There. I said it. Breastfeeding sucks… sometimes.
Not all the time! For some of you, breastfeeding was easy and beautiful. If that is you, I applaud you. You are my superhero and I wish your blessed breastfeeding boobies and babies on every single new mom from this day forth to all eternity.
But new moms… there is a community of us that have spent far too long hiding our stories from you and I fear we have done you a great disservice.
We had good intentions for not telling you. We promise!
We saw that you were full of hopes and plans and expectations and you didn’t want to hear the bad things… we got it. We were exactly the same before our babies. And we sincerely hoped with ALL of our hearts that you would not have to go through what we had to go through. We hoped that maybe by not mentioning our struggles, you would somehow be exempt from experiencing them.
But the reality is, for many of us, well…
Let’s just say that breastfeeding was not our favorite thing about early motherhood. For some of us, breastfeeding downright sucked.
Yes. It had its sweet moments. And yes, we really did believe that we were doing a wonderful thing for our babies and for our bodies. But it’s quite possible that that is the only reason we stuck with it as long as we did. Because for many of us it was one of the loneliest, most painful, guilt-ridden, emotionally taxing things we have ever done. Ever. In our lives. Ever. Ever.
Some of us were assured during our stint in the hospital that it WOULD get better. After all, we were surrounded by nurses eager to help and lactation consultants who visited as often as they could. (Which never seemed often enough… is it possible to hire an LC to, like, room in with new moms?) So even though it hurt and it was awkward and we may have gotten some mixed messages and some weird new tools (nipple shield, anyone?), we went home hopeful that it would all come together in just a few days.
But when it didn’t come together… we still tried to remain hopeful.
Sure, maybe some of us were bleeding from our nipples. It’s possible that a few of us starved our children because it hurt too badly for us to feed them. There’s a chance our husbands walked in on us teetering awkwardly on all fours over our babies trying to relieve some new kind of suffering. And there were OH so many of us who sobbed shamefully as we screwed on the lid of that supplementary formula because the pediatrician was just one ounce away from admitting us back into the hospital. But hey, a few bumps. We were still hopeful… right?
Weeks in when we’d spent more time crying and screaming over this struggle than we had spent enjoying our newborn, and when we’d developed a deep hatred toward every woman who ever told us breastfeeding was easy. That’s when we called the lactation consultant and told her that the assurances were false, the promises failed, the books were broken, WE were broken, and all hope was gone. That LC. Bless her. To the tune of $100 an hour she promised that she would get us back on the right track.
$300 dollars and months later…
Some of us were done. It was too hard. It was too painful. The supply was too low. The latch was too shallow. The dreams were too far gone. And the emotional toll on the new family was too much. The guilt was piled on H-E-A-V-I-L-Y from everyone around us, it seemed. Not intentionally. We really did believe that “breast was best.” We did. But we were also beginning to believe that an emotionally healthy mother was actually better. The stress was causing more damage than any formula could, and secretly we were relieved when the struggle was over and we could just enjoy our baby again.
Some of us forged on through the fires of inverted nipples and multiple rounds of mastitis and uncontrollable yeast and painful swollen clogged ducts. Something kept us pushing through. Maybe it was the fact that we’d already come this far. Maybe it was the continual guilt we felt about quitting. Maybe we clung to our last shred of stubborn hope, and feeding by feeding we got closer and closer to the finish line… or at least farther and farther from the horrible beginning. Either way…
I am here to say something to new moms.
I know you’ve attended all the classes and you’ve washed all of your shiny new breast pump parts and you’ve got cute covers for your Boppy and spent a small fortune on nursing bras, but I’m going to tell you anyways, and I want you to listen closely and tuck it away just in case.
1. Sometimes breastfeeding just sucks.
Like, really really bad sucks. Like you’d rather have your eyes gouged out than put that screaming, hungry baby on your breast again because shards of glass in your nipples don’t feel good. This is a reality they don’t exactly advertise in your prenatal classes (or maybe you weren’t listening because you really believed that wouldn’t be you). If you experience this, move to number 2 right now.
2. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
We are out here. We are your sisters, your friends, your coworkers. Find us. Seek us. Let US tell you our stories and walk you through this. You are NOT alone. Breastfeeding is NOT easier for everyone else but you. I repeat: DO NOT DO THIS ALONE.
3. There is NOTHING wrong with you.
Stop that negative self-talk now. Every woman is different. Every baby is different. You cannot possibly know how breastfeeding is going to go for you until you’ve done it with that baby. And in case no one told you, there is a STEEP learning curve. Go back to number 2. (Call me!)
4. There is a LOT of help out there.
La Leche League, Breastfeeding Support groups, Lactation Consultants, coaches. Go to them. Get help sooner rather than later. (See #2 again… we’ve probably still got some contacts on speed dial.)
5. FED is BEST. A thriving baby is BEST. An emotionally healthy Mommy is BEST.
Breastmilk or formula. If your visions of sugarplums have exploded like agent orange and you have decided to hang up the nursing bra, let me cup your face in my hands and tell you ever so lovingly that you are a wonderful mother. You are NOT a failure. That precious baby is so lucky to have you. Your baby will still bond with you and need you and love you and adore you. Your baby will still grow up healthy and strong. And you are to have NO regrets. Do you hear me? None.