It seems somewhat ridiculous to compare and contrast certain parts of motherhood, because every situation is different. However, I've learned in my two years as a mother that one experience can help me deal with another so, in a way, they're all linked together. I can gain perspective when, say, my kid is throwing a tantrum, because if I made it through 10 hours of drug-free labor, I can make it through a few minutes of screaming. That's why it's helpful to realize that breastfeeding is definitely harder than potty training, as I'm in the throes of teaching my son how to use a toilet properly and it is the worst. The messiest, most frustrating worst.
Still, it's nothing compared to the breastfeeding journey my son and I shared. While breastfeeding was easily more enjoyable (there really are very few things that can compare to snuggling and feeding your baby in the quiet of the night, even when you're sleep deprived) the difficulties that we faced together make any other subsequent, somewhat-frustrating situations seem like a walk through a sunny park. Dealing with clogged milk ducts makes an even frequent potty accident seem like child's play. Breastfeeding through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) triggers stemming from a past sexual assault, makes my son's reluctancy to even sit on the toilet a non-issue.
So, sure, breastfeeding and potty training are so very different in a number of undeniable ways, but when you're facing a specific difficulty, it's helpful to look back and see what you've already accomplished. So, if you're currently attempting to toilet train your kid, realize that you can handle it because you've handled so many difficult situations before. If you're currently breastfeeding your baby and dealing with breastfeeding complications of your own, know that you will make it through and that, in the end, it will only help you deal with certain issues in the future. See, you guys? Win-win.
The Pressure To Breastfeed Immediately Is Real...
My son started breastfeeding a few minutes after he was born, and in those initial minutes (even though I was exhausted) I was unsure of how our first breastfeeding session would go. I felt so much pressure to get him to latch immediately, to breastfeed "successfully," and to keep breastfeeding for as long as possible, that I felt like so much was riding on our first, initial attempt. To say the least, it was overwhelming.
With potty training, I feel way less pressure to get my kid to use the potty in a certain amount of time. We're simply letting him take the lead, tell us when he is ready and go from there. While it definitely isn't easy, I don't feel like I'm needing to produce certain results right away.
...And Mothers Are Often Defined By Whether Or Not They're Able To Breastfeed
Sadly, our culture is big on categorizing damn near everyone, and the need to divide people up into little groups that are easily labeled doesn't stop when you become a mother. You have the mothers who had a drug-free birth, a home birth, a hospital birth and a c-section; the mothers who co-sleep and the mothers who sleep train; the attachment parents and the helicopter parents; and, of course, the mothers who breastfeed and the mothers who don't and/or couldn't.
That's a lot of labels, and when you want to be a mom who breastfeeds, you know that if you can't you're going to be "labeled" as a "formula-feeding mom" (as if there is anything wrong with that). It's extremely overwhelming.
With potty training, well, everyone does it so it isn't some defining characteristics of you, as a mother. There is no pressure to adhere to whatever is expected of you if you're go be "part of a group," and that's pretty nice. Now, if only we could get rid of all the rest of those unnecessary labels...
Your Kid Needs To Eat Immediately And Often
It's not like you can prolong breastfeeding or take a break and come back after a few weeks (or longer) when it doesn't work out, because, well, your kid needs to actually eat food. Yes, you can supplement with formula, but so many breastfeeding mothers don't want to and reminding them of that option is anything but helpful. Like, they know it's there. They're aware, they just want to exhaust every other option before using a bottle.
With potty training, if it doesn't work, you can take a break. You really don't have to force your kid to "get it," you can let them take the lead and coast into toilet usage with ease. It's the best. Messy, sure, but still the best.
Breastfeeding Can Be Physically Demanding
There are a number of breastfeeding complications that can be nothing short of physically demanding. Your body burns more calories every single day when you're breastfeeding; if you breastfeed on demand, you're up every few hours; you can experience undersupply, over-supply or clogged milk ducts; I mean, the list goes on and on. It's not "easy" by any stretch of the imagination (but it is worth it, in my humble opinion.)
While it can be physically demanding to clean poop and pee of the floor for the third time in two days, potty training doesn't require the same physical sacrifice breastfeeding does. If anything, it's just mentally exhausting and frustrating, but physically, it's a walk in the park.
You Breastfeed At All Hours Of The Day And Night
While I loved breastfeeding my son (even though it was difficult and I eventually had to stop because of debilitating PTSD triggers from a prior sexual assault), I don't necessarily miss the "up every two hours to feed my kid" part. I mean, those first few months were a haze of sleep-deprivation.
With potty training, I haven't even started trying to get my kid to wear underwear at night. We simply stick a diaper on him and go to sleep for six hours at a time. It's heaven compared to those night feedings, so in no way will you ever hear me complaining about potty training. Nope. I actually get to sleep through this part, so I'm a happy camper.
You Don't Have To Potty Train In Public...
Breastfeeding in public shouldn't be a big deal, but our culture seems to have a problem with women's breasts when they aren't sexualized ad nauseam, so it is. That means that, even though you're doing something as simple and necessary as feeding your child, when you're breastfeeding in public you're opening yourself up for endless and sometimes scary judgement, shame and criticism.
You don't deal with any of that when you're potty training. You get to teach your kid from the comfort of your home, away from a stranger's unnecessary gaze.
...And Potty Training Isn't Highly Debated Or Stigmatized
I've literally had to debate and argue for my right to breastfeed my son in public (and without a cover). I have had to tell people to mind their own business, that, "No, I will not be feeding my kid in the bathroom," and that I had a right to feed my son whenever and wherever he needed me to.
I've never once had to fight for my right to teach my kid how to properly pee in a toilet.
More People Can Be Involved With The Potty Training Process
I'm of the personal belief that breastfeeding isn't really a one-woman show. Yes, I am the primary source of my child's nutrition, but there are so many people who can (and should) support a woman while she's breastfeeding, that saying it's solely the woman's responsibility is just, you know, wrong. Still, it is on me at the end of the day, because I can't really detach a breast and hand it to my partner and tell him to take over.
I can, however, tell my partner it's "his turn" when we're potty training our son. Especially when our kid wants to sit on his little mini-Elmo potty for almost an hour while I sit in the bathroom with him. Having someone to "tag in" is the most helpful.
Your Kid Is Old Enough To (Kind Of) Reason With When You're Potty Training
I couldn't essentially bargain or bribe my son to latch when we first started breastfeeding. I couldn't ask him to give me a few minutes while I got myself situation and he cried, and I couldn't reason with him when I had a clog milk duct and really wanted to just take a break from breastfeeding altogether.
I can, however, promise my kid delicious treats if he uses the potty. I can give him some stickers and endless praise every time he uses the toilet properly. The communication skills he has learned in the last two years are so very helpful.
Mastitis. Enough Said.
I mean, do I really even need to write anything else? Mastitis is the seventh circle of breastfeeding hell, and the reason why (in my opinion) breastfeeding is easily one of the hardest things a mother can do. Worth it, mind you, but still. Ouch.