It’s Great That Baby Likes to Suck, but Breastfeeding Straight-Up SUCKS!

10418419_2142039961085_5657057809048181239_n

If breastfeeding had remained static in all the physically burdensome, emotionally draining, and psychologically-testing aspects as it were in the first six weeks or so, then would I still be nursing?

Well, yes!

But I say that only because I grew a whole other heart for breastfeeding as time progressed. Breastfeeding may have helped shrink my uterus back into its petite pre-partum shape, but it created something else entirely to take its place. Something knitted of emotions, and big enough to house a whole growing child.

Of course, the answer that makes more sense is… No.

If breastfeeding had forever remained as unremittingly exhausting as the first six weeks, then no, I wouldn’t be breastfeeding today. I’m pretty sure I’d be six feet under, buried with an assortment of bottles and pacifiers that I’d died desperately trying to persuade my child to love as much as my poor battered nipples. And if I happened to survive such a momentous undertaking, by default I wouldn’t be a very good mother. Thankfully, nature intended for breastfeeding to feel like a good, rewarding, and worthy endeavor after the acclimation period — otherwise, our species would not have survived as mammals (ah, mammaries — that’s why we’re “mammals”)!

Tell Me This Gets Better!

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I thought you were only “supposed to” breastfeed for six months. Like you just breastfeed for half a year and then your baby replaces the entirety of his diet with baby foods like there’s a magic light switch for such a thing. Obviously, I learned a thing or two in that first half-year. At about the six-month hump, I realized that (in my situation) the end point of breastfeeding would not be my choice alone to make because my son had gotten half the say in getting started, after all.

It took until the six-week hump to stop stressing that my body might quit producing milk without notice. Without the foundation for actual bonding during nursing — which, for me, didn’t happen until the milk-regulation period due to high anxiety — I may have given up on the prospect of nursing as the dynamic, healing, enlightening motherhood tool that I’d hoped it would be.

If breastfeeding in the early days makes you feel like a vessel, or a cow, or “used up” with nothing left to give — have heart in the knowledge that very soon you’ll forget all the pain (kinda like birth, huh?) and retain mostly the feelings of power and connection. Sure, you won’t forget feeling like some heavy-duty military milk tankers rode in across your chest overnight, and you got the feeling they weren’t pulling out the troops any time soon. But you won’t have to live with or feel the pain and frustration forever. It won’t be this hard forever simply because breastfeeding doesn’t last forever for anyone.

You’ll cry when you think about your newborn breastfeeding days — oh yes, you will! But hopefully (and most likely) it will be wistful tears of warmest memory rather than trauma and crisis. Question the motives of anyone who says differently. Do they just want to frighten you? Fact is, there are no guarantees with anything, especially when it comes to parenting.

For some, it takes much longer than others to get to that peak of feeling empowered by breastfeeding rather than beaten down by it. You may not be amazed by much in the early weeks except how little quality sleep you’ve gotten since getting pregnant, but you’ll be amazed later on how breastfeeding becomes less of a job and more of a parenting tool with older children.

Some mothers just hate breastfeeding. They really try, but they goddamn hate it. I say… Potay-to, potah-to, boobs, bottles. I thought I’d fall in with the latter crowd, but I surprised myself. Perhaps you will, too.

1891052_2056479222120_143616112_n

Expectations vs. Reality

What does “frequent feeding” actually mean?

Breastfeeding requires great effort… just like parenting! For at least the first month, frequent feeding means breastfeeding at least every two hours during the day (a four hour stretch is okay at night), as from the start of one session to the start of the next.

Yep, that means if you take a few minutes to settle into a comfortable nursing position, work out any latching problems, then baby nurses for 20 minutes to an hour or more, and possibly pumping before or after… you’ll get at maximum an hour of “break” (or diaper duties) before baby is starting to chew on his hands again. And at minimum, well…you’ll begin to wonder if you’ve moved into a realm of negative time.

The reality is there will be many times when you feel like ALL you’re doing is holding a baby up on your chest (cluster feeding is the official term). Just remember that in this sensitive window of time, you’re building up your supply and training your breasts to churn milk out with high efficiency.

The more work you put in now, the easier it will be for you in the future.

It will get better — especially if you can learn your baby’s hunger cues quickly. A few things you’ll hear about a few dozen times in your early days:

68985_2279290632266_261262699796699359_n

What Makes Breastfeeding So Hard?

There’s so much information about breastfeeding at our immediate disposal.
How exactly does this make breastfeeding more difficult? Sometimes an abundance of information and advice isn’t a good thing, especially when a lot of it is rotten and we can’t be sure who to trust with our busts. In this series on pervasive breastfeeding myths, AskMoxie recommends to choose your sources very carefully! You will get terrible advice at least once, and you’ll need to be able to recognize it immediately. Here are a few confessions from breastfeeding moms who didn’t know better (how would they?).
Breastfeeding pain is both to be expected and… not?
Confusing, I know. I said earlier that breastfeeding might SUCK at times — I didn’t say it’s supposed to really hurt! Just because breastfeeding pain can be normal doesn’t mean it’s ever necessary. AskMoxie agrees: “Significant pain should signal you to get help pronto, before your nipples turn into steak tartare.” While significant pain deserves prompt attention, milder discomfort comes with the territory for many women. Think of it like growing pains, or how your muscles feel the day after you hit the gym for the first time in months. If this is your first time nursing, your breasts are being used in brand new ways and expanding and stretching and spurting milk and doing all kinds of hoop-jumping circus tricks without having any opportunity to warm up. Expect a few ultimately harmless bangs and bruises the first go-around.
Postpartum depression. PCOS. Supply issues. Returning to work stress. Crappy support. Etc.
This is where anecdotal experiences earn their value. Breastfeeding isn’t hard. But breastfeeding while struggling with postpartum depression, that’s not going to be easy. Prior infertility, PCOS, and stress have shown higher rates of breastfeeding challenges for affected women as well. For mothers who must leave milk behind for their babies when they go to work, they’re not only breastfeeding, they’re breastfeeding plus pumping. Again, not easy! Bad advice from an outdated lactation consultant or doctor can derail an otherwise peachy breastfeeding relationship, while disapproval from a loved one can deflate a mother’s confidence and cause her to avoid nursing. These are but a few examples of special situations that many women live out. Their circumstances might be “special” but they’re important because they raise red flags for upcoming breastfeeders to prepare for the good and bad.
You’re wearing your heart on your sleeve for everyone to see.
You do this by wearing your baby on your heart as you nurse him. The intimacy is palpable. It’s searing with a raw kind of love that many people have never seen. When you nurse, all gateways and doors are open and the milk flows through. It’s so amazing that you could burst, you want to share it so badly with all who cross your path! But you also feel intensely protective of this intimacy. You might feel remorse when you can’t dwell in it longer. You might feel resentful when you must be weighted in it for too long. The transparency of your emotions is what makes breastfeeding work. It allows your baby to feel safe in bonding with you, it fires up the right hormones to stimulate milk production, and it dials down the logic sector of your brain to make way for big, bold, nurturing feelings. Feeling exposed yet?
You’re the only one who can feed or hydrate your baby. It’s quite seriously All. On. You.
Didn’t you stop being pregnant already? You alone were responsible for conjuring the baby up in your magical womb for nine months. Isn’t it break time yet?! Where’s your stand-in Harry Boobdini when you need him?
Nowhere, mama. The idea of postpartum bodily freedom for breastfeeders is all but an illusion! Mother nature’s got the best tricks in her hat, huh?
10270706_2091714902990_6742908889688201271_n

Copyright: Baby Blues; via Houston Chronicle. Photo by Mama’s Milk, No Chaser.

Remember Why You’re Still Doing This

Besides the physical and emotional health benefits for mothers and babies, there are plenty of other things to love about breastfeeding! Pick one when you’re really at your tit wit’s end, and focus on it. Then keep focusing on it until your mind accepts that no matter what, breastfeeding will not last forever and it’s not a lifetime sentence of suckery. Here’s my list:
  • Bigger boobs (they’re fun for a while at least!).
  • You can’t forget to pack your boobs.
  • You don’t have to wash and sanitize your boobs before and after each use.
  • Breastfeeding is an automatic mute button for a crying baby.
  • Milk-drunk smiles. And milk-comatose baby’s eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head.
  • Breast milk dookie doesn’t smell so darn-tootin’ bad!
  • Baby using one boob as a pillow while nursing on the other.
  • Pregnancy weight melts away. Almost too much! And for my next point…
  • Eat what you want. Second dinner isn’t just for preggos, ya know.
  • That moment when baby pops off suddenly, looks you in the eyes, and tells (babbles) something really important to you, then smiles and re-latches.
  • Good excuse to get out of going places or having to stay the whole time. “Gotta get back to my baby! I know, it sucks he won’t take a bottle but… booby duty calls!”
  • No periods for long enough that you might even kinda forget how that all works. I’m sure it’s just like riding a bike…
  • Natural birth control. Hey-o!

10456262_2140608965311_7159812517985996148_n

What lovely “helps you get through it” breastfeeding thing would you add?

mamasmilk_signoff-01

2 thoughts on “It’s Great That Baby Likes to Suck, but Breastfeeding Straight-Up SUCKS!

  1. “That moment when baby pops off suddenly, looks you in the eyes, and tells (babbles) something really important to you, then smiles and re-latches.”

    I can’t wait for that to happen!! Or can I lol?

    And natural birth control?! Who knew!

    • It’s the most awesome thing when your child interrupts breastfeeding to say, “Thank you!” (Or their baby babble version of it) It makes you feel so appreciated and loved 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s