Like many women out there, I have never been able to walk into a big chain lingerie store and purchase the slinky number adorned by the mannequin. Even at my lowest adult dress size (which was admittedly some time ago) my bust was too large to be fashionable. I was always lead past the lovely laces and animal prints, and tossed a blocky solid color full-coverage number over the dressing room door.
But you may need to pay attention. Especially if you are among the women who presume that since breastfeeding is what breasts are made for, it should be super easy for your super big bongos.
Are you freaking kidding me?!!!
Welcome to the wonderful world of breastfeeding! Of nourishing your child the way nature intended, with the fruit of your very own body! Embrace the feeling of accomplishment as your child suckles and receives the perfect formula of life-giving ambrosia and- wait, whoa whoa whoa. What is this? WHAT IS THIS?? What do you mean the milk just came in?
Finally we are in serious danger of what our heavy chests have been threatening to do to us for years: we are going to tip over face first.
As if there isn’t enough for a new mother to contend with! Pain after birth, possible recovery from surgery, soreness, exhaustion, tender nipples, cracking and bleeding, stress and fear of being a new mom, and caring for baby all weigh heavily on us the first few weeks. Now be sure to add a few more pounds in the form of boob.
Most women get excited and think to themselves, “Hoooo howdy, I hope these bad boys stick around, this is a sweet consolation prize in exchange for the eternal belly pooch!”
But not us.
We pull apart our dresser drawers looking for the baggiest tee shirt we can find, a poncho, a circus tent, anything. Maternity clothes cannot camouflage the fact that, despite getting the baby out of your belly, you once again cannot see your feet. Do not enter the sports department of any store unless you want to be accused of smuggling basketballs.
This is engorgement. Slap some cabbage leaves on those suckers and grab some frozen peas- or better yet, like nine bags of them. Four to cover each breast, and one for the neutral zone in between, since it will suddenly become Death Valley. Which brings me to my next point.
You thought you had to deal with boob sweat before? HA! You know nothing of suffering.
I hope you’re enjoying your new size. You may have noticed however that your breasts have fused together. Where you used to employ the lift-and-scoop technique to readjust in as much subtlety as possible, you will now abandon all attempts at modesty to attain sweet relief. I had two children in summer months (July and June, respectively) and spent many minutes with both hands down my blouse pulling my breasts apart while standing directly in front of the air conditioning unit.
If you have ever gone dancing until you were red in the face and chest, then you may understand what it is like to be a new nursing mother. Hormones may cause you to feel like this all the time. Yes, even in December, I was still wearing a tank top. And often no undergarments. And this is because:
Nursing Bras Can Be a Lie!
You did all the clever things when pregnant. You knew you wanted to breastfeed, you did your research. I’m sure, you knew that you would require a larger size bra since you would now carry around a pair of udders on your chest. You went to the maternity store, where they measured you and recommended the proper size you should purchase in preparation. Perhaps you even registered for the largest size nursing bra your local baby store carries, which a well-meaning relative may have bought for you as a gift. You packed it in your hospital bag, ready and waiting for your lovely little one’s arrival.
You put it on. Readjust. You take it off. Reading the instructions. You check the size. Put it back on. You look in the mirror. What in the heck is this contraption? What am I doing wrong?
So many nursing bras are designed for women of a smaller size than what we have to contend with. Manufacturers often seem to take the same designs and just add more fabric so they can charge ten dollars more and sell to a larger market. It can be so difficult to find one that will fit you. DO NOT struggle to wear these in discomfort. I have made this mistake, trying to convince myself to power through since I couldn’t return the garment (various return policies have made this difficult). But, please don’t do this to yourself. A poorly fitting nursing bra can severely impact your entire nursing experience, even going so far as to affect your supply.
But I will be honest in this: my lovely ladies need support.
You can’t stick me in a sleep bra, slap a nursing pad on each nip and call it a day. I need coverage, or I will be in PAIN. Even though this may go against some advice, I found I could not be comfortable (or decent in public) without underwire. And make sure you can get easily in and out of these torture traps, because you’ll have enough to worry about when you realize:
My Boob is Bigger Than My Baby!!!
“OH MY GOSH HE CAN’T BREATHE- no, no, he’s okay, look, chest up and down and- NOPE THERE HE GOES AGAIN AM I COVERING HIS NOSE- no I’m just being paranoid, baby has instincts and he won’t suffo- YES HE IS, HE’S SUFFOCATING SOMEONE HELP I’M DOING THIS WRONG-“
I have experienced this phenomenon with all three newborns that I nursed. With proper positioning, you can avoid most scenarios where air flow would be a concern. However being that I am not perfect (total shocker, I know), I did have many occasions where I thought my breast would swallow my child’s face completely and they would become encompassed; like in The Blob. I can’t even say with confidence, years later, that my fears were unfounded.
Advice on this front? Seek a lactation consultant! They can help you find breastfeeding positions that are comfortable for both you and your baby. You can also attend a meeting of your local chapter of La Leche League. This will be excellent practice for you, particularly if you’re seeking a safe space to become comfortable with breastfeeding in public. Oh, by the way, about that….
Nursing in Public? Might as Well Rent a Billboard.
I have seen a series of expressions on the faces of onlookers, which I will now attempt to translate into thought processes:
“What is that woman doing over there? I see she has a crying baby, is she going to give it a bottle? Oh, a bottle she warmed under her shirt? No, she’s going to feed the baby a turnip. A huge turnip, what the heck is – NOPE NOT A TURNIP IT’S A BOOB A REALLY BIG REALLY PALE BOOB, I’M SO SORRY, LOOK AWAY LOOK AWAY-“
Discretion is not always possible when you are well-endowed.
I have seen some truly talented women nurse with just a nippie out, and no one is any the wiser. I have seen whole boob exposed and no one realized; I have seen nursing in a carrier; I have seen nursing clothes that have more versatility than a Swiss Army Knife. But the larger the feed bags, the larger the notice. Another reason why breastfeeding in public is so important; so all women can feel comfortable while doing something as simple as feeding their baby.
I know all these things can be so hard to work through. So many obstacles to overcome!
But I promise, it does get better.
I mean, each breast is still bigger than my kid’s head, and he’s two. But there is definitely a learning curve. You and baby learn from each other. You learn from your own mistakes. And slowly, things start to get easier.
Engorgement will eventually ease. There will be times between feedings when you feel like you will burst! But you won’t always look like a balloon artist. And you will settle into a groove with your little one.
You will find that nursing bra that fits you just the way you need, there are so many more places to find them than you realized! You will be lifted, supported, and temperature controlled (hormones notwithstanding). More importantly, you will be comfortable in your ability, and in your own skin.
Your newfound comfort will enable you to nurse when and where you need to, with less and less concern for the potential surveillance of passersby.
You will be helping destigmatize breastfeeding!
Finally, you will discover that through all the trials you have endured, it is so worth it.
Your gigantic breasts, which may have been a curse for you for much of your life, have become something of a safe haven for your little one. When stressed or scared, my Little Bug (my youngest child) would stick his hands down my shirt for reassurance, and he would center himself. Even now, he runs to me and treats them like fluffy pillows, a comforting place to lay his head months after weaning. You are the soothing place your child will come to, and this is perfectly normal and natural. From you they receive their nourishment, and from you they receive their first education. Be that safe place to venture from, and eventually return to when the world is scary.
And dang it, be proud.
You are a mighty mama. Don’t let those mighty mammoglands deter you from accomplishing your goal. Feed that baby. Because at the end of the day, they’re all NBD, baby! No big deal. They’re big huge ones, yeah, but since you’ve already been handling them for years…
You can totally handle breastfeeding.
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Latest posts by Jacqueline Falvey-Rossi (see all)
- Why are Breastfeeding Gifts for an Expectant Mother Important? - April 19, 2017
- Breastfeeding with Ginormous Boobs – What It’s Really Like - March 22, 2017