It’s world breastfeeding week! To celebrate, here are some bizarre facts you may not know.
1. You burn a ton of calories
Experts estimate that it takes about 500 calories to make the 24 to 28 ounces of breast milk that the average mom makes each day. That’s the caloric equivalent of a serious brownie (or if you’re eating healthier, about 20 medium carrots). Burning anywhere between 200 and 500 extra calories for milk production each day is a typical range.
2. Your milk comes from many holes, not just the obvious one
If you had to guess the spot where breast milk comes out, you’d probably say it’s right in the center of the nipple. In reality, milk comes from many openings in the nipple at once. Called “milk duct orifices,” these little holes usually number from around four to twenty per breast. Babies that are correctly latched onto the breast have their mouths covering the entire areola, not just the tip of the nipple, so they catch the spray from multiple holes without a problem.
3. Your nipples can hurt really badly
Breastfeeding might look easy, but it can be quite painful for the first few weeks or months. Getting baby to latch onto your breast at all, let alone correctly, can take time, and those 8 – 12 feeding sessions a day can leave your nipples feeling raw and sore. The discomfort can range from slight tenderness to cracked and bleeding skin.
Most women find that their breasts toughen up in about two weeks, but it’s important to get baby to latch on correctly and contact your healthcare provider if the pain persists, especially between feedings.
4. Your partner might sexualize it
Although your breasts have taken on a very different role for you recently as nutritional providers for baby, things may not have changed much for your partner. Chances are that your partner has a special fondness for your breasts, and seeing them–even with a baby attached to them–is still a turn-on.
If it’s weird for you, feel free to tell your partner not to watch. But if not, you might welcome the company and the attention during feeding sessions.
5. You might get turned on
Arousal during breastfeeding is a common and confusing side effect. Let’s face it: many women enjoy breast stimulation in their sex lives far before they ever have a baby, and erogenous zones don’t simply stop feeling good when touched.
It’s important to note that the physical arousal you feel is totally separate from anything emotional you feel towards your baby. Again, it’s incredibly common, despite it being a taboo subject for obvious reasons.
6. You might get cramps
Baby’s sucking causes the release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, and oxytocin creates uterine contractions. Although uncomfortable, these cramps (also called “afterpains”) are necessary to squeeze your uterus back to its pre-birth size.
7. Bigger breasts don’t equal more milk production
Milk glands are what matter when it comes to milk production, not breast size (which is mostly fatty tissue). A woman with an A-cup can make the same amount of milk as a woman with a double D; she just has less fatty tissue compared to glandular tissue.
8. Hearing a baby cry could make your breasts start to leak
The release of breast milk, called the let-down reflex, usually happens after baby has been sucking for about two minutes. The sucking triggers release of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates milk production. Some women feel the let-down reflex as a tingling or a warmth.
But other stimuli can trigger production of oxytocin besides sucking, including emotional ones like looking at a picture of baby, thinking of her, or hearing a recording of her. Sometimes even hearing any baby cry, not just your own, can trigger a sensitive let-down reflex.
9. You might get addicted to it
There’s not a lot of research to back it up, but some women swear that they find breastfeeding addictive because of the good feelings it brings and the calories it burns. Penelope Cruz famously stated that it’s “addictive. It’s hard when the day comes when you have to stop.”
10. You can do it with body modifications like breast implants or nipple piercings
Many women with breast implants can still breastfeed successfully. Incisions made through the armpit or underneath the breast tend to interfere with breastfeeding the least, whereas incisions around the areola can increase problems with feeding like reduced nipple sensitivity or blocked milk ducts. Implant placement below the pectoralis muscle usually leaves the milk glands intact for future feeding.
Although you shouldn’t breastfeed with your nipple jewelry in, the hole it leaves shouldn’t interfere with feedings. Like we mentioned in point number two above, milk comes from many holes at once; an additional one that you added yourself won’t cause a problem. However, newer piercings have increased risk of infection, so they should be fully healed before attempting breastfeeding.