I don’t like breastfeeding.
There, I said it.
Alert the Bad-Mom Police if you must.
When I was pregnant, I imagined what breastfeeding would be like. Baby Charlie would nurse as we sat in a sunbeam in the warm afternoon sun. There’d be soft music in the air, most likely sung by angels. A warm glow would surround us as we oozed love for one another, and I’d be at peace knowing that I was giving my son the best nutrition that nature could produce.
As cliche as this sounds, breastfeeding would be much more satisfying if it weren’t so damn difficult. And Charlie and I were beset with problems from the start.
My labor was loooong (see blog title), and painful, and the aftermath was pretty brutal, too. Like all moms, I fumbled the first few times nursing him. The hospital nurses told me different things. I asked twice to see a lactation consultant, but she never came.
Then I didn’t sleep for several days. And I don’t mean I barely slept, or only caught cat naps here and there. I DID NOT SLEEP AT ALL FOR SEVERAL DAYS. Zero. Zilch. The lack of sleep triggered crazy anxiety, which only exacerbated the insomnia.
Through all of this, Charlie was desperately hungry and constantly screaming. My milk hadn’t come in by his wellness check four days later, and he’d already lost more than a pound. We began supplementing at the breast. Charlie stopped screaming.
On day six (after I finally got some sleep) my milk came in dribbled in. I put him to the breast at every opportunity to increase my supply, but we were hit with the typical problems: It was painful. My nipples bled constantly. I couldn’t figure out how to hold him. He couldn’t figure out the latch. When he finally latched, he’d fall asleep instantly and nothing – not even touching his skin with an ice-cold glass of water – could rouse him. I was angry and exasperated and deflated and stressed out of my mind. I wanted to strangle people who told me, “Just relax. The baby can feel your tension, you know.”
When I pumped, I’d only get about half an ounce – total. At this point, he was easily guzzling three ounces of formula/pumped milk every 2-3 hours. There was no way I could keep up. I felt guilty. I felt like a failure. I felt like a bad mother.
Things got better once I saw a lactation consultant. She showed me how to get Charlie to latch, and for the first time I thought, “I can do this!” When I saw the consultant a week later, we were both doing much better. To increase my shred of a supply, she recommended fenugreek and mother’s milk tea. She even lent me a hospital-grade pump!
And my milk did increase. Slightly. Instead of pumping half an ounce total every 2-3 hours, I now get something closer to one ounce per breast. At 10 weeks, Charlie is eating four (combo of formula/pumped milk).
Yet now he’s started to reject me when I try to nurse him. Sometimes he has complete meltdowns if I put him in ANY nursing position, even sitting up. Or he’ll latch, suck a few times, then scream, pull back, and pound his fists against me as if trying to get away. I’ve attempted all of the tips on all of the web sites: breast compressions, expressing before he latches, skin to skin, every position imaginable, dietary changes, breaks. I’ve bared it all in front of fellow mamas who’ve unsuccessfully tried to help. Suffice it to say, I have another call into the lactation consultant.
So, as you see, breastfeeding is not fun for me. There’s no sunbeam. There’s no oozing of love. I’m usually stressed, or fighting an angry baby, or fighting feelings of failure and rejection. During the good nursing sessions, I’m on edge, expecting the melt down. I cry occasionally. I want to quit constantly.
But every day I reaffirm my commitment to nursing Charlie. I don’t care if he only gets one ounce a day from me; he’s going to get that ounce, and he’s going to like it. I am deeply committed, despite how difficult it is for me. I believe too much in the importance of breast milk. I’m too damn stubborn.
Each day that I don’t quit is another victory for me and for Charlie. Each day I take the time to congratulate myself. Breastfeeding is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s also given me a great deal of pride.
And that’s something even the Bad-Mom Police can get behind.