Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Love-Hate Relationship with Breastfeeding

***WARNING: this entire post is about BREASTFEEDING.***

As any "good" 1st time mom, I planned to breastfeed.  I'd read the couple of pages in, "What to Expect When You're Expecting" about nursing, and I knew that "Breast is Best."  Add to that that breast-milk is FREE, and I knew I wanted to breastfeed.

All three of my kids latched beautifully and nursed like champs.  I've never had a plugged duct, mastitis, a bad latch, major engorgement, or an overactive let-down, but for some reason I still really hate breastfeeding.  At first, I was thinking, "I just had a natural birth.  Nursing should be easy."  Wrong!  I actually remember telling my husband one day that I would gladly give birth once a week if I didn't have to nurse every 2-3 hours.

Why do I hate breastfeeding? 

#1 It's exhausting. 

One thing the books do not adequately explain is how exhausting it is to breastfeed for the first 6 weeks (or more).  With my firstborn, I took the pediatrician literally when she recommended that I, "nurse on demand."  L was an extremely fussy baby and I pretty much nursed him constantly.  I survived on no more than about 2.5-3 hrs of uninterrupted sleep until he was 5-6 months old.  After the most un-relaxing, exhausting vacation ever, I gave in to the marketing and started to transition him to formula.  By 10 months he was entirely formula fed AND sleeping all night.

#2 It's stressful.

E after 1 year of breastfeeding

After I gave up with L, I felt extremely guilty.  I thought, maybe I'd just been too selfish the first time around.  So before E even came along, I was already stressed about breastfeeding.  I educated myself even more and was determined to nurse her at least a full year.  I nursed... and nursed... and nurse...  She never took a bottle and so she was attached to me for an entire year-- It was honestly the hardest year of my life (although, finding out that my mom had breast cancer that year probably didn't help either).

It's also very stressful to be the sole source of nutrition for someone... especially without having a way to measure their intake.  The books will tell you that, "the more you nurse the more your body will make," but there has always been a little voice in the back of my head that worries that I might not be making enough.  I did my best, BUT, by her 1 year appointment, E was anemic, underweight, and had lost almost 2 lbs.  They had to draw blood from both of her arms and run tests to determine if she had something more significant wrong with her.  Thankfully, they found nothing, and when I transitioned her from breast-milk to pedia-sure, she started to thrive again.  Of course with that history though it makes breastfeeding baby O all the more stressful.

#3 It's Inconvenient.

Nuring L on the Beach-- See his cute little feet! 
Breastfeeding is hard in public.  I've always felt comfortable nursing in public... BUT, after a certain age, my babies were too distracted and would twist, turn, latch, and unlatch trying to "see."  A nursing cover became useless at that point because all they wanted to do was take the cover off and look around--attracting more unnecessary attention.  There may be no need to carry bottles, formula, or water to every outing, but I do have to find, or plan to find, a quiet place to nurse (for 20+ minutes) when I'm out.  Some times I wish I could just hand my baby my breast and say, "here, do this yourself, kid!"

Nursing O at L's hockey game
#4  It Limits Freedom 

The inability to just turn to my husband and say, "I'm gonna run to the grocery store" without having to pump, or plan around a feeding, makes me feel like I'm a prisoner when I'm nursing.  As a nursing mom, saying no to the baby is not an option-- in the middle of the night, early in the morning, or every few hours.  I never realized how selfish I was until I started breastfeeding a baby.  I like the occasional "me time" and it's hard to get it with a nursing newborn.

Five week old E at the Beach for the 1st time!

#5 It Make Me Feel Fat

It may because I'm a fairly small person to begin with (5ft 3in and about 125-130 post-pregnancy), but while I'm nursing, it seems absolutely impossible to lose any weight.  With all three of my kids I have pretty much maintained my after-baby weight until I weaned.  I've worked out, tried to eat right, and limited my calories, but the scale doesn't budge-- or if it does, my milk supply diminishes with it.

So, why do I breastfeed?

#1 Peer Pressure

Yep, when most of your friends breastfeed it makes it hard to be the one that just gave up.  Then I read breastfeeding message boards and they pretty much make it sound like only bad, selfish, lazy moms, give their kids formula (without a medical reason).  So, I'd feel guilty if I did not at least TRY to breastfeed for a full year.

#2 Breast is Best  

I do believe strongly that the milk God has created is better than what our modern science has created.  So I breastfeed because I want to give my kids the best-- For as long as it continues to work for our family.

#3 It makes me feel powerful

I love the power that it gives me.  When my baby is fussy, or tired, I like that I can calm them or put them to sleep in a matter of seconds.  It's frustrating when I'm the only one that can soothe the baby in the middle of the night, but other times I'm like, "Watch this. I can get this kid to sleep in minutes!"

...And he's out.  Sound asleep after nursing.

#4  Closeness

Breastfeeding really is a beautiful thing.  Yes, it drives me absolutely crazy some (most) times, but the closeness that comes with it is truly amazing.  I'm sure it's possible to have the same bond while bottle feeding, but it comes so easily when you have to nurse.  Unlike bottle feeding, you literally have to be attached to your child every 2-3 hours to feed them.

Breastmilk Coma!

#5 It's Hard to Quit

After several months of nursing, your body is programed to make the right amount of milk at the right time.  So, if I skip a feeding, or reduce the amount of a feeding, my body (specifically breasts) says, "I need to feed a baby!"  It would be entirely too painful to quit cold-turkey, but I've found it's also difficult to even reduce feedings.  I've been trying to reduce some of Os feedings and give him formula for over a month and a half and I'm still not having much luck.

So, as requested, that's my breastfeeding story (kind of).  Basically, I have nursed all three of my children.  Have I enjoyed every minute of it?  Absolutely not.  Have I even enjoyed half of it?  Probably not.  But, breastfeeding has helped me to learn that life is not all about me.  I breastfeed for my babies-- to give them the healthiest start to life.  Would they be just as healthy with formula?  Probably.  Would we be just as close with formula?  Probably.  But, without a medical reason, I felt I had to at least try my best to feed them the way God intended.


  1. I totally appreciate your honesty! It is so difficult and gets even worse when you do have some of those issues, too. Thanks for a "real" take on breastfeeding. Instead of a sugar-coated, it's all wonderful and great version of the story!

    1. Wow, I'm not sure how I missed your comment several months ago. Thank you. I ended up nursing my 3rd (O), for just about a week shy of 12 months.