Ok really my milkshake only brings one boy.
George is pretty keen on my milk.
We have been breastfeeding now for 10 weeks. He has gained almost 4 lbs since his birth and now sits right over 9lbs.
But I am not here to talk about how big my guy is getting (although I am pumped we are filling out newborn clothes finally).
I am here today to talk about my love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. So if you don’t want to hear me talk about my boobs, than you should stop reading now.
I also apologize that this is a very lengthy post, but I have a lot to get of my chest (pun not intended).
There seems to be a growing trend for breastfeeding, and there is so much reading material out there. You can read on how to breastfeed, the benefits of it, and the community of breastfeeding moms.
I think in almost every article/book I read there was a brief mention about the difficulty of adjusting, but it did not go into much detail. I read advice and received many words of encouragement that “it gets better.” I heard over and over “keep at it,” but no one ever shared what it was actually like. So there were a lot of moments where I felt alone or guilty for feeling the way that I was feeling towards breastfeeding. Why is it so difficult? I just wanted someone to open up and say more than “it gets better.” In their defense, I also wasn’t able to admit how awful I was feeling about it.
(Note these were helpful words of encouragement, so if you gave me this advice please don’t think that I didn’t appreciate it!)
So here is my journey in breastfeeding, and I want to be brutal honest. I am one of those people that likes to know all the details, and some of these things may be helpful to at least wrap your head around before you start.
Let’s be clear first. This is supposed to be a post venting my frustrations as a mom who breastfeeds. Obviously I see that there are benefits to doing this, which is why I have continued, but to be frank it has been a struggle. And I want others to know the details in case they are experiencing similar things.
Growing up I was never around anyone who breastfed. It was something that was never really talked about in the circles I was in. My exposure to it was next to nothing until I started following some mommy bloggers, and we started seriously considering having kids.
I also need you to note that the word “breast” for me is like the word “moist’ for some people. And nipples. They both bother me. I still cringe when those words are said even though it is in my everyday vocabulary.
I guess you could say that my modesty had set me up to be uncomfortable with breastfeeding. It’s not that I don’t see the benefits or agree that people should be allowed to do it, but there was something about the act of it that just made me uncomfortable.
Please tell me that it is not weird to think about a human being sucking something out of your boobs? Maybe I am alone on this, but it was/is weird for me to think about.
So that uncomfortableness was the first thing I had to get over. And I did because I knew it would be beneficial for George to be naturally fed. I researched and read all that I could to become more comfortable with it. This part of parenthood was the most terrifying to me, so I was doing my best to be prepared. I was trying to say “breast” as much as possible to normalize the word….no such luck.
Now come to our first week of breastfeeding. Since he was a NICU baby, we didn’t have a normal breastfeeding experience. I remember feeling so defeated that I couldn’t have that first feed with him moments after he was born. EVERYTHING I had read said that this was vital in creating a successful breastfeeding experience, so naturally I thought we were doomed. Then to find out he would have to supplement with formula and be bottle fed for a few days…crushed and double doom. For that first week, I pumped as much as I could, exalting when I finally was able to pump a full ounce. By the end of that week, we were able to actually breastfeed one feeding a day. And it also helped me get over the weird factor because so many nurses saw me topless to help us learn how to breastfeed. He was so weak that he could not stay awake long enough for a successful latch, so it was something that we had to slowly work up to and I needed guidance.
For the first couple weeks home, I was still pumping more than we were actually breastfeeding due to his early arrival issues. Consulting his doctor, she suggested to increase our actual breastfeeding feeds by one every couple days instead of trying to do it for every feeding. This way we could make sure he was successful at those particular feedings before pushing him to eat that way all the time if he wasn’t ready. And then I didn’t feel defeated if it didn’t work every session. It also meant that I was not cluster feeding which is something I desperately wanted to avoid. She also reassured me that while yes he may have some nipple confusion from going to bottle to breast, he would grow out of it in time.
That meant, for the first 3 weeks, I was pumping at least half of the feedings. Now if you look at the time, I would pump for about 30 minutes, and then I would feed him with a bottle for 15-20 minutes, then burp him for about 10 minutes. Then we would start the cycle all over in 1 or 2 hours. So I felt like I was pumping or feeding him all day long anyway. I never really felt like I got a break from it.
Around week 4, was also the time that my milk supply slowed WAY down. Because I was pumping I could actually see that instead of making 3 oz every feeding, I was only making 1. I was so distraught thinking he was going to starve or that I was basically going to have to wear the pump all day to get enough for him to eat. Luckily, I had stocked up on the previous weeks when my supply was more than his demand. We completely depleted our frozen stash and were going feeding to feeding hoping it would be enough. I started making oatmeal flax cookies galore and researching other home remedies to boost up my supply. I remember one pump session I didn’t even get an oz, and I just lost it. It was at this point that we bought formula to have on hand just in case.
Those first couple weeks, about every other night Tom found me in the nursery bawling. I was so upset that we couldn’t figure out this breastfeeding thing. George still was not staying on the latch for very long so it took us twice as long to eat during our breastfeeding sessions. I was so exhausted from pumping and cleaning pumping parts. George was fussy all night, but then would sleep through the day. I felt like a failure. My chest was constantly sore from either being engorged or being over pumped. I wasn’t able to find a happy medium. I was exhausted. I felt guilty that I could not live up to the hype of breastfeeding super moms. I didn’t feel the connection that moms wrote about with breastfeeding. I honestly came to resent every feeding session because I felt like I was failing at it so miserably, and I hated it being a chore. I wanted to give up. EVERY DAY.
But I kept at it, and told myself to just make it until he is a month old.
Right around the time that George was a month old, we had “successfully” transitioned to solely breastfeeding so I told myself make until 2 months.
It still wasn’t glorious, but we were making gains.
I felt like something was missing though. I read so much about the bonding experience and how joyous this was for both the mom and the baby.
I am here to say that I did not feel that. I felt used. I felt beaten. I did not feel like a person.
I was just a feeding machine. I couldn’t “enjoy” this time.
Also George was finding use of his limbs and liked to do acrobats.
He would bob his head all over my nipples before latching on. He pushes, he scratches, and he grabs at them. My nipples started to feel like I had skidded naked across a basketball court and survived the worst floor burn.
It is definitely not a pleasant feeling to have someone sucking on your boobs for food. Some times it is just like a tug; other times it feels like a searing pan through your chest or they feel like you just burned them. There is a range of pain, and I have felt it all.
My boobs were always sore. I never felt comfortable in my clothes because they would just rub and become more raw. I have used so many nipple creams and went to the web for suggestions. There was a time that I was topless more than not. And I, like my son, do not like being naked.
So instead of looking blissfully at my sweet baby while he nestled into my chest (as every breastfeeding picture EVER made depicts it), I was constantly fighting the next runner up for USA’s Gymnastics team to keep his head near my nipple and his hands away from tenderizing my boobs as a landing post. I was constantly frustrated with him because he wouldn’t just eat, and when we weren’t feeding he was sucking on everything in sight. I didn’t like that I had to hold him forcibly in place to eat. And since I had to keep my hands on him to keep him in place, I basically watched the clock tick away our time instead of reading or scouring Pinterest like many breastfeeding moms do. My hands were tied and I felt paralyzed when we were feeding. Nothing makes the time go slower than watching the time. I probably would have gone crazy if it weren’t for Netflix.
It was not until about week 6 that I feel like we got into a comfortable groove where I didn’t dread every time George had to eat. He was finally staying on the latch for an entire session instead of falling asleep and falling off it at least 5 times. We didn’t really do anything different; it just started clicking for us. This was also about the time that he started sleeping through the night.
He was a different baby, and I became a different mom.
My nerves started calming down, and I felt much better about breastfeeding. George was gaining weight, and I didn’t feel anxious all the time.
George was eating, and I wasn’t crying. Win win.
It has only been recently that I have started feeling that bond of breastfeeding. It took me almost 2 months folks. It was not instantaneous for me, which probably pressured me more to rush that feeling. And trying to feel something that wasn’t there made me more guilty about breastfeeding. (In case you were concerned, I bonded with my son, just not when we were feeding.) It was a really hard road to get to this point. And there were moments where I felt like I was a bad mom because I hated breastfeeding.
I am glad we have stuck it out despite feeling awful at times. I will say that if I had had to go back to work sooner, I don’t know if we would have made it. Luckily I had those couple months to take the sleep deprivating time to work everything out. Things probably would have gone very differently if I had to go back to work at 6 weeks.
We do have our sweet moments now. I can enjoy the gurgle that only happens after he feeds. I can smile back at him when he looks up at me ready to be burped. I cherish the way that his hand grabs my tshirt like he is holding on for dear life. This is the time of day that it’s just me and him, and I am reminded how much he is dependent on me. It is a time where I can talk with him or just stare at him. (It is still not all sunshines though. Just this morning he scratched me where it felt like a thousand paper-cuts across my nipple.)
The other thing I didn’t really see in my research is how alone you can feel as a parent. (Just me?) Tom and I try to have a pretty even partnership with all things in our life. And we expected to do the same with George. Breastfeeding, however, is obviously all mom. As much as Tom tried to comfort George by letting George suck on his nipples, feeding him, ultimately came down to me. I think that there are a lot of things that partners can do to help. Tom would help change George’s diaper so I could get all the pillows and burp cloths settled. He also would help with washing the pumps and bottle equipment. There were also times in my hysteria that he would hold George’s boxing gloves away from his face and my boobs so I could push his mouth where it needed to be. Because I pumped so often, Tom was able to help feed George with the bottle, but now since we are solely breastfed, I am at it solo. Yes Tom has been a huge supporter during all of this, but that didn’t take away the fact that I felt so alone. I was the one who had to sit for hours all day either pumping or fighting George to stay on his latch. My boobs were the ones that were being put through a torture device. And there wasn’t anything Tom could do to help because his body just doesn’t make milk. And in my sleep deprived state, I was just worn out and upset that I could not have help in this. There may have been a few times, where I cried don’t get up to help because you can’t do anything anyway. Not my finest hour…for real it was like 2 or 3 am.
I am also someone who let it dictate everything else in life. Most of this comes from uncomfortableness with breastfeeding in general. I am all for moms who want to do it in public, but I am not one of those who chooses to do so. I do not feel comfortable feeding George in front of people. Yes I am feeding him, but I also don’t need people to see my boobs. So whenever we had people over I would go upstairs for an hour and feed him. And I didn’t feel like we could ever go anywhere because we were on this strict feeding schedule otherwise George would get upset and my boobs would feel like rocks. And because of his difficulty feeding I didn’t want to tempt fate trying to breastfeed him outside of his nursery. I even struggled trying to do it downstairs in our living room because we had gotten into such a groove with the rocking chair. Angles make a difference! So there were days that I refused to go anywhere because I was afraid he wouldn’t eat if we did it somewhere else. I have gotten over this slightly and have become more strategic with feeding him outside of the home. The thought of moving kind of forced me to try different ways to feed him. We have done it in a restroom, doctor’s office and in my car now several times. All I can say is I understand the movement for women to breastfeed openly…those nursing covers are stupid. They just make things more difficult. And for a kid who likes doing acrobats while eating I pretty much flashed everyone anyway. And feeding him while sitting on a toilet is not ideal. So if you are pretty modest like me, this was something I really had a hard time embracing. I am still working on it for sure. I still go into the other room to feed him, and I try to find the stores that have “family” rooms to stop in if we are out and about. But sometimes you have to do it in the middle of a crowded parking lot in your car and the cover just isn’t covering anything…sorry to the family who parked next to me and probably saw everything. What they need to do is bring back the curtains they had in cars. My grandma used to have those in her van back in the day. These would be handy for a modest mom. Can we make car curtains a thing again?
As for clothes, breastfeeding has really restricted my wardrobe. Granted staying at home with him, I really just wear tshirts anyway so it really hasn’t been a huge problem yet. But anytime we did go out and I knew I had to feed while we were gone, I had to think about easy access. Also now going back to work, I need to think about clothes that will be easy to pump in. This takes out 75% of my job wardrobe. I mostly wear dresses, and seeing as I would have to practically get naked with a dress in order to pump, I think those will just have to be saved for special occasions. I am a little devastated by this because I LOVE my professional wardrobe. But I would rather not completely disrobe in my office, in a NEW office, to pump.
I would also encourage all new moms to hold off on buying nursing clothes. Personally I think they are a crock. They are cumbersome, and they only seem to get in the way when I try to feed George. The little flaps that you unhook never want to stay down, and with a baby who likes to move they tend to find their way back up between his mouth and my nipple. I have found the best thing is to wear a sports bra with a cami and then whatever shirt I decide to wear. Then I just roll up or down the side I need. I have found it even help put pressure so I don’t have to knead my boobs to help with the let down. Double score. Even with nice shirts this seems to work the best for me. It is just much more comfortable than those “nursing” get ups. I think every woman is different, and you need to find what works for you and your boobs. For me, I regret buying into all the “nursing” clothes.
Speaking of sports bras, another struggle I have had is the big boobs. I was barely a size A before and now I am nearing a D cup. Holy moly, I take back every wish to have bigger boobs. This is awful. They bounce where I don’t want. They touch my mid section which is weird. The sweat is awful under there too. This is also the first time in my life I have had to wear two bras when I work out for fear that they might fall off. And that only makes them sweat more…What is happening…I will gladly give these up for my size A boobs.
The one thing I would invest in if you choose to breastfeed are nursing pads. The disposable ones. The ones you can buy hundreds of and throw away. I was really surprised at how much my boobs leaked when I wasn’t feeding. Seriously it is like a leaky faucet. Let’s also talk about the times that they will squirt George in the face when he is done and they are not. The first time this happened I panicked watching the stream of milk run out like it was trying to put out a fire on his face. This is something that happens and it is weird to watch. They also squirt while you are in the shower or changing clothes, pretty much those suckers have to stay bundled up. Nursing is messy, and more of it will end up on you than you think.
Also what they say about not getting your period while you are breastfeeding is false. It was a nice 8 months without you, but breastfeeding didn’t stop you from returning 6 weeks postpartum. (For those of you doing the math, I bled the first couple months of my pregnancy, which was why we didn’t know I was pregnant until 8 weeks along.)
It may sound like I am really unhappy with breastfeeding. Has it made me miserable? Yes. Do I feel trapped because of it? Sometimes. Am I glad to do it? Absolutely.
I do feel blessed that we stuck it out and have finally found a way to understand each other. It does take time. Some may take a few days, for me it took months. And that is completely ok.
I still don’t love breastfeeding. I still want to quit some days. It is really hard and a lot of work. Probably one of the hardest things I have done in my life.
However, I know the pros for George’s health outweigh my discomfort. Plus it saves us a whole lot of money. Formula is pricey folks.
Whenever I do want to quit, I look at what I have done. George is gaining weight. He is growing perfectly. Something that my body is producing is doing that. That is pretty powerful to remember.
When we decided to breastfeed we gave ourselves the goal of a year, but after that first month, I didn’t want to hold myself to that. That was a big reason why I felt like I was failing. I knew that I could never make it a whole year of that. So we decided to go month to month and re-assess how things were going. If I felt like we were progressing and we were happy, we would continue. If we were miserable again, we would stop. And Tom supported whatever decision I made since it was my body that was taking the beating. His encouragement and support made it ok to stop if I needed to for my own health. I feel that telling myself I can make it one more month is so much more attainable than pressuring myself to go a whole year. Changing that mindset has been the biggest help because I didn’t feel held down to make it to a year anymore. I could be happy with how things were going day to day.
Here we are 10 weeks old, and he hasn’t had formula since he was in the NICU. The box we bought still sits in the pantry on reserve. I am proud that we have made it 10 weeks. I will be proud if we make it 10 more. I will be proud if we only make it 10 more days.
Breastfeeding is really really hard. You have no idea how it is going to challenge you, and what you are going to feel. It can be very lonely and paralyzing. It can also be very powerful and uplifting. Some days it comes easy, and other days it is super frustrating.
So yea it is really awkward and weird at first , but when I think about the simple fact that I am helping George grow…It really can’t get better than that.
I am going to join the ranks and say that it does get better, but also be realistic that it isn’t perfect. Follow the cues of your own body and your baby’s body. You will figure it out in time. And it is ok if it takes a lot of time.
But to be honest, by the time you figure it out, something will change and you will have to readjust.
Welcome to parenthood.
On the plus side, I am pretty sure breastfeeding was the reason I could fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans a week after he was born.
If you struggled with breastfeeding, my best advice is to set short term goals and not to compare yourself to other people’s journey. Your baby and you will determine the route you take. For George, we have had the NICU issues and acid reflux to deal with; someone else may have allergies that will impact their experience. Research, ask for help, seek advice, but ultimately do what is best for you and your baby’s happiness.
Is it cool to say you fed your baby with your body, absolutely. But it is just as cool to take care of your kid with formula. So do what you need to do.
I am more than happy to talk with anyone if they are struggling or need someone to vent to. I know that at times this was super helpful to get me through those rough days. And don’t be afraid to admit how you are feeling like I did. It was really freeing to open up about my struggles.So hit me up if you need some encouragement or just want to know that someone else has been there!