Now that I’m expecting my second child, I’m mentally preparing to re-enter the world of breastfeeding. There’s a fine line between trying to recall what it’s really like, and trying to protect myself from painful memories. Overall, it was a really positive experience for me and my son (at least, I think it was, as he wasn’t exactly writing poetry about it), but it was not without its hiccups. In fact, There are a number of breastfeeding moments I’d be happy never thinking about again. That doesn’t mean I won’t think about them, or that I won’t face them again with the new baby, but they are most definitely not the highlights of my breastfeeding saga.
Make no mistake, I was warned about the challenges of breastfeeding. However, the former camp counselor in me chose to remain optimistic instead of praying to the holy powers that be and lighting candles and performing rituals involving milk, and you know, doing everything possible to prepare myself (which, as anyone who’s ever breastfed knows, is next to nothing until the baby arrives and your milk comes in). Spoiler alert: it didn't help.
Thankfully, all of the big moments were fairly short-term. I breastfed my son for just over two years, and most of the feelings I have about when I look back involve happy, warm fuzzies. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the low points, like:
Anything Involving Teeth
I’ve heard some intense things about teeth and breastfeeding that are much more dramatic than my experience ever was. For the most part, my son was pretty good, but there were brief moments when those tiny daggers made contact with very sensitive parts of me that I could definitely have done without.
That First Bout Of Mastitis
My first (and unfortunately, not my only) experience with mastitis came on my first full day home alone with my newborn. I was a mess, a giant heap of struggle, before it finally occurred to me to take my temperature and to, you know, actually pay attention to all the signs that something was wrong.
Once I realized what was going on, I gave myself permission (and by "gave myself permission," I mean that my mom gave me permission via the phone) to take care of myself in addition to the baby, which was exactly what I needed.
Thrush is a punishment befitting the people who give out raisins on Halloween, and anyone who speaks ill of scarves. It’s a painful, frustrating ailment that has no place in modern society.
The Time The Baby’s Diaper Spilled Onto Me And My Nursing Pillow
I learned the hard way to always keep a blanket or soft towel on the nursing pillow, unless you want to find yourself struggling to wash the poop off of it in that short ninety-minute window in between feedings. And while I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I'll just tell you now: it won't dry in time.
All The Times I Cried Over Latching In The First Month
I suppose this one could just be shortened to “the first month.” It took my son and I a long while to find our groove and actually get comfortable breastfeeding, and those early weeks were fraught with frustration and tears (like, lots and lots of tears). Perhaps the hormones are to blame from some of it, but it’s not like I had the wherewithal to pause and think, “Hmm, maybe these emotional breakdown is more hormonal than situational.” It all blurred together, into one sniffly, snorty dark period of personal history.
All The Moments I Cried, In General, In The First Month
There were more unhappy tears than happy tears, I can say that much. In particular, I remember a very dramatic moment in my kitchen, full-on weeping over the fact that I was giving my son a bottle of breast milk instead of my own breast. Not a bottle of poison, or dirt, or anything remotely questionable. A bottle of my own pumped breast milk. I know, it sounds kinda irrational. OK, it was irrational, but at the time it felt like a huge deal, guys. Huge.
Anytime I Was Hooked Up To A Breast Pump
I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that at some point in the near-ish future, I will probably have to get my breast pump out of the garage, dust it off, and re-assemble it. I love the fact that breast pumps exist and give breastfeeding moms options we otherwise wouldn’t have, but that does not mean I like reminiscing about all the hours I spent hooked up to mine. Just the opposite, in fact. I'm going to continue pretending it doesn't exist until I can't deny that I need it again (sigh).
Anytime Breast Milk Spilled
Speaking of hours spent hooked up to breast pumps, the only thing more tragic than losing time in your day to essentially milk yourself, is losing the liquid gold that you produced. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen, and yes, I was devastated. It’s not unlike realizing you have to throw away milk from the back of the freezer that’s past its prime, but much messier.
Those Plugged Ducts…
I suppose there is a bright side though. I feel like now I have at least a cursory knowledge of how plumbing works, so I guess that’s something?
...And The Ridiculous Positions I Would Nurse In To Try To Get Them Out
Maybe they wouldn’t have felt so strange if I’d done more pre- and post natal yoga. But, sadly, I didn’t do much, so crouching on all fours over my tiny son and trying to let gravity do its thing has not been the highlight of my motherhood journey.
When Supply Issues Strike
Supply issues always seem to come at the worst time. It’s like, your body knows that you’re getting comfortable in your routine and things seem to be working smoothly, so it goes, “Nope! I’m in charge,” and sends you the vicious reminder in the form of a hungry baby or a dry pumping session. Not cool, body. Not cool.