Before I gave birth, I had a warm and fuzzy vision of what I imagined breastfeeding would be. I learned a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding in nursing school and wondered why anyone would chose anything different for their child. I combined the benefits with the earthy notion that breastfeeding would build a strong bond and I’d be like a fairy in the woods, naked amongst nature, bringing my lovely baby to my bosom every now and again to soothe a hunger for nutrients and connectedness.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that breastfeeding is hard. Here’s why:
You alone are your child’s food source. This means you must always be close by. Imagine how difficult it would be if you kept your refrigerator a few miles away. With this reality comes other realities: You alone are responsible for keeping your child alive, for getting up in the middle of the night, and for being close to your baby constantly.
Sure, being close to your baby constantly may not seem like such a bad thing. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s not. I love being with Van and clearly if I wasn’t happy breastfeeding, I wouldn’t do it. But this post is not about the great things about breastfeeding, it’s a reality check about why it’s a challenge. Back to the challenge.
Think your time alone gets drastically diminished when you become a mom? Being a breastfeeding mom diminishes your independence even more. Every now and again, Willy and I will designate time for “papa time” or “mama time” or dare I say “papa and mama time”. He’ll spend his time golfing or going to the horse tracks or going to a Laker game. I spend my time returning something I bought at Target. That’s because, unlike Willy, my “mama time” has constraints. I have just a couple hours before I need to be back to feed Van. Which begs the issue of resentment.
I came to resent Willy when I began breastfeeding Hooper. It didn’t seem fair that I was the one who had to make so many sacrifices while he got to get on with his relatively regular life. It bothered me to see a sink full of dishes while I sat on my ass breastfeeding Hooper and Willy sat playing games on his phone. I would daydream about how clean the house would be, how all the laundry would be done, how I’d put on some makeup, etc, if only I wasn’t breastfeeding. We’ve resolved this issue this time around because I’ve come to see breastfeeding through his eyes and realize that it sucks, for different reasons, for him too. What’s that you say? That’s a separate point? You’re right. Excuse me while I give that it’s own one liner.
Breastfeeding is a challenge for your husband too. Don’t believe me? Check out this post I wrote on breastfeeding from a father’s perspective. It made it easier to cope with the resentment I had the first time around when I was able to put myself in Willy’s shoes.
If I spend any length of time away from Van, not only do I have to work out how he is going to get fed but also how I am going to get empty. Breastfeeding works like a supply and demand system. Ideally, if you are away from your baby, they should be consuming the amount you are pumping. So if I pump every three hours and get 3 oz, 5 oz, and then 4 oz respectively, then Van should also be eating every three hours and be offered the same amounts that I’m putting out at those times. This keeps the system in check. If he consumes more while I’m gone, then our system is out of check. Sound complicated? It is. Which leads me to my next point about why breastfeeding is hard.
There’s a lot to learn. And it’s not all intuitive. Thinking that you should wait to feed your baby until your boobs feel full, for example, is a very common misconception. It too will throw off your supply. Which leads to one of things I hate most about breastfeeding…
Worrying about your supply; Wondering how much your baby is getting and questioning whether it’s enough and worrying that your supply is diminishing. I’ve never been an anxious person, but breastfeeding has made me more anxious than anything before. It’s a big responsibility to make sure your child is growing and thriving.
I won’t even touch on issues of painful engorgement, or cracked nipples, or dare-I-say, mastitis. And pumping, oh the dreaded pumping.
My next post on breastfeeding will be positive, I promise.
You can read other posts in my breastfeeding series by clicking here.