The breastfeeding problems I'm about to describe may sound trivial to people who really struggled to breastfeed their babies, but I was fortunate in that I breastfed my son with no problems, but these issues caught me unprepared. A few days after Joshua was born my milk came in, and I suddenly realized my boobs were HUGE. I mean, Dolly Parton huge.
Besides being swollen, sore and sweaty, my boobs also had very prominent veins running through them. I'd seen these bulging "milk veins" on horses and cows before. The prominent blue veins running through the pale white skin on my chest and arms were present thanks to the extra blood running to my mammary glands to make milk. But the combined extra blood flow and engorgement made my boobs seem gigantic.
Now, I've always been happy to describe myself as voluptuous, wearing a D-cup. My family had joked that I'd be a "good milker" when I had children (we live on a farm, after all). In preparation for breastfeeding I bought a few nursing bras in size XL thinking surely they would fit. As I grew during my pregnancy, I started wearing these nursing bras and they fit quite comfortably. However, once my milk came in, these XL bras suddenly seemed so small. The straps were too short and they dug into my shoulders. The cups were far too small and dug into my sensitive skin, making it painful to wear these bras at all. I kicked myself for opting not to visit the Women's Wellness Center where they were offering free bra fittings. I toyed with the idea of skipping a bra altogether. Bad idea! Not only were my boobs huge, they leaked. A lot.
I was really unprepared for how much leaking there would be. I didn't want disposables nursing pads, so I figured the eight or so washable organic cotton pads I bought would be sufficient. I was clearly ignorant. Within minutes, my nursing pads were soaked and so was my shirt. I spent much of the first few days after my milk came in changing my shirt. The many visitors who stopped by to meet Joshua were treated to a glimpse of two circles of milk on my top. Eight nursing pads were nowhere near enough for one day of leaking during that first week.
The embarrassment of leaking in front of guests and the pain of my too-tight nursing bras were starting to get stressful. Fortunately, I had a great support team. My mom scoured grocery stores and pharmacies in all the surrounding towns and found some disposable nursing pads for me. It was such a relief to forget about doing the laundry and instead toss the soaked nursing pads. Opting for disposables is out of character for me, but in that first week they saved my sanity. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law went out and bought me an appropriately huge nursing bra. When I finally put it on with the disposable nursing pads, I was so much more comfortable. I ordered more huge nursing bras online and wore my new one day and night until the reinforcements arrived.
Five months later, my boobs are still huge and I still leak a lot, though it's limited to when I'm actually breastfeeding. I have plenty of bras that fit, in all different colors, and use a Milkies Milk Saver on the opposite side when I'm nursing to capture the leaking milk in order to add to the pumped breastmilk stash. I still use disposable nursing pads in between feedings, but I'm currently looking into getting some more reusable ones. I'm sure to tell my pregnant friends to be prepared for big boobs and big leaks!