I was debating whether or not I wanted to write this post because some people get so weird about breastfeeding, and I don’t know, I kinda can’t even deal with that nonsense right now. But then I remembered what Bréne Brown said: “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”
No. No I’m not.
So if you are gonna hate on breastfeeding or thinks it’s gross or some other such nonsense, then this post is not for you, and that’s ok. You win some, you lose some. But for anyone who has every struggled with breastfeeding, or who is curious about the ins and outs, or who is pregnant and scared out of your mind about this subject (I know I was), this post is just for you!
Enjoy. Or not. Whatever.
Ok, so I called this post “Breastfeeding Real Talk” which is street jive for “I’m going to give it to you straight.” There is no room for subtly with this topic. So let’s just get one thing out of the way right now:
Breastfeeding is hard.
Breastfeeding is awesome/worth it.
Not everyone can breastfeed, and we mommas need to be sensitive to that. It’s easy to go around saying “breast is best,” not stopping to think that we might be really making someone feel awful. Let’s not do that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’ve got to support each other in this, regardless of the decisions we make. We need to foster a culture where women support other women, not tear them down.
Before we go any further, let me share the run-down of my breastfeeding experience so far:
Theo: born premature and spent several weeks in the NICU. He wasn’t able to take any milk for the first few days (they gave him sugar water, like a baby bird. adorable.), and it took his entire NICU stay for him to get to the point where he could even take a bottle (in fact, that was one of the milestones he had to reach before he could go home).
Breastfeeding did not happen. I tried to get him to latch on a daily basis in the NICU and he just couldn’t. When we brought him home we continued to struggle big time. He couldn’t latch. I was in pain. He was exhausted. I was exhausted. He cried. I cried.
I pumped around the clock for months while continuing to try to get the whole BF thing down. Then, one day, it suddenly got easier. (I use the word “suddenly” as a relative term, I mean, Theo was probably 6 months old.) And each day after that we got a little better.
Here is the thing that no one tells you about BF and your baby. You guys have to get to know each other and figure this thing out together. You are a team. Some days you will be the team member who can’t get it together; other days, that team member who needs a little more grace is your baby. But either way, as natural and instinctual as BF is, you still have to learn how to do it together.
Oliver: had acid reflux and screamed for hours on end before, during, and after eating. He liked to chug it down, which made the reflux worse. He liked to nurse all the time, which made the reflux worse. There was so much crying from both of us. But again, after some time (and some medication), we figured each other out and together we got on the same page. It didn’t take as long as it did with Theo, but it was still several months. (Also, they say that reflux goes away in babies by time they are nine months old. This was true for Oliver.)
You might ask at this point, why keep it up? Well, I guess because I really believe in the power of BF. I believe that it’s good for both mom and baby mentally, physically, and emotionally. I know that might seem like a confusing thing to say after I just got done telling you how hard both experiences were in the beginning, but all great things are worth fighting for.
…It’s not so much about where you start, but where you end up. For both boys, we ended in really, really great places with breastfeeding.
Beatrice: Well, we are still in the early days, so I’ll just say it’s going ok. I love it, and I love all this amazing bonding time I’m getting with her, but I’ve also been surprised at how hard its been. I mean, I kiiiinda thought I’d get a break this go-around. Honestly, it hasn’t been all that bad, it’s just been hard and again, dumb me, I had these expectations of grandeur and thought, “Hey! This time will be so easy! It has to be after my last two babies!” Oh, sometimes I say the funnies things….#dumbthingsmomssay
Now for the “real talk.” Here are some things no one told me about breastfeeding, that I kinda wish I would have known:
-It does hurt (at least for me)….in the beginning. And then it goes away. But when it hurts, it really, really hurts. I’ve spent so many hours on Google with all three kids, trying to figure out what was wrong with me because breastfeeding always hurts in the beginning and everyone says that it’s not supposed to hurt.
If it’s not supposed to hurt, but does, then there must be something wrong with you, your baby, your body, etc, right? Wrong. For some reason, sometimes it does hurt in those early days. For me I think it’s just a matter of sensitivity, engorgement, and babies with really, really strong latches/suck.
I’ve found that in the beginning, when I’m hurting and baby is learning to nurse and my milk is starting to come in, the best thing to do is give myself a break every now and then and pump. So for example, if baby needs to eat 8 times in a day, I might nurse four times and pump/bottle feed the other four. I know some people say you shouldn’t introduce bottles too early, but I’ve never had a problem.
-It can be messy at first, and you will feel disgusting. Just another reason to stay home the first few weeks. Seriously. This is hard work. Don’t add the additional pressure of trying to get yourself gussied up just to end up a not-so-hot mess out in public. It’s not worth it. You will just feel very unpretty and frustrated and there is no reason for that. You’re gorgeous and your doing a great job momma, just give it some time before you take the breastfeeding show public.
-People are weird about breastfeeding. Who cares. Don’t feel like you have to excuse yourself to some back room every time you need to nurse. You are doing something natural and wonderful (and beautiful!), so if others give you the stink eye while you nurse, just stare at them until they feel uncomfortable and leave. Or something like that.
-Remember that newborns in general are exhausting, it’s not just the breastfeeding. Sometimes I think breastfeeding gets an unfair bad rap. The whole first few weeks are an exhausting blur. It’s not the best time to make big life decisions or pronouncements on whether or not breastfeeding is great or not.
-The bond you will form with your baby while you breastfeed is real and incredibly special.
-Breastfeeding really is the best post-partum workout. It will also make you super hungry. I eat constantly.
-I’ve heard so many moms worry about not being able to produce enough milk. I know that this can be a real problem, but for the vast majority of women, it’s not that you aren’t producing enough milk, it’s just that your baby is a baby and, well, babies cry.
Just because your baby cries or fusses doesn’t mean he/she isn’t getting enough. Remember that crying is a babies only form of communication. Remember that sometimes they just cry. Remember that crying isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. I’ve never doubted myself so much as I have while breastfeeding, and I think that’s pretty normal. But the thing is, breastfeeding is normal, so trust your body. Trust yourself. Trust your baby (they know what they are doing).
-If you have other little ones at home, consider taking the advice my family doctor gave me: let your kiddos see you use your breast pump. Sometimes, older siblings misunderstand breastfeeding and think that mommy is simply spending all her time holding and cuddling baby. If you allow them to see you use your breast pump and talk to them openly and honestly, it might help ease them through this transition, as they will start to understand mommy is helping make milk/food for baby, not just holding baby.
On another note, Beatrice has two older brothers. I’ve been really intentional about talking to the boys about breastfeeding and about nursing her around them. Our culture overly sexualizes and objectifies the female body, and I think we often times accidentally reinforce these perceptions by then treating the female body as something that is sexual and therefore needs to be hidden. The problem with this, though, is that kids are naturally curious, especially about things that we try to hide from them. (Have you ever tried to hide food from your kids? Talk about a guaranteed way to make them want whatever it is you have.)
I want my boys to first understand that my body has a God-given purpose apart of sexuality loooong before we ever go down that path. I want them to respect the female body, not as something to be objectified or only used for pleasure, but also as something that has a wonderful and natural life-giving quality. I don’t want them to grow up with the typical male outlook of “boobs are for me.” No, no they are not.
I try to not worry too much about people who have opinions different from mine, but I go from normal to crazy in .01 seconds when I hear people talking about women needing to cover up or go somewhere private to breastfeed. We have a culture of Hooters and pornography and strip joints out the wazoo. Don’t we see that we are saying it’s ok for women to flaunt their body for other people’s pleasure, but it’s not ok for them to openly feed their baby? AH! I’ve got to move on, this just really bothers me…
-Let yourself feel beautiful, because breastfeeding your child is beautiful. Let yourself feel proud, because you are doing something amazing for yourself and your child. Remember to take time to nourish your body and mind, because breastfeeding is hard work. Reach out for help if you need it. Find a lactation consultant, a trusted friend, or an OB nurse to ask your questions and share your concerns. Don’t get too caught up in a time line of how long you nurse. Any amount of breastfeeding is a gift to your child. 2 weeks is great. 2 years is great. Don’t use other people’s experience as a way to judge yours. You do your thing and let others do theirs.
And remember that just because it isn’t always easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.