First of all I want to say that I am 100% “Fed is best” – so Mama’s, if you’re struggling, whether with breastfeeding or something else, just keep swimming. Keeping those babies happy, healthy, and safe is every mom’s number one goal. I wanted to breastfeed all along, with both of my daughters so I felt happy, lucky, and honored that I was able to do it. That said, it isn’t always easy. Some days I bask in the joy of it all, and some days I curse under my breath while sweating my butt off. Breastfeeding has advantages and problems no one talks about.
In short, I’ve had a love and hate relationship with the entire act of breastfeeding. It seems to me that there is a stigma with breastfeeding that not many people talk about. Even if you want to breastfeed, you are able to breastfeed, and you do breastfeed, it doesn’t mean you have to love it all of the time. My good friend and I had our second babies about six weeks apart, and I remember having this conversation with her and feeling totally liberated in the idea that I don’t have to love it. For me, not loving it doesn’t mean not doing it, but for some it might. For me, not loving it isn’t an “all the time” feeling, in fact sometimes I really do love it. Here are my top “Loving it!” moments, alongside my “Ugh, I hate this,” moments – I have a sneaking suspicion we can all relate in some way or another.
Love and Hate Moments
I love the feeling of satisfaction I get knowing that my baby needs me and depends on me for her very survival. I know that even if I wasn’t breastfeeding my baby would absolutely still need me for survival, but I also know that I am providing her nourishment that is very good for her body, her brain, her immune system. It makes me feel like a miracle worker, and I think after growing her inside my body and giving birth, I deserve to feel like a miracle worker for a little while. Recently I was pumping and my older daughter was questioning me, like two year olds tend to do. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was pumping milk for her baby sister. She responded with something like, “Wow mom, that’s like magic milk.” I think she’s got the right idea!
I think one of the most frustrating things I can think of is when I’m trying so desperately to feed a baby that I know is very hungry and she just turns her nose up at me. It’s not only a feeling of frustration, but a feeling of rejection. Is there something wrong with my body that she won’t eat? Did I eat something too strong and she doesn’t like the taste? Am I holding her wrong? Is her head propped up enough? Should I try a different pillow? I’ve even gone as far as to think about when the last time I showered was, and maybe I stink so she’s literally turning her nose up at me… It can be a lonely feeling when you’re trying so desperately to give her what you know she needs and she just won’t take it – and you have no idea why. One thing that drives me nuts about breastfeeding is the not knowing.
I am somewhat of a social misfit. I know, I’m a teacher how can that be? Teachers are always so bubbly and outgoing. Let me tell you it’s different with your peers than with five year olds. I’ve stood up on stages and spoken in front of hundreds of people, many times, but there is just something different about being at a social gathering when you kinda know people, but don’t really know people. To me, that is the worst. I need a close friend or two by my side to really be enjoying myself. Another reason I love breastfeeding is that it can always be an excuse to get me out of a situation in which I’m feeling uncomfortable. It can be really nice to just take a time out and hang out with the baby. At a big party sometimes I just need a break. Finding a nice quiet spot with my favorite little sidekick can be just what I need to get me through the rest of the outing.
I know I just said that sometimes I need a break in a social situation, but sometimes, I don’t. I guess the old saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” rings true here. Lots of times I’ve had to leave an outing, or at least find a quiet spot to feed R at an inconvenient time. This can be really frustrating, and sometimes I feel so alone and like I’m missing out on a lot.
All the power to those moms that feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. I, as you might be able to infer based on my social tendencies, am not one of them. It’s not that I don’t think it’s appropriate, or I don’t think it’s my right. I don’t think I should have to cover my baby’s head when they eat, and I don’t think any of those other ridiculous things people say when they bash women for breastfeeding in public. I just personally don’t want to do it. So, I am content in the fact that I will miss out on some things when baby needs to eat, but it doesn’t mean I like it.
It’s been said before and we’ve all heard moms gush about the bond they feel when they nurse their child. It’s true. Those “I need you” eyes will melt you. There is no one else in the world that can give her what she needs in those moments, and I’m so proud to be her mama and the one that can give it.
Another really frustrating time to be a breastfeeding mom is when baby is sick or teething. The only word that comes to mind is OUCH! I’ve been bitten, pulled on, scratched, pinched, kicked, you name it. It can be really painful to breastfeed when baby is frustrated or having trouble staying latched. In these moments I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to continue doing this.
I love that I’ve learned so much about myself from this breastfeeding journey. The first time I ever did it, I remember thinking, No way can I do this ever again. It hurt me physically, I felt like my daughter was uncomfortable and hated it, it took soooo much time, and then I had to do it again what felt like ten minutes after I had just finished. Then, when my milk came in I thought I was going to die. The first few weeks my daughter wouldn’t even latch, I had to hand pump and syringe feed her. And then she would spit it all up. All of these things were incredibly frustrating, but I think it has made me a better mom.
Breastfeeding has taught me patience and “stick-with-it-ness.” I wanted to give up so many times but I didn’t. It was my first real parenting challenge and it continues to be a challenge. I urge moms out there to not be afraid to say it when they’re fed up with breastfeeding. It doesn’t make you a bad mom if you don’t enjoy every moment. With my first baby I felt so alone in my struggles and I didn’t want to say anything because it seemed like everyone around me was loving breastfeeding, and had babies that loved it and did it perfectly too. I felt like such a failure when it wasn’t going well and I had no one to talk to about it. This time around I vowed I wouldn’t let those feelings of doubt consume me. I’m just putting it out there, breastfeeding is hard, time consuming, and painful, but so worth it.
It feels much better to air the frustrations. We need to rally around one another and tell not only our stories of love, but also support one another in our stories of the grueling work that breastfeeding can be. What have been some of your biggest breastfeeding challenges?