If you choose and are able to breastfeed, during the early months of parenthood it can feel like that’s all you’re doing. Forget about sleeping or taking care of yourself; it feels like it’s never going to stop and your entire existence is now one feeding after another and you’re at your baby’s beck and call. It’s exhausting, yet all we really hear about breastfeeding is that it's "magical" and beautiful" and natural." Yes, it's all those things, but it's also tiring and being exhausted by breastfeeding a newborn doesn’t make you a bad mom or make it impossible for you to see the good, wonderful parts of breastfeeding. In fact, I’d argue the opposite to be true. Clearly you’re working (and by working, I mean lactating) your tail off, which obviously counts for something. Any effort you put into caring for your child is obviously a check in the “Good Mom” category, despite how it makes you physically and emotionally feel.
Still, the portrayals of breastfeeding moms as blissful, relaxed, and not-dying-of-thirst goddesses continue, leaving breastfeeding women to feel like they're somehow defunct if they don't love absolutely every aspect of feeding their kid. And sure, there can be moments of relaxed bliss and you are a goddess for housing and birthing and sustaining human life, but the reality of breastfeeding, at least for me, was a fluid-filled marathon of sleepless nights, which, as gross as it sounds, is the best way I can think of to describe it. I’d probably be able to get more creative, but hey, my kiddo was thirsty at an ungodly hour this morning, so that’s the best I can do.
So if you, like me, think breastfeeding is exhausting and don't absolutely love being that tired, know that you're not alone and know that you're not a bad mother. Honestly, you're a hard working mom who is exhausting herself to do what she knows is best for her kid.
You Were Probably Ready To Have Your Body Back
I still remember the overwhelmed feeling I got when I realized that, now that the birth experience was over, the round-the-clock feedings were beginning. Back when I was a young, child-free lass, I (naively) thought that once my baby was born, I'd feel a sense of ownership over my body again.
I'm not sure I will ever feel like my body is completely mine again. This is not a complaint so much as a realization that someone else has relied on it to sustain their life and to drink from. I mean, whenever I drink from a cup, I think of it as "my" cup, so, I guess that's that.
Your Sleep Is Consistently Interrupted
This is not news. Calories and shirt-tugging aside, the fact remains that babies wake up to feed, and they wake you up to feed. It's a good thing they are cute, because absolutely nothing else is worth dragging myself out of bed at some ungodly hour when I'm already sleep-deprived.
There's A Strong Learning Curve
I don't think I've had to try so hard to master something since I took Calculus in college. It's complex. It's tricky. One wrong attempt and you're confronted with screaming and tears and self-doubt.
Speaking of tears, I (not my kid and not my struggles with breastfeeding) was probably responsible for about half of them. I heavily equated my ability to breastfeed with my ability to mother, which was an unfortunate perspective for someone struggling with breastfeeding to have (and thankfully one I no longer put as much stock in).
The Maintenance Of Extra Gear Seemingly Never Ends
Forget crying over spilled milk, I was more inclined to cry over dried milk in my pump horns at 3am. To me, that was a much more tragic situation.
You're Allowed To Feel However You Want About The Different Aspects Of Parenthood
Some moms like breastfeeding, some moms don't love breastfeeding. Some moms like reading to their kids, some don't. Some moms love running with a jogging stroller, and some moms are sane (kidding! I'm kidding. I'm super jealous of moms who have the energy for that one.). Still, the point is this: not all motherhood tasks are created equal, and we're all going to react differently to them.
Your Physical Reaction Has Nothing To Do With Your Parenting Abilities
Okay, as far as I know, anyone who loses sleep gets tired. I suppose you could be a superhuman or you could know of some secret trick that's definitely not caffeine pills (like Jessie Spano) that would prevent this from happening, but still, that wouldn't count for this example. You can be physically tired and still be an awesome mom. I know this because pretty much all of my friends are.
The Good You're Doing For Your Child Trumps Any Exhaustion You Are FIghting
Oh, and by the way, ensuring your child is fed and nourished is one of the core definitions of awesome parenting, at least in my book, so if you're nailing that, your exhaustion is clearly just a byproduct of you providing nourishment for your kid.