I have to think that anyone who offers up the “breastfeeding is easy” line to a mom-to-be, is doing so with the best of intentions. Maybe they're trying to help her think positively. Maybe they don’t want to let her in on how intense it can be. Maybe, for them, it really was easy. However, for the majority of us, the idea that “breastfeeding is easy” is a big lie. A huge lie, in fact. A lie so big it could birth other lies, all of which would be equally difficult to breastfeed, proving that one main lie is the lyingest lie to ever freakin' life. Ever.
For me, breastfeeding was the single biggest struggle I faced as a new mom. There were countless times I wanted to, and probably should have, thrown in the towel for the sake of my own sanity. However, I was committed to sticking with it, mostly because I was so shaky in my new role as someone's mom that I didn’t have the confidence to let go of this one thing I thought I was supposed to do. When you have no idea how to handle this whole parenthood thing, you'll hold onto whatever form of validation you can get.
The good news? Well, obviously I lived to tell about it. My son and I eventually found our groove and I ultimately breastfed him for over two years. However, that doesn’t mean the sting of those early challenges hasn't lingered (or isn't still with me, today). Here’s where it hurt the most:
When You’re Woken Up For The Fifth Time In A Single Night
Of course, parents who aren’t breastfeeding spend the majority of their nights awake, too. However, when you’re in the middle of breastfeeding at some ungodly hour, thoughts aren’t coming to you clearly enough to recognize that undeniable fact. They’re merely reacting to the fact that waking up five times in one night for anything is the worst, and breastfeeding is no exception.
When Latching Is Just Not Happening
It sounds so simple, but I felt powerless every time my son failed to latch correctly. I did everything I could but, at some point, he’s got to do his part, too. It took us weeks to get it right.
When Your Supply Drops
I have vivid memories of sitting in my previous office’s break room, listening to my pump motor and watching those little plastic bottles stay close to empty. It’s disheartening, and dare I say, kinda scary, especially if you’re not ready to wean. It leaves you with a panicky, "Now what?” feeling that, thankfully, can be resolved when you remember the frozen supply you’ve stocked up on.
When You’re Breastfeeding In The Hospital And The Nurses Give You A Thumbs-Up And You Think Everything’s Fine. Until It’s Not.
I was warned multiple times that breastfeeding could be challenging. I heard my friends and I listened to their stories and I thought, “I hope it’s not that bad for me.” My logic was something along the lines of, "Surely it has to work for some people, right? Maybe I’ll be one of those people."
So, when the nurses at the hospital checked on me after my son arrived and gave us a quick cursory glance of approval when I held him in position to my breast, I thought I was in the clear. Turns out, I wasn’t, which threw me for a much more dramatic loop when we realized there were issues.
When Your Baby Falls Asleep Mid-Feeding
We had a vicious cycle going where my son would display signs of hunger, only to end up falling asleep after getting the bare minimum amount of milk. Waking him up and starting over (more than once) made feeding sessions take upwards of an hour. I learned to be very thankful for Netflix (and pillows).
When You Have Visitors You’re Also Trying to Accommodate
It’s like, "OK, either you’re going to have to move or I’m going to nurse my son four inches from your face because that’s the only spot on the couch that’s working for us right now."
When You’re Trying To Breastfeed In Public, Discretely
Baby’s don’t really understand the concept of discretion. More power to moms who don’t worry about covering up when nursing in public, but I was always the one breastfeeding off to the side, wrestling with the cover, and trying to keep my son from pulling my shirt down.
When You Drop Your Phone Out Of Reach
Do they make Velcro gloves? Or scratch that, maybe we should just glue those things to our hands for those first couple of months we spend breastfeeding. My phone was my lifeline to the outside, and the only way I stayed in touch with the world that existed on the other side of my newborn bubble.
When The Thirst Strikes, But You Have Nothing To Drink That's Within Reach
Now that I think about it, I hope to breastfeed another child someday, so I should probably start training my dog to fetch water bottles now. Or at least add a mini-fridge to every room of the house. Or, you know, both.
When You See A Lactation Consultant And Your Baby Nurses, But Won’t Replicate At Home
Those lactation appointments were a necessary evil, in my experience. The lactation consultant I worked with was knowledgeable and efficient, and gave me hope that I would be able to breastfeed my son.
However, nursing at home was never as simple as nursing in her office, and I was often left feeling like the whole thing was an elaborate tease.
When Mastitis (Or Any Number Of Ailments) Strikes
In my experience, just as I was starting to get comfortable breastfeeding, mastitis inevitably strikes. It was was if the breastfeeding gods were like, “Nope, nope. Don’t get too cocky, here’s a fever and some flu-like symptoms for you.” Which, I’m glad to say, were short-lived. Still, it's freakin' brutal.