I know that the opinion I’m about to share in this post tends to be a rather unpopular one these days, but it’s one I need to get off my chest. In light of World Breastfeeding Week just ending, and the slew of beautiful breastfeeding images and articles that have shown up in my social feeds, I’d like to take an opportunity to share my experiences with breastfeeding – from a somewhat different perspective.
When I was pregnant with my first, the Mouse, I did everything a first-time pregnant mom is supposed to do. I went through birthing and baby classes, I paid extra to take a breast-feeding class, I spent an embarrassing amount of time on new-mom internet forums asking questions, reading the experiences of others, and generally planning how to be the best mother I could possibly be. When I was admitted to the hospital at 38 weeks pregnant I told the nurses and on-call doctor that the only ‘birth plan’ I had was that I wanted to make every effort to breastfeed.
To make a long story short – even after seeing multiple lactation consultants and trying to use a nipple shield, the Mouse never latched well. Also, while some mothers seem to be able to produce clotted cream out of their boobs, I was making a substance that was closer to skim milk. Even when my baby was able to latch, he would eat and eat and eat and that magical ‘hind milk’ never seemed to show up. At four weeks, I was dealing with a still-scrawny infant who wanted to nurse pretty much constantly, nipples that he refused to latch on to, and a state of exhaustion I had never even fathomed existed.
The husband and I cracked open a can of formula one night and never looked back. From that day on we were actually able to enjoy our child, and we became a happy family unit.
When I became pregnant with my second child (the Froggy) I had a much more realistic view of breastfeeding and all the work it entailed. I was convinced that if I could just get him to latch, that everything would be better. That I could be one of those moms in pictures looking down at their baby serenely, like they were actually enjoying every moment of it. I longed for that type of situation – where I could feed my baby and know he was actually growing and healthy, where it didn’t hurt like a bitch when he latched on, and where the members of my family didn’t resemble sleep-deprived zombies. I didn’t want to have to buy expensive formula, I wanted that happy nursing experience — but I also now knew my limits, and I wasn’t going to put myself through weeks of hell if I couldn’t get him to latch.
The Froggy arrived, and surprise – he latched perfectly from our very first nursing session. I still seemed to be making skim milk and putting on weight was slow going, but he was latched, and he was eating. He was eating all. the. time. Momnesia is apparently a real thing, because even with a latched, happy baby, I was once again looking down at my child at 2:34am and thinking, ‘oh my God do you ever stop eating and just sleep?’ I would look over my sleeping husband (who by the way was amazing at getting up for diaper changes and taking care of the big kid) and have nothing but resentment as I stayed up with our newborn, who contentedly chowed down and became more and more of an attachment to my body.
I hated being awake all night. I hated having to leave the room at family gatherings to feed my baby. I hated having to wear special clothing that made nursing easy. I hated nursing pads. I hated engorgement. I hated having to neglect my older son because I was the only one who could feed the baby. And most of all, I hated that I hated it all. I hated that I was such an awful, selfish mother who seemed incapable of sacrificing a few precious hours of sleep and normal clothes for her son’s well being.
In short, breastfeeding stressed me out. It dawned on me at five weeks post-partum that even though I could breastfeed this time around, I still hated it. I hated breastfeeding, and it had nothing to do with the logistics, and everything to do with how the process made me feel.
After a few days of making myself feel like the world’s most awful person, I cracked open the can of formula – and I truthfully didn’t let it bother me. Yes, I could have gone out and bought an expensive pump, but many of the same things that I hated about breastfeeding would have occurred as a pumper, and truthfully, I just didn’t want to. I just wanted to feed my baby, and get to enjoy him (and the rest of my family) without a million obstacles, so that’s what I did – and I never looked back.
The purpose of this post is not to take away from the importance of educating people on the benefits of breastfeeding. ‘Normalizing’ breastfeeding is an important cause, and something that our society still needs to work towards. It’s great to see so many of my friends, family, and even celebrities stand up and say, ‘I’m nursing my child and this is NORMAL’. The underlying theme I’m trying to extract though is:
I want other moms out there to know that if you spent last week staring longingly at beautiful photos of your friends nursing their babies, or feel some sort of guilt over not breastfeeding your child for whatever reason – don’t. It might not be the popular thing to talk about or admit these days, but there are others out there like you. Mom’s who just couldn’t, or moms who simply didn’t want to breastfeed – and that’s OKAY. Our babies are fed, happy, and healthy, and that’s the important part of the story.