Before I became a mom, I was blissfully unaware of how breastfeeding worked and what it required. My exposure to it was pretty much limited to being in the room with nursing friends, but even that wasn't super helpful since I spent most of the time trying not to stare. As you can imagine, this experience wasn't informative. It's not that I assumed it would be easy, it's just that I was hopeful. Looking back, though, there were a lot of things that I'm glad I didn't know about breastfeeding before I started, because if I had it probably would've changed my approach and who knows how that would have gone, right? I had enough trouble in the beginning, so I can only assume that overthinking probably wouldn't have helped.
My own breastfeeding experience matches many of my friends' in that it was way, way harder than I expected it to be. Ultimately, my son and I managed to figure it out, it just took us a few weeks and a whole lot of fortitude and patience. In hindsight, I know a few weeks doesn't sound that long, but please trust me when I say they felt like centuries. You know how dog years are supposed to equal something like seven human years? I think every day with a newborn that has a tongue tie equals 84 million human years.
On that note, here's a few more things I learned the hard way:
The Extent Of Just How Difficult It Would Be
I was warned. I was given an explanation. However, well, I'm betting you can guess where this is going. I persisted without really grasping all the advice and warnings I received from well-meaning friends and family members. It took actually experiencing the challenges of breastfeeding for me to really understand.
The Frequency I’d Be Required To Do It
I can still recall the "OMG" feeling that washed over me when the nurse explained that I was to breastfeed every two to three hours, around the clock. "Oh," I thought, "This is what everyone's been talking about when they say how exhausting newborns are."
How, At Times, It Can Feel More Invasive Than Pregnancy
It's true that growing a baby in your uterus requires a lot from you, but it's a whole different beast when that baby is outside your body, in your arms, and screaming at the top of their tiny lungs. I felt like I had less control when breastfeeding because I couldn't really respond on my terms.
How Emotionally Invested I’d Get
To be fair, I was getting emotionally invested in pretty much everything at that time, including the shows I was streaming late at night to stay awake during feedings (and these were not good shows, trust me). However there's something about staring at the top of your baby's head for hours on end that makes you feel fairly attached.
How Much I’d Equate It To My Mothering Abilities
Logically, I know that breastfeeding is not a good measure of how good a parent someone is or isn't. Even at the time, I knew there were countless valid reasons to stop, but I didn't pursue any of them because I didn't have didn't have enough confidence in my mom-skills to let go of something I thought I was supposed to do. Am I proud that I stuck with it? Well, yes. Do I think I put myself through more than I probably needed to in order to do so? Also, yes.
How Many Things Can Go Wrong
Mastitis, blocked ducts, thrush, tongue ties, latch issues: the list goes on and on, and reads like a list of my worst nightmares. Then again, I didn't know they were my worst nightmares until I experienced them.
How Sweet It Would Feel To Finally Get It Right
The relief I felt with finally getting the hang of breastfeeding was on par with the relief I felt when my son was born, which, for those who've never birthed a child, is kinda like when you get to leave the my dentist's office without having to schedule a filling. Like, you never knew life could be this wonderful and amazing, and you feel so #blessed that nothing can get you down.
How Long I Would Eventually Do it
In those early weeks, I was literally bracing myself for every single feeding. The idea of making it another day, week, or month, seemed as impossible as getting him to sleep through the night. Spoiler alert: eventually, both happened, and life got exponentially better.