I am not going sugarcoat things: breastfeeding is, at times, simply the worst. Now don't get me wrong, I loved snuggling and bonding with my baby, and it was pretty badass to produce food for another human being with my body. But after breastfeeding three babies, I can tell you that it also sucks, literally and figuratively. And not just for moms, either! Oh no, there are so many things most people don't realize husbands of breastfeeding moms have to deal with, too. For real, you guys, no one has heard their horrific stories of pain and exhaustion. That is, of course, until now.
If you've breastfed a baby, you probably know all about sore nipples and sleep deprivation, but did you know that husbands have to deal with these painful things and more when their wives are breastfeeding? More pain than we could ever imagine, ladies. My first husband learned so many painful lessons, in fact, that I'm just in awe of his non-uterus owning, non-childbirth experiencing, non-lactating self.
Like the time when he picked up the baby without a shirt on and she tried to latch on to his nipple. Worst pain ever, I'm sure. Or the times he struggled to cope with sleep deprivation when I accidentally woke him up while I was feeding our newborn three times a night. He must have been so exhausted, and hungry, because I selfishly chose to breastfeed our cluster-feeding baby for hours instead of cooking dinner. Can you believe I did that? I mean, I have no idea how he survived having to fend for himself like he's some adult, or something. And the pressure he must have felt for me to nurse, and also for me to cover up, when I breastfed in public. If there's anything worse than enduring the judgment of strangers, it's witnessing the judgment of strangers.
There are so many painful things he had to cope with when I was breastfeeding, and I had no idea he was suffering in silence. That is, of course, until now
Between razor-sharp baby finger nails and the tendency for newborns to root and latch onto any nipples they can get their tiny mouths on, breastfeeding women can experience some seriously sore nipples, but apparently it's nothing to the non-lactating pain our partners feel. I breastfed and pumped eight to 10 times a day for months, so I almost know how my ex-husband felt when our baby tried to latch on to one of his nipples that one time. Almost, you guys.
There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as torture. I would pretty much do anything someone said if they promised me eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If there's one group of people who truly understand sleep deprivation, it's the husbands and partners of breastfeeding moms. From occasionally waking up when their partners are feeding baby, to losing sleep because she needs help with a poop blow out or she's been up all night with a needy newborn and would like just a few minutes of rest before the night is over, husbands can't get a break when their wives are breastfeeding. It's literally the worst.
Leaky boobs are the worst... for partners and husbands, that is. I shot my poor ex-husband in the eye with breast milk the first time we had sex after the six-week wait. I am pretty sure he's scarred for life. There was also the time he woke up in a puddle from my leaky breasts, and more than a few times his shirt got wet when he hugged me too tightly. He must have been so uncomfortable, the poor thing.
After my second baby was born, six weeks came and went without me initiating sexy time. My baby and I both had thrush, which meant I had bleeding, scabbed nipples, searing pain when I breastfed or pumped, and literally pumped blood. I can't imagine how hard it must have been for husband to miss out on sexy time while my nipples healed, especially since they were so sore that I pretty much went topless for a week. If we've learned anything from our culture of dress codes, "boys will be boys," and locks on office doors at NBC, it's that men simply can't control themselves around women.
The hunger I experienced while breastfeeding was intense. I probably could have eaten more often than my baby, and that's saying a lot. However, the hunger I experienced while nursing was nothing compared to the hunger my husband felt when I was too tired, sore, or busy to make him a sandwich and, to his horror, he had to make his own. Sometimes, he even had to make a meal for me while I fed our baby. What a hero.
When I was breastfeeding, it seems like I had a perpetual sore back and neck. My shoulders hunched forward, and I could never get baby completely lined up with my nipples for comfort and ease. My husband, however, was constantly bending over to hand me cups of tea and show me funny memes on my phone. His back must have been so sore, you guys. Men have it hard!
The pressure to breastfeed is intense. So intense, that so many moms will do just about anything to make it happen. That's nothing, however, compared to the pressure that new dads feel to make sure that new moms breastfeed their babies. It's the worst. Then, when your wife decides to give breastfeeding a try, you get shamed for letting her breastfeed in public. It's humiliating. New dads absolutely can't win in our culture. The struggle is real.
Now, please don't take my words literally or think that I don't have empathy for new dads, because I totally do. But it's important to acknowledge how differently our society treats new moms versus new dads, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. So dads, while we know parenting isn't easy, we urge you to recognize how hard breastfeeding can be, and the things you can help support your partner through the painful moments that come with it.
Support her. Encourage her. Give her high fives. Make her dinner. Change your share of diapers. Remember that she's literally feeding the baby (that she grew inside her body) with milk that she's creating. She deserves it.
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