When I became a mother, I realized I no longer belonged to myself. I knew I would give my children anything and everything I possibly could. I knew I would make any sacrifice needed just to assure my children have the kind of life they deserve. I knew I had to protect them and I had to nourish them, however, I quickly learned not all sacrifices are worth the outcome. While nurturing your child is important, there are things you don't have to sacrifice when you're breastfeeding. You know, just like you don't have to sacrifice your entire adult life when you have kids.
With my first child, I thought I had to sacrifice every single part of me in order to keep my child happy. My first week postpartum can only be described as a personal hell. It felt as thought I was being punished for choosing to become a mother. Swollen, in pain, emotionally distraught, inexperienced, and completely petrified, I attempted breastfeeding. I failed. I failed so hard. I failed and I felt shame and guilt and every negative emotion a person could possibly feel. I felt truly defeated and I believed this one loss would define the rest of my parenting. I started to believe that I was inadequate. In other words, I was so hard on myself.
Eventually, and thankfully, I got over all of those feelings and grew into motherhood. With my second, I realized I didn't have to give up all of me and my freedoms to have a healthy and happy newborn. I realized I was able to be a great mother and still be my own human being.
Breastfeeding isn't always easy. In fact, sometimes breastfeeding is excruciatingly difficult. Your mental health should not be sacrificed while you're trying to nurse because, in the end and always, it's just not worth it.
Remember: a child needs a sane mother more than he or she need anything else. So, if you've tried everything and breastfeeding is still extremely tough, consider your options and don't feel bad about whatever you choose to do.
Your Social Life
There wasn't a social event I didn't attend while I was exclusively nursing my son. He either came with me, or I came home to feed him. I still enjoyed my friends, parties, girls' nights out, and date nights. You can make it work. Unless, of course, those interfere with sleep. Remember: sleep is important, so sleep whenever you have a chance.
A newborn wants to eat all the damn time. They are incessantly hungry and often go through periods of cluster feedings. When a newborn is glued to the breast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is difficult for the mother to get any rest, let alone sleep.
However, if you can get your significant other to help (or anyone who is your go-to support person), you don't have to sacrifice all of your sleep. My husband and I had kind of an unspoken agreement. At night, he would get up with the baby, change him, and bring him to me so I can nurse. This act of camaraderie saved me. Yes, I was still awake numerous times throughout the night, but at least I didn't have to get out of bed every time. Both my newborn and I were half asleep while he ate, and then I would put him right down in the bassinet next to me. Some sleep was salvaged, and that made all the difference.
Your Sex Life
The only uncomfortable thing about sex while nursing is, well, leaking. So, if you don't want to water(milk)board your partner, you could just wear a bra with nursing pads. (Unless you're into that kind of thing, then go on with your bad self.)
Other than that, sex should still be as enjoyable as it was before the baby (after you've healed, of course).
Some women lose weight while nursing. Other women, like me, actually gain weight. I could eat an entire meal prior to nursing and I would be famished right after I was done breastfeeding my kid, so I would go on and eat another full meal.
I'm not sitting here preaching that a new mom needs to get back into her pre-pregnancy jeans immediately post delivery. Trust me, I am not that person. What I am saying is that for my small frame, gaining weight on top of baby weight was a major problem and something I personally struggled with. I was constantly uncomfortable and out of breath. So, although I heard that exercising while nursing can potentially deplete milk supply, I decided I couldn't wait until I was finished nursing to start taking care of myself. I started with low intensity exercises and gradually worked my way up to some light weight lifting and cardio. My milk supply remained the same and I felt so much better and healthier.
Breastfeeding should not be uncomfortable. If you're uncomfortable, you should find another place to nurse. I created a little nook on my couch for when I was home during the day and had multiple pillows in bed with me so I could nurse at night.
I remember trying to use a nursing cover when I first started breastfeeding. OMG, it was so uncomfortable. I was raging with hormones and constantly having hot flashes already, only to put on an extra piece of cloth that made everything feel exponentially worse. I couldn't see what I was doing. My son was hysterical because he was hot, too, so I said screw it. No nursing covers for me, thank you very much.
So, do what works for you and your comfort, and do not sacrifice your comfort for the possible comfort of others. They aren't nourishing a child. You are.
According to recent research published in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, breastfeeding moms no longer have to pump and dump after they enjoy an alcoholic beverage. In fact, most moms can have several glasses of wine and still safely nurse their children. The findings from this research conclude that "special recommendations aimed at lactating women are not warranted. Instead, lactating women should simply follow standard recommendations on alcohol consumption." So, there. Have a glass or two and relax. Motherhood is tough. Treat yourself.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Buy yourself some sexy bras and nursing clothes. Go get your hair done. Get a manicure and a pedicure. Enjoy a massage. Do whatever makes you feel good. Go out with your friends. Binge on Netflix. Do something, or many things, for yourself. You deserve it. You created a life. Just because you are breastfeeding your child, doesn't mean you should forget about the OG.
You are not a slave to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does not own you nor does it own the entire life you created for yourself, prior to becoming a parent. Yes, obviously some sacrifices are necessary and obviously nursing a baby can be painful and difficult and anything but sunshine and rainbows. However, don't forget about yourself. Don't forget about what makes you happy.
Remember, breastfeeding is about nourishment and bonding. If you are suffering through it, maybe it isn't for you. As moms, our number one priority is our child. But, make sure that you are also somewhere at the very top of that list. You matter. Your happiness and sanity matter.
Now, go ahead, put your feet up and have a glass of wine. Enjoy.