Breastfeeding my babies was one of the hardest things I have ever done as a parent. I think it's because there was so much outside of my control. I couldn't control when my babies were hungry or how much breast milk I produced, and I often had no clue if they were still hungry, wanted more, or were simply using me as a pacifier. Breastfeeding is just one of many times when you wish that babies came with a manual, because there were so many things I wish my baby could say to me when I was breastfeeding.
In fact, if my little one was capable of uttering the following, I know I would have benefited (and, well, so would have my boobs):
"I'm still hungry."
"I'm getting enough."
"I'm going to wake up if you put me down."
"I need to burp."
"I'm not asleep, yet."
"I love you."
Over time, you learn what they need, their rhythms, what their cries mean and how to soothe them. In the meantime, you get to experience a bunch of best guesses, trial, and error. Yay motherhood, right?
Personally, I am a bit embarrassed to admit how scared I am to breastfeed my next child, even though this is my third time around and I have done it before. My mind is full of anxiety and "what-ifs." Maybe they will invent a baby translator by then? Probably not. Either way, I know that no matter what and even if get a few things wrong, I will do my best. In the end, that is all we can hope for.
"I'm Still Hungry"
I had always planned to breastfeed my babies exclusively, but reality had different plans. Turns out I have insufficient glandular tissue and my breasts don't make enough breast milk for my babies.
If only my daughter could have told me that I wasn't making enough and that her constant nursing and sleepiness was the sign of a problem. Now I know that combo-feeding and topping off baby with formula after nursing ensures that they will have full tummies, and can grow and thrive.
"It's Too Slow"
In the evening hours my son would get so fussy and frustrated, while nursing. I learned that my milk flow was slow at the exact time he was trying to cluster feed to tank up for night time. Grrr.
"I Promise Not To Wake Up If You Unlatch Me"
Both of my babies liked to nurse to sleep. I actually really loved it. There's nothing better than baby snuggles. The problem, of course, was finding a way to unlatch baby, place her in her crib, and get out of the room without waking her and having to start the process over again.
"I'm Sorry I Hurt You"
This one is a bit silly, because of course I didn't expect my babies to say sorry when they bit me or literally tore up my bleeding nipples while nursing. After all, it's not like they're doing it intentionally. Still,it's nice to have a reminder that it wasn't on purpose, you know?
"My Tummy Hurts"
"If you don't burp me now, mom, I may explode." No one wants that. No one.
Just A Little Bit Longer
"No, I'm not finished, yet, but I just need a bit more. I promise not to keep you up all night. Well, maybe only tonight. I will let you sleep tomorrow."
I'm Not Really Sleeping
"I just look asleep, I'm really wide awake. As soon as I unlatch or you unlatch me, I will want to play, cry or do anything, but sleep."
"I'm Pooping On Your Leg"
"You know that warm, wet spot on your leg? It's not breast milk." Babies are so gross, you guys. Honestly, that's probably the reason why they're also super, super cute.
"I'm Just Using You As A Pacifier Now"
"Who needs a pacifier when you have mommy's nipple available all night long?"
I was so bummed that my son wouldn't take a pacifier. Mommy needs a break.
"I know you are trying hard to be the best mom you can be. I know that at times breastfeeding is scary, hard, painful, exhausting, and overwhelming. Thanks, mommy. I love you."
I love you, too, sweetheart. More than you'll ever know.