or pooped on everything we own, so there is no point in investing in any nice clothing or furniture until she’s a teenager.” —Kate D.
Your diet becomes 90 percent coffee, 10 percent Mum-Mum crackers and Cheerios you stole from your baby.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No one told me that 60 percent of parenting a baby is about logistics and how to get somewhere, in what type of clothing, and using which baby-transporting device. Is it close enough to walk or should you drive? What’s the weather like? Is the baby more likely to sleep in the carrier or in the stroller? Will he be warm enough? Actually, might he overheat in that cute bear suit once you’re inside the grocery store? What if you DON’T want him to fall asleep yet? Is that subway station stroller accessible? It was exhausting.” —Ariel B.
“That you might not love mat leave. I hated my first mat leave; I loved my second.” —Kim S.
“I wasn’t prepared for the unpredictability of the sleep patterns. I assumed that the sleep would get better and follow some sort of progression, but was surprised at how back and forth it all was. Case in point: Our eldest daughter slept through the night when she was a few weeks old. You can guess how many more times that happened before she turned 18 months old.” —Blaine B.
“What surprised me: How much I needed my mom, and how isolated I would begin to feel from friends. And how my entire day would revolve around naps (his and mine).”—Kristin W.
“Read books about children—not about childbirth. Birth is only one day, but raising a child is forever.” —Kate D.
“No one told me about breastfeeding and diminished sex drive. I thought I would never want to have sex again. Then I stopped breastfeeding and my sex drive returned somewhat, and I was relieved. There must be something in those hormones.” —Emily S.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“New dads: make sure you get time alone with the baby, when Mama isn’t looking over your shoulder, judging weather you’re doing it right. It forces you to find your own soothing techniques.” —Mitch B.
“The realization that I’d never again be alone in my own head. I knew I’d love my baby, but I didn’t realize that there’d be a chunk of my brain dedicated to thinking about her all the time. Four years on, it hasn’t changed. Does it ever?” —Aileen N.Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld
“No amount of organizing can prepare you for not being able to plan. I learned that the only thing I could plan for was the likelihood that all plans would change.” —Tara-Michelle Z.
“No one told me that pushing a stroller engages your abdominal muscles, which is a too-strenuous no-no right after a C-section.” —Lauren FB.
“Just when you think you have got things figured out (or that you can’t take whatever stage you’re at for another moment), things change. Nothing is constant, good or bad, except your love, of course. And you miss it all when it’s gone.” —Jacqueline L.
“Babies don’t give a sh*t about lovely designer wooden toys. They want the loud, ugly plastic ones.” —Mandy M.
“As a new dad, I wasn’t prepared for the extent of the sadness you feel when you have to go back to work so soon post-birth. I was lucky enough to take a couple weeks off with each kid, but going back to work was a significantly worse downer than I expected.” —Blaine B.
“How much I obsessed about going back to work and how many tears I cried about the idea of leaving my daughter. It’s definitely been a transition, but it wasn’t as bad as I built it up in my head.” —Kate D.
“I’d like to scream this from the rooftops for new parents: you’re doing a good job. I don’t know why we don’t tell parents this more often, but seriously, you are. Babies are brutal to take care of, sleep deprivation is no joke, having problems breastfeeding is no joke: This stuff is HARD! Parenting a small child was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Everyone gives you advice about what to do, what not to do, how to do things perfectly, risks and studies, how cavemen did it and how mothers in France do it, and on and on. But if you are alive and your baby is alive and you make it to the point where your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, you get a gold star. You are doing a GREAT job.” —Vanessa M.