Breastfeeding - What No One Told Me

Um, yeah.  This post is about breastfeeding, so if that makes you squeamish, you might want to click away now.

Before I was a Mom, I thought about breastfeeding as something weird and there was no way I was ever going to breastfeed.  At 21, I remember having conversations with girlfriends who'd say they were definitely going to breastfeed when they had kids, and thinking how crazy they were.  

Fast forward to 2007, when I had Little Guy.  During my pregnancy, I figured I'd give breastfeeding a shot - mostly just to feel like I made the effort, but it wasn't a huge priority.  I was a first time mom.  I had no idea about anything, and wasn't one of those researchy types who read every book out there to prepare.  I was just winging it.

So when I tried unsuccessfully to get a latch in the hospital, and the nurse handed me a bottle of formula, I fed it to my baby.  I continued to try at home, never really getting a good latch (but not really putting a huge effort in).  So I pumped.  But my already hungry for formula baby could eat much more than I could pump and I found myself basically formula feeding and supplementing with breast milk instead of the other way around.

Then I just quit.  I felt like, eh.  It's not worth the effort.  So that was that. 

In the years since, breastfeeding has blown up.  If you're expecting, everywhere you look and everything you read puts a huge emphasis on how breast is best.  You can even attend free classes in your local town teaching you about why you should choose to breastfeed.  So when I became pregnant with our new Baby Boy, I knew I needed to make breastfeeding a priority.

There were two things that were super important to me when having my second child:  natural, unmedicated childbirth, and breastfeeding.  

I suddenly became one of those researchy moms - reading everything I could get my hands on to prepare for my birth and for successful breastfeeding.  I was ready.

Except that I wasn't.  

Sure, I knew all about how breast was best, and what a successful latch looked like, and that my newborn really only needed a teaspoon full and not to worry about supply.  But I also knew that "although I might feel some discomfort, breastfeeding should never hurt."  That's what they tell you - that you should never feel pain.

WRONG.

It hurt something fierce.  

I had just come out of an unmedicated birth, so I knew the difference between pain and discomfort, but every time my sweet boy latched on I cringed, clenched my teeth, and my eyes welled with tears. And we had a great latch! 

It. Just. Hurt. 

I spent the first two days Googling.  Reading about how there should be no pain when there clearly was. 

And then you know what?  By the end of the third day, the pain was gone.  Apparently my nipples had to "toughen up."  No one told me that.

For about a day we were doing great.  Then boom.  Engorgement.  

Yes, it was uncomfortable but nothing compared to the pain of the first couple of days.  I did have to pump a little each time before I could even get my baby to latch on though.

Once engorgement ended, I thought, Ok.  Now we're getting it. 
Until we weren't.  

I was eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast, and drinking a cup of mother's milk tea every evening, but by 7pm I was out of milk - or at least it appeared that way.  Baby was tugging and pulling (and hurting me!) and getting unbelievably fussy and frustrated.  Luckily, I had a bottle of pumped milk in the fridge to get him to sleep with so that my body could use that time to make some more milk.  

But almost daily, baby nursed every 45 minutes (sometimes every hour, sometimes every 20 minutes), and the tugging and pulling in the evenings happened more.  

I realized that I had more than enough milk at night (since he'd go for 1-2 hours between feedings), so I decided I'd start pumping to reduce the nighttime engorgement and have a stash for the tugging and pulling sessions.  

And then.

We bought a pacifier.  

Everything you read says "Don't do this!" but we had to.  Baby was still feeding so often, and I was so sore.  He wouldn't even go down to sleep.  He wanted to sleep with me in his mouth, or at least on me, and I am still a human being.  I still need water, or food, or to use the bathroom and I wasn't able to do anything.   

At 2 weeks I talked to my midwife, and she pumped me up on all the reasons to keep going.  I felt so motivated after talking to her, but the next day, it was right back to the same.  
I felt like I was losing myself.  I couldn't even live.  I was stuck on the couch all day long.  I stressed about picking up Little Guy from school.  I couldn't go to the grocery store or even for a walk around the block with the baby.  I was becoming a prisoner.  A very sore, tired, lonely prisoner.

Hubby was getting virtually no time with the baby.  The baby only wanted me.  I fulfilled his every need.

Everything I'd read told me how beautiful breastfeeding was.  How much I would love the bonding time with my baby,but you know what?  I couldn't even remember the last time I picked up my precious boy because I wanted to. I was feeding him so often that it was becoming a chore - one that I performed like a robot, and I was devoid of those beautiful emotions they told me I'd have.  No one told me that might happen. 

I was tired.  I was overstimulated.  My personal space was constantly invaded, and I had nothing left to give Hubby or Little Guy.
I found myself wanting to snap at them for no reason.
Resenting them for being able to play outside, or get themselves a drink of water, or use the bathroom.  
I was slowly slipping away.  Sinking.  

I decided to quit.  

I made a bottle of formula and fed it to my baby, crying as he drank it down.

I know that there's nothing wrong with formula feeding, heck, Little Guy drank the Target formula (it was the only one he took well to), and he's awesome.  But there are moms who would give anything to be able to breastfeed.  Who purchase breastmilk for their babies because they don't want them to drink formula.  And here I was, with a perfectly good latch, and a pretty decent supply, quitting because I needed more "me time?"  

I felt so selfish.

That's when I decided to take it week by week.  I set a goal.  
I will make it to the end of the week, and then we'll see.  

Then I'd make it to the next week and do the same thing.  

By 6 weeks, I almost forgot that I was taking it week by week.  Breastfeeding had become much easier, and we were really doing great.

Now we're at 10 weeks and I have no thoughts of quitting anytime soon. 

My supply has leveled out.  I quit eating oatmeal for breakfast (apparently it was making me ravenous all day), and I rarely need to drink any Mother's Milk tea.
Nursing sessions take about 5 minutes or so and happen every hour and a half to 3 hours.
I even get a 3-4 hour stretch of sleep at night now.
The pacifier has not caused us any problems with latch at all, nor has giving a bottle of pumped milk once or twice a week.

When he's hungry in public, that's still a little awkward for me, so I either bring a pumped bottle, or go sit in the car and nurse.  
But I know that in the middle of the night, it would really stink to have to get up to make and warm a bottle when baby wakes.  And if we were going on a day trip, I never have to worry about coming home before we run out of bottles.

Breastfeeding really has become as easy as they told me it would be.  It just took time to get there.  

If you really want to breastfeed, but find yourself struggling, try setting a goal.  The end of the week, maybe even the end of the day.  It really does get easier by the 6 week mark, but prepare yourself for those first 6 weeks.  

And join a support group.  I don't know what I would have done without the girls at my birth center, and my breastfeeding mama friends. There's even a great group on facebook called  Breastfeeding/Mama Talk.  

Or you can email me. marshmallowmudpie@yahoo.com  I may not have all the answers, but just know that I've been in your boat, and it can get easier.



*Did you find yourself struggling at first while breastfeeding your baby?





20 comments

  1. What a tough and honest story! My experiences were surprisingly similar to yours. I especially appreciated your encouragement that it gets better after about six weeks. I agree. But I do think that there is way too much pressure out there about breastfeeding, which is making women feel like a success or failure based on that ONE thing. The most important thing a baby needs is love, and I think we're all pretty great at that! :)

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  2. We struggled the first 3 months. My baby was tongue tied making it extremely painful to nurse. We had it revised twice and he is not a champ eating. I still never really got over the " is he eating enough"? feeling, but i would latch him on at all times. He is now 8 1/2 months old and still breastfeeding. It's hard work.

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    1. Oh man. Yeah, I always wonder how much my little one's eating, but the doc says he's gaining great, so I try my best not to worry about it. It's still hard though. Congrat's on 8 1/2 months! That's awesome!

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  3. What an awesome story and experience..I nursed both my girls with tons of help getting started. Those first weeks I can relate ..no one mentioned it would feel like a baby pit bull was latching on lol. Glad you did what felt best for you..you're an amazing mom!! Celebrate yourself ..you totally deserve it :)

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    1. Ha! A baby pit bull - that's perfect! It so did. Thanks lady! :)

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  4. Go you! I breastfed my daughter until 18 months. I was so proud that I stuck with it. It was SO hard in the beginning, SO HARD. But then, it got easier. I think the most difficult thing about it is, it's such a personal experience, and varies so much depending on you/your baby. I couldn't believe the lack of solid answers out there when I looked. I always questioned whether or not I was doing it right, was she eating enough, too much, etc.
    If you ever have any questions, I'd be happy to try answering them for you! No one close to me ever breastfed so I was on my own with figuring things out! Haha!

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    1. Wow, 18 months! You should definitely be proud! Thanks so much. No one in my family breastfed either, so it's awesome connecting with mamas who have wisdom to share.

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  5. Inspiring! Yep, with my first, I kept thinking, this has to get better! It did. It was not easy at first at all.

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  6. Hey there! New follower, found your blog through Pig and Dac. Breastfeeding is so difficult! A good lactation consultant and support team is a must! So proud of you for persevering for your little guy! I had a long, rough road with nursing but it was really important to me, so I pumped all day, used nipple shields, cried many tears, and my son is almost 16 months and we are still going strong! It's totally worth it, but remember the most important thing a baby needs is his mama's love! You have a beautiful family! -Andrea www.handandtheheart.com

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    1. 16 months is amazing! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm heading over to your space now. :)

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  7. Such fabulous encouragement for the struggling mamas out there! It doesn't always come easily for everyone even though its "natural".
    Thanks for linking up to Hit Me With Your Best Shot! Hope to see you again!

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  8. I can SO, so very much relate to you. Feeling like a milk cow on two feet that doesn't get to do what the rest of the family can do. I nursed our first daughter until 14 months, and our second daughter is now 14 months and still nursing. (Yes, we made it through teething as well!) For me there were times I was mad at my husband (really for no reason) because he was able to have a break from the crying and non stop nursing. But it gets better sooner than later and the feeling is wonderful once you get on a good, happy schedule. Breastfeeding is a big things for me and I love meeting other breastfeeding mamas! Congrats on such a great job, keep up the good work. :)

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  9. Thanks so much for sharing this, I loved how honest and open you were. Good for your for pulling through. It's definitely not all how they make out like it is. I'm a breastfeeder and I can say for sure that it is not all magical and bonding for the most part, it's a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I featured this post on the Blogger's Digest this week :)

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  11. Hi there, found you via Pig and Dac. I love what you said about taking it one week at a time. It is daunting to think about breastfeeding for the long haul. But we can all get through one more week, right?

    I remember doing my lamaze breathing to get through those first few weeks of painful nursing. OUUUCH.
    It does get easier. My girl is now 13 months old and we're not ready to wean quite yet.

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  12. Love this post for it's honesty. I wish I knew you were struggling I would have offered you an ear to vent and could have told you everything you were feeling and doing was right. I struggling so much with my first and expected the same with the second. The second was easier but still really hard. I remember being so mad the first time around because I felt no one told me about difficult it can be. I try my best to be honest when friends ask. Oh and so you know we did the same, taking it week by week, and I nursed Avery to almost 16 months.

    Thanks so much for joining the Mixer last week. This is exactly the type of posts we need to see more of. It's truly invaluable information for Moms.

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  13. This is something I was not able to do with my first despite huge efforts, but I do still hope that if we are blessed with another I can try again! Thanks for sharing!

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