Monday, October 18, 2010

Breastfeeding is f***ing hard

Breastfeeding, every new mother’s nightmare. From the day you start telling people that you’re pregnant you’re going to be talking about little else, and everyone has an opinion. Hell, you probably have an opinion right now too. Most subjects relating to babies and parenting are hot button subjects, generally it’s an either you agree with me or you’re totally wrong approach, and nowhere is this truer than for breastfeeding. Now, I really, truly, honestly don’t care what you do. I’m just sharing my own personal, no judgment about what anybody else does, views and I’d appreciate it if the same courtesy was extended to me, thank you very much.
When I was pregnant with my first child, the Boy, I wasn’t all too sure about the whole breastfeeding lark, I mean, I was bottle-fed and I turned out just fine. (Yes, I was born in the 70’s, the dark ages of breastfeeding – so was the Husband, this’ll be relevant in future posts.) Then I bought the La Leche League book “The Womanly art of Breastfeeding” and started thinking that maybe breastfeeding wasn’t so bad after all and I might just give it a try. Basically, I had a pretty laissez faire attitude about the whole thing, sure I’d like to nurse my baby, but if I can’t for whatever reason it’s no big deal, and I certainly won’t be doing it for over six months.
Though for some reason whenever someone started in on me with a “you must breastfeed or you’re a horrible mother” attitude, I would find myself being totally contrary and telling them I was too busy, plus I liked my boobs north-facing and why don’t you just mind your damn business already. Anyway, during my first pregnancy I did my homework, thought I had figured out what position the baby was supposed to be in for optimum nursing, memorized the pictures of what a proper latch-on was supposed to look like, I even got a cream to prep my nipples and reduce the chance of pain. Ha, ha, ha. Sorry, but seriously, new mothers are so naïve!
So I birth the boy, (and that’s a story for another post) and full of hope and optimism I put him to the boob. OW! Oh, right, the book says that if it hurts it means you’re not doing it correctly, let’s try again. OOOOOWWWW! Oh, ok, he’s not opening his mouth enough, and the chin isn’t positioned right… hellllooooo, he’s a newborn, he’s busy doing this new cool thing called breathing air, and what’s with all the light, he does NOT want to have to figure out how to latch on without hurting mommy he just wants the damn milk already. You know the saying, start as you mean to go? Yep, that’s what happened here, two months of pain, frustration, weigh ins, top up bottles, frustration, crying (both of us), and oh, did I mention the frustration? And then, VICTORY, month three and I was solely breastfeeding, no more bottles. Of course, it didn’t last, by month four he decided he did NOT WANT TO WAIT FOR THE STUPID MILK TO LET DOWN and we went back to mixed feeding. At that point though breastfeeding him had become such an obsession that I wasn’t doing the smart, practical thing (i.e. giving him formula in those two bottles he had a day), no, I was expressing so he only had breast milk.  By the end of month five I threw in the towel and switched to formula. My heart broke. I felt like such a huge failure. Look at me, I can’t even feed my baby.
So the next year, when the Girl was born, I was gung ho about the breastfeeding, no bottles, no pacifiers, just the boob, anytime, anywhere. This time it went fine, of course, so fine in fact that now that I want her to stop breastfeeding, I CAN’T GET HER OFF THE DAMN BOOB. But the point of this post is this:
Breastfeeding is hard. Sometimes a feeding takes forever, cause the baby is a slow eater, or your milk takes a while to let down (and how do you even know it has let down), or he keeps falling asleep. My life got marginally better when I realized “a feeding” was nowhere near the 15 minutes per side that the nurses in the hospital had told me about, but fell much, much closer to 40 minutes per side. Actually just enough time for two shows on tv or a shortish movie. And at first it hurts. Yes, even if the kid latches on properly. Put it this way, a newborn is on the boob a LOT, I promise you, your boobs have never seen so much action, your nipples are going to get sore. How sore depends on a lot of things, let me just say that I got cracked, bloody nipples with baby number 2 and I KNEW how to latch her on properly by then. But, she woke up every two hours to nurse, day and night, so my boobs hurt. Though to make you feel better I can tell you this, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in parenting is a phase and it will pass. I used nipple shields for a few days and my sore boobs got better, and now, ten months on my baby has teeth and it phases me not one bit.
All this to say that breastfeeding is hard, it takes a lot of commitment and it takes a lot of time, something not everyone has the luxury of having. It’s incredibly fulfilling, for some of us, but not for all of us. So if you want to breastfeed, good for you, and if you don’t, good for you too. All that matters is that you’re feeding your baby and loving her and nurturing him.
This is my first post on Moomser Baby, I chose it because it seems like it’s a difficult topic for a lot of women, it’s certainly all I could talk about those first few months, but it definitely won’t be the last post on the subject! Now, tell me about your experience, the best thing when you’re a new mom is to know that you’re not alone. Really, you’re not alone. Oh, and if you do decide to breastfeed, know that sooner or later your boobs will once again be your own, though they probably won’t be facing north anymore…


  1. F***ing hard is an understatement. With number one there was pain, crying, ignorance and lots of guilt when I threw in my towel. When I started understanding more about it I realized I maybe should have tried harder and promised myself I would with number two. I did. I tried hard. I bled, I bit my cheeks in pain, I felt like a cow. I also felt guilty towards number one who sat there and watched. Number two was starving and he screamed every minute he wasn't on the boob, which was actually not that often. But I didn't want to give in. I handed in my hand pump for an electric pump and pumped almost every minute he wasn't latched on with very little results. I used nipple shields and thought I had found the solution. Expect he was still hungry. By the end of month one, when I was already giving him some formula to top off his feed, I gave up. At your house I think...
    Anyway, I still sometimes feel guilt pangs, I still sometimes feel like I failed my kids as a mother somehow. I still don't know if I was doing it wrong, if I had little milk, if the C-section played a role in it. I don't know. But I totally agree: you have to do what you feel is right for you. Having a newborn, especially your first, is hard enough. Your hormones are all over the place, you have pain, you are not sleeping, you feel the weight of a huge responsibility on your shoulders. You do not need additional problems, one way or the other. And if you do breastfeed, really try to hang in there. It gets better. Or so they say.

  2. This post is so great. Surely mothers everywhere can relate. Damned if you do, condemned by society if you don't, yadda-yadda.
    Luckily, with Tarek, the breastfeeding came incredibly naturally.
    Sure, my boobs got massive and sore as footballs when the first milk came in, and Tarek never took a bottle or a pacifier 'til I weaned him at 20 months, but luckily my boobs had never been north-facing, so my vanity went out the window from the start.
    Although it was a full-time job -- he ate day and night and in-between -- it was surely easier than toting around bottles and pacis.
    Now, who knows, if/when we have a second, if the story will be the same. Perhaps it'll be hell on wheels now that I'm less young and starry-eyed. But I loved doing it and he loved drinking it and we bonded strongly at the teat, so for me it was a great thing.