Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!) so we’ve decided that now and again, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on August 8, 2011.

This may be a little intimate, but let’s talk about breasts! After the jump, of course…

I’ve always been a pretty modest person (in high school gym class, I was one of the girls who would change in the bathroom) but now that I’ve had a baby, I’m much more open about certain body parts: namely, breasts. They just seem so functional and quotidian to me now. So, if you’re game, I’d love to chat about all things breasty.

Seven things that surprised me about breastfeeding:

1. Breastfeeding burns a whopping 500 calories per day! I was really surprised to hear that. Even if you sit perfectly still all day, you burn as many calories as if you’d run five miles. Needless to say, you get hungry like the wolf. I remember drinking an average of four glasses of whole milk every day, and once, I ate an entire tuna pasta salad in the middle of the night. The next morning, my mom, who was visiting, was like, “Where’s the pasta salad?” I was like….In. My. Belly.

2. You get overwhelmingly thirsty. As soon as I’d start nursing Toby, I’d get hit with a wave of thirst like a Mack truck. All I would be able to think was, “Water, water, water….” until I was glugging down a huge glass. Alex actually bought me a giant water bottle, and honestly it was one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever gotten.

3. You can squirt milk across the room. (Is that TMI?) Before having a baby, I imagined that a nipple would function like a single straw, but actually they’re more like this kitchen faucet. Milk sprays out a bunch of teeny holes, and, if you squeeze your breast, you can spray milk right across the room! It would be an awesome party trick if it were the least bit socially acceptable.

4. Nursing bras can be sexy. I dragged my feet when shopping for a nursing bra because I figured I’d be stuck wearing a hideous functional number for the next twelve months. But! I was thrilled to discover Elle MacPherson nursing bras. They’re soft and pretty, and I love how the black lace peeks out from beneath tank tops and cardigans.

5. Babies are completely over-the-moon about milk. It’s so, so, so adorable how much babies love milk. Toby would get so excited before feeding; he’d root around trying to find the boob. He’d frantically move his tiny head around, like, where is it, where is it…he’d find his fist and suck like crazy…and then be like, oh, wait, that’s not it….where is it….YES, here it is!!!! And his eyes would basically roll back in his head, he was so happy. (And then he’d get his drunken sailor face:)

6. You can literally feel drained afterward. Sometimes I’d stumble out of the nursery after giving Toby his bedtime feed, and tell Alex, “I feel like the energy was just truly sucked out of me.” It can be exhausting. I mean, you’re fattening up a baby. Of course, it can be really wonderful, cozy and profound at the same time.

7. You get big boobs! Kind of embarrassing but one of my favorite parts of pregnancy/nursing was finally experiencing bigger boobs. I’ve always been a flat-chested girl (I even wore those chicken cutlets at my wedding), and I’ve long been curious about what it would be like to have big breasts even just for one day. Well, when I was pregnant, my breasts kept growing, and when Toby was born and I started nursing, they felt HUGE (at least to me). It was a thrill to have big boobs, including cleavage, for the first time ever! (Here are my small boobs; here are my big boobs:) Of course, now that Toby has stopped nursing, my boobs have shrunk down to their pre-baby size. But I’ll never forget my one glorious well-endowed year.

Toby eating lunch in our hospital room when he was one day old.

Finally, the breastfeeding book I swear by: A few of my best friends found breastfeeding very difficult at first (one even said it was harder than labor, ouch!). I felt hugely grateful to have a relatively easy time with nursing, and, along with biology and luck, I credit The Nursing Mother’s Companion for helping make breastfeeding easier. With a straightforward, reassuring tone, the book shows you how to help your baby latch on correctly and overcome obstacles. My friend Samantha gave me her dog-eared copy before Toby was born, and I’m so thankful she did. I’d highly recommend it to all mothers-to-be who plan to nurse. (And good luck to you! I know everyone’s experience is different.)

I’m so curious: What was your experience with breastfeeding? Did you breastfeed or decide not to? What were those early days like for you? (I am so amazed by moms who handled sore breasts on top of everything else in new motherhood! What heros!) What surprised you? I would LOVE to hear…

P.S. Breastfeeding in public, and the depression I experienced after weaning.