What no one tells you about breastfeeding

10 May

I love breastfeeding.  I really do.  I breastfed my kids for 12 mo, 15 mo, and 18 mo respectively.  I love the closeness that it gave me with my kids, the nutrition it supplied for my children, and the money it saved us.  But breastfeeding is not all roses and pretty ponies.  It can be very hard.  And painful.  And exhausting.  And it’s not for everyone.

My first experience with breast feeding was not the picture of peace and serenity.  Griffin had to be resuscitated upon birth and had to go get oxygen for a few hours.  And I had an emergent C-Section so I was covered in enough cords and monitors that I might as well have been in a straight jacket.  So I was elated when I finally got to see my baby after several hours of sitting by myself in recovery worrying about him.  But I could barely move due to all the cords.  So the lovely nurse, knowing of my plan to breastfeed, pulled back my gown for me and stuck him on my nipple.  He took a few gulps and she plucked him back off and headed back to the intensive care nursery.   I didn’t get to see him again for another few hours.


Then he was diagnosed with IUGR.  Intrauterine growth retardation.  Basically just a scary way of saying he was born very skinny.  So he was a hungry little dude.  I called him my barracuda nurser.  That boy could latch.  He basically spent the first 6 weeks of his life attached to my boob.  He got chubby in a hurry!  But he did damage that you wouldn’t believe.  My milk came in like a freight train.  My boobs looked more like a pair of Egyptian pyramids than knockers.  Holy hell did that hurt!  I had to head to a bathroom and do a hot water compress on them just to relieve the pressure enough to allow him to latch on.  I would stand over the bathroom sink and milk would squirt out without me having to so much as touch them.  I was like one of those female robots from Austin Powers, except instead of bullets, I was squirting milk.  Then there were the sores.  Yes, I used lanolin.  But when you are a human pacifier, buckets of lanolin aren’t going to do you a bit of good.  I would go to change my nursing pads and chunks of tissue would be stuck to them.  My nips looked more like hamburger than human flesh.

Then the getting up.  All the time.  Like every 45 minutes at first.  So much that I was no longer sure if I was lucid or not.  So much that I didn’t bond with my child at all.  So much that I remember pondering what everyone thought was so great about parenthood.  So much that I actually thought to myself one day, “I totally get why parents shake their babies”.  That was a scary day.  When your kid is nursing constantly, you start to wonder if you are actually producing any milk.  And then the self doubt starts to set in.  Just one more thing to worry about.

To add to the worry about producing enough, then you get the non breastfeeders who give you all this really sage advice.  That totally goes against what breastfeeding moms should do.  Like the advice to give my 4 week old bottles of water to help him with his gas.  Huh, good idea.  Except large quantities of water in any 4 week old can cause kidney damage.  And my baby doesn’t take a bottle.  And the implication that my choosing breastfeeding is what is causing my baby to get up 5,235,470 times a night.  Because dontcha know, formula fed babies sleep through the night upon birth.  Or the great advice to put cereal in his bottle so he’ll sleep longer.  Again, he doesn’t take a bottle.  And clearly, getting up in the middle of the night to pump so I can put it in a bottle, so I can add cereal, is the most counterproductive thing I can imagine.  Besides the fact that pediatricians recommend waiting for 4-6 mo to introduce cereal.  Yes. I know this was all great advice when you were a mom back in 1970, but things have changed!  You drank and smoked while you were pregnant too?  Great, we should all start doing that.  And who needs car seats anyways.  Back in the day…..

And for some reason, I could never seem to accomplish a single thing.  By the time I’d get my food heated up, he’d be hungry again.  I got sick of eating cold food, so I figured out how to nurse and eat at the same time.  I dropped food on his head on more than one occasion.

I never really wondered what a cow felt like before.  But now I know.  Being hooked up to a machine that sounds like it is chanting strange phrases to you as it pulls your nipple in and out is not enjoyable.  I’m quite adept at pumping and eating, or pumping while riding down the interstate (not driving of course) because moms need to multitask you know.  But I abhorred pumping.  When I was working, I quit pumping during the day and switched him to formula once I ran out of frozen milk.  You know, THE STASH.  Liquid Gold.  God forbid that you spill a drop.  And if someone messes with your milk, look out.  We need to put that stuff in Fort Knox.

Okay, slightly off topic here, but moms, am I the only one who frequently tasted my own breastmilk?  I mean, if you are going to feed something that has been frozen to your kid, don’t you want to taste it first to make sure it is okay for their consumption?  Fresh milk is so creamy, rich, smooth, and sweet.  Frozen is not nearly as good.  Does that gross you out?  Huh, too bad.  Back to the point.

Then there is the fact that your boobs have a mind of their own.  They won’t produce when you want them to.  Or you pump and you barely get anything.  Or you hear a baby cry and suddenly you are soaked with milk.

My other two kids seemed to be more gentle nursers, so I never had hamburger nipples or pyramids again.  Instead I found myself battling plagues of thrush infections of the nipple, clogged ducts, and mastitis.  I guess we’re back to cow references.  If you have never had mastitis, you are lucky.  It’s like having a really bad case of the flu.  Your whole body aches.  Even your hair.  Your boobs hurt so bad that you wish someone would just lop them off and put you out of your misery.

But for me, it was worth it.  Every bit of agonizing pain.  (Kids, you owe me big time.  You better put me in a good home when I’m old and senile).  Not everyone is chalked up to be a lactavist like me though.  There are lots of reasons moms do or don’t breastfeed.  The biggest hurdle for new moms is getting the support they need so they don’t end up in excruciating pain like me!  The problem is, we assume breastfeeding will just come naturally.  But it doesn’t!  It is hard work.  Too often moms feel guilty when it doesn’t go according to their plans.  There are all kinds of issues- low supply, poor latch, inverted nipples, tongue tied baby,  medications that are incompatible with breastfeeding, the list goes on and on.  But moms, please remember, there are many ways to feed your baby.  If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, that is okay.  If you can get through the first 6 weeks, you’ll probably make it far.  But those first few weeks are brutal.  I’m not going to lie.

Oh, and when you are done nursing, you have a few options.  You know that song “Do your ears hang low?”  You can substitute boobs for ears.  Even my teeny tiny titties managed to get flatter and saggier than they were before.  Supposedly this is a result of pregnancy, not nursing, but I’m not sure about that.  So when you start your baby’s college fund, make sure to start a fund for your boobs too, because you are either going to need a boob job or some Victoria’s Secret bras.  I chose the latter.  It’s all about smoke and mirrors folks.

What struggles with breastfeeding did you have?  Any advice to share?


2 Responses to “What no one tells you about breastfeeding”

  1. Theresa Frost May 10, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    I hear you!! As I sit here nursing my third baby and typing with one hand. I have had the hamburger nipples, cannonballs (or Dolly Pardons), and mastitis. My babies have had more crumbs dropped on their heads than I would like to admit. The cow references hit home as I remember pumping for the first time after my third was born and my very analytical 5 year old son literally pulled up a chair to watch what I was doing. Later when relaying the experience to my mom he was very animated in showing her with arm motions and sound effects the wheesh whoo, wheesh whoo that my pump made. I can’t help but laugh. I also have tried pumping in a car. I feel like Dr Seuss missed a book opportunity in mentioning the places one has nursed or pumped. Have you in a car, on a chair, in the bathroom, in a mall….

    Thanks Jana for the humor!

    • mediocremomof3severelyaveragekids May 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Theresa, That is so funny! Dr Seuss missed his opportunity on that one!
      Sawyer used to grab my pump parts and hold them up to his “bobos” as he calls them. I don’t miss that god dammed machine!

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