When I was pregnant, the biggest mistake I ever made was assuming I would breastfeed. All the baby books told me my body was essentially “made for this” and I'd magically “know” what to do. I mean, how hard is putting your kid's mouth to your breast, right? Obviously I was in for a rude awakening, and I’m not the only mom to struggle with this “natural” experience, either. In fact, it was almost too easy to get moms to reveal the hardest thing about breastfeeding, which is actually pretty great. The more we're open and honest about this experience, the better.
While latch was never a problem with my son and I, the biggest difficulty we endured was my inability to produce enough breast milk to keep my baby full and happy. The odds were already stacked against us, too. My son was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unite (NICU) after birth, so we started our breastfeeding journey with a significant disadvantage. I was extremely stressed out because my son was sick, which helped nothing, and I was taking pain and anxiety medications thanks to my severe birth injuries and the trauma I had just experienced nearly losing my second baby. Again, not really conducive to an "easy" breastfeeding start.
So no matter how hard I tried to pump regularly and put my son to my breast, it just wasn’t working. I gave up after four months, and after trying everything I could possibly think of, with no regrets. But my story is just one of many stories that highlight how hard breastfeeding can be. This is what other moms had to say about it:
"For me, it was the pain from the latching. [My son] wanted to be on my boobs every hour at some points, so I got no rest."
"Nursing aversion. It’s not very well publicized, but it’s devastating when it happens."
"The initial latch pain. Feels like razor blades."
"Thinking I had it all figured out after the nursing problems with my first baby, then having to start from scratch with my second, who was completely different and still awful."
"Lack of sleep. Because my children constantly fed, I ended up co-sleeping with the boobs out so I could rest and not worry."
"The pain for the first few weeks until we learned how to get it right. Oh the pain! And thinking it would be easier the second time. Ha!"
"With my first, it was the blisters and nursing them in the first couple weeks. With my second, it's weaning. [My daughter] is 16-months-old, with a full set of teeth, and no plans to quit. The soreness is awful. I am very done and she is not, so it's a lot of tantrums and negotiating with a 1-year-old that refuses to take a bottle."
"Pumping. She was early so she had a hard time getting it. I ended up exclusively pumping around the clock."
"The hardest part for me was that I was a 24-hour buffet."
"I think the hardest part is a lack of common knowledge on what is 'normal' and what isn't. I was lucky to have an abundance of education and resources, but I can't imagine making it through cluster feeding, marathon nursing, and a double tongue tie without it. I feel for the mamas who are too often dismissed as being unsuited to nursing instead of being given the help they need to power through the endless challenges. I was told way too many times that my son's tongue tie was a non-issue simply because he could swallow. They could care less that it took the kid two hours to nurse every time. Thankful I found a [lactation consultant] and pediatric dentist to help."
“I'm still nursing and I mostly hate it. There's so much not to like! I hate the hormones. I hate how they make me feel and think.”
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