Prior to having my first child, I was 100 percent sure I would breastfeed. I truly believed everyone just simply breastfeeds without experiencing any issues. Then, when I tried with my daughter, I was devastated to learn it wasn't as easy as I had assumed. Never in a million years would I have thought it would be so difficult, so painful, or that I would have thoughts I was too afraid to say aloud. I was convinced if I voiced my thoughts and feelings when I was struggling with breastfeeding, those around me would think I was an unfit parent, a selfish parent, and a parent who didn't deserve her amazing little girl. So I didn't say anything and, eventually, gave up nursing. I should have asked for help. I should have reached out to professionals and medical providers. I should have asked other women, those with experience. But I didn't, and my ability to breastfeed suffered because of it.
Fast forward a few years and I'm pregnant with my son. I swore to myself I would voice my breastfeeding concerns this time around and I would get the necessary help. Still, the first six weeks were brutal, and nursing was just as painful and as difficult as it was with my daughter. But this time around I asked for way more helped and persevered despite clogged ducts, a tongue tie, incorrect latching, and bleeding and bruised nipples.
I got through the first six weeks and finally realized how great breastfeeding could be. It took a lot of strength and determination to push through every breastfeeding obstacle I could think of, but it felt worth it at the end. While I was struggling, though, I still had many thoughts I was reluctant to share with others, including the following:
"This Is Too Much Pressure"
The pressure to breastfeed is almost suffocating. Almost every medical professional will tell you "breast is best," so I officially resolved to breastfeed. Knowing that something is best for your baby doesn't mean it's best for your mental wellbeing, though, and putting such pressure on a new mom is almost criminal. While breast milk sure is the best thing you could do for your child, formula is an incredible alternative and should not be vilified in order to force new moms to breastfeed. With my first child, I almost crumbled under pressure until my mom basically told me it was completely fine to pump or formula feed.
"I Have No Idea What I'm Doing"
Like many first time moms, I erroneously assumed breastfeeding would come naturally and I'd just gracefully plop my baby on my breast and my baby would automatically go to town. And while that does happen for some, it doesn't seem to be the norm. The norm seems to be inexperienced new moms struggling to figure out how to get their newborn to latch, and then both baby and mom become increasingly frustrated when it doesn't work out.
"I Want To Stop"
I wanted to stop so many times but I was afraid to admit it to myself and to others. With my first, I did stop. With my second, eventually breastfeeding did become easy. However, it was ridiculously tough in the beginning and I internally screamed in agony for a long time.
"I Hate This And I Love This"
For the first six weeks, I had a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. I hated so much of it, like the pain and the clogged ducts and the emotional toll it took on my mind and the physical toll it took on my body. But I also loved so much of it, especially the look on my baby's face as he latched and ate and then fell asleep while nursing.
"Where's The Bond?"
In the beginning, all I felt was pain and resentment instead of the bond I was supposed to feel. I couldn't understand why everyone who breastfed said it was the most amazing feeling between you and your baby. I understood much later, but at first, it felt like I job I wanted to quit every moment my baby latched.
"Ah! My Nipples!"
And they feel like they will fall off. My nipples looked hideous and raw and purple. It wasn't pretty and I wanted to die.
"I Feel Incredibly Unattractive"
For the first few months, I didn't feel fabulous when I was breastfeeding, like the stock photos imply. I felt gross. My body felt gross and my breasts looked terrible. I was leaking, I smelled, and it was generally unpleasant.
"Where's The Weightloss?"
The biggest lie I believed was that breastfeeding helped with weight loss. I could eat an entire meal, nurse my baby, and then need another meal. I gained more weight breastfeeding than I did in my pregnancy. And the more weight I gained, the more upset I became.
"I Want My Freedom"
I wanted to go out and not have to come back two hours later. I wanted to go to a friend's birthday and not leave in the middle. I wanted to not be attached to a schedule and to my newborn
"I'm Really Upset This Is Over"
After all is said and done, I miss breastfeeding. My milk ran out somewhere around 10 months and while I was happy it was over, I also suddenly missed the bond with my baby. Breastfeeding was definitely a roller coaster and even with all of the misery I endured, I would still do it all over again.
"This Better Be Worth It"
When my baby would latch and I would feed burning pain all over, I constantly thought, "This better be what everyone says it is." My kid better never get sick, be smarter than everyone else, and thank me when he grows up. Like, he better write me thank you notes for the rest of his life.