To begin with, let me say this: I am a huge breastfeeding advocate. I say if you can (and want to), do! I do believe and agree with the the old saying “Breast is Best”, however I am also very aware that a large portion of the population are either unable to breastfeed and go through many mixed emotions over this, or have simply decided not to. And that is ok! How you feed your baby is entirely up to you. What is best for you, for your baby, for your family and your circumstances is completely and utterly your business and no one else’s to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
With that in mind, from my experience it was not all sunshine and happiness. So let’s begin with 14 reasons why breastfeeding sucks.
1. It hurts. Most people will tell you, “If you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t hurt”. And yes that is mostly true. However for a time at the very beginning, your breasts (and nipples) will take time to get used to the new sensation of a baby suckling. For the first few weeks I could only imagine that this is what using nipple clamps would feel like. And I couldn’t help but think “Why would anyone want to use those things, if this is what is feels like!”
2. Everyone has a different opinion on how it should be done. This can be very confusing. Your baby might not have a good latch or suck, is struggling to get the milk, and causing you a lot of pain. Thanks to an inproper latch you might experience sore, chapped, cracked, ridged or bleeding nipples. So in those first few days whilst you’re still in hospital you ask for help. Unfortunately every single midwife will tell you something different. It becomes very confusing and can lead to even further stress, which in itself tends to be the cause of a lot of problems. And even if you find something that seems right for you, you might still get that one person who will butt in and try to convince you that you’re doing it all wrong!
3. Your baby will not necessarily know what they’re doing. Expecting that babies have an inbuilt instinct for “good’ breastfeeding can catch a lot of people off guard when it turns out it’s not as simply as it seems. I researched breastfeeding quite a lot before giving birth, and the concensus seemed to be “Babies know what they’re doing”. Yeah, no. Most babies will latch ok, others will not. Even with a good latch they might not know how to suck properly, or they’ll become “lazy” feeders. They might just comfort suck and not draw in any milk. They might not suck hard enough, in which case the breast won’t know to produce more milk. It takes a lot of time to establish good feeding. So just remember if it’s not happening in the first week, or even in the first few weeks to keep trying or request help. We contacted a lactation consultant, and I can’t recommend them enough. They are your guardian angles. For boobs.
4. Bad feeding becomes a vicious cycle. Babies are extrememly empathetic. People will tell you constantly how babies can tell if you’re upset or angry or stressed. Hightened emotions tend to get passed on, and your baby can become extremely agitated very quickly. So what’s the one thing that is important when breastfeeding? Being relaxed of course. So when your baby doesn’t latch properly and starts to get very upset you then become stressed. Then your baby feels the stress and can’t relax and as a result can’t latch properly. And around and around it goes. Again a lactation consultant can give you some good techniques on how to resolve tension and anxiety. I ended up using a combination of breathing and visualisation techniques to assist me when I was stressed.
5. It’s a lof of hard work. In the beginning I fought hard to establish a good feeding routine and it took almost 9 weeks for everything to settle down and not be an effort. There were so many times when I just wanted to quit. Before giving birth I had been deteremined to breastfeed for at least that first recommended 6 months, but once Stormaggedon was born and I started feeding, it felt like an almost herculean task to make it that far. At each feed I would say to myself “I just have to get to the next feed, I just have to get to the next feed, I just have to get to the next feed…” After a couple of weeks that become “I just have to get to tomorrow, I just have to get to tomorrow…” then “I just need to make it to next week” until finally I thought to myself “I can keep doing this for as long as needed now”.
6. It might not necessarily be the bonding experience you expect it to be. This one caught me by surprise. I had thought that breastfeeding would be this beatuiful calming experience. I had pictured a content baby quietly suckling away, sun streaming in through the window, birds chirping, wide eyed animals cleaning my kitchen, and me gazing down lovingly at him. Surely it was going to be the best feeling in the world and I would never feel closer to my child than this moment. I won’t lie, I did experience these beautiful moments from time to time (well, except for the animals cleaning my kitchen. I’m still waiting for that to happen). They were the best moments, and truely wonderful. Sometimes I did feel so at peace, and felt the “bonding” so many people spoke about. But like I said last week, these moments were fleeting, and the majority of the time it was just a necessasity, boring, monotonous, and just another thing that I needed to do in order to look after my child. Eventually I was able to bond with Stormaggedon in many other ways, and didn’t just need to rely on breastfeeding to establish that closeness.
7. It leaves you starving. All. The. Time. If your baby is especially hungry and feeds quite often, that will take a lot out of you. One of the reasons why women store more fat than men is a specific design of nature, in that the fat is converted into breast milk. In order to produce more milk you need to refuel your body often. So eat up.
8. You might become TOO good at it. After all that time and effort you go to to establish good breastfeeding a few months pass and you think to yourself “Hey, you know what? I really need a break. My child is old enough that I feel it’s ok to give him expressed milk or formula from a bottle. I’ll get my partner to feed him while I go out for a few hours”. Things seem to be going to plan until you get a panicked call from your partner pleading with you to come home, because your child is refusing to feed from a bottle and is now hysterical from hunger. Suddenly the small amount of freedom you thought you found for yourself is ripped away. For me it was like I was suddenly anchored to the house. This was when my PND kicked in. Around the 5 month mark, Stormaggedon refused a bottle and I spent the next 3 months trying to get him to drink from anything. Anything! I tried about 7 different types of bottles, teats and sippy cups. At the same time he was still waking 2 to 3 times a night for a feed, so it was beginning to run me down. And this is where point 14 of last week’s blog came in. Happily though by about 8 months Stormaggedon suddenly of his own accord decided on particular sippy cup, began drinking like a champion, and we haven’t looked back.
9. Distractions are the bain of your existence. Again around the 5 month mark, suddenly the world became so much more interesting to my child! That even though he was hungry his latch would be immediately broken if he heard a noise, if something moved in his field of vision, or if I wasn’t sitting absolutely still. I used to be able to read a book or play with my phone with one hand, but after a time even that became a distraction to him. And if I dared speak or carry on a conversation, then forget about the feeding. It made breastfeeding in public very difficult, because it meant that I had to go find some nice quiet dark place to do it in. So random trips out had to be planned around a feed.
10. You may start to fear the public’s opinion. I was forever anxious when feeding in public of being harassed by some opinionated idiot coming up to me and telling me that I should cover up, or go elsewhere, or that what I was doing was disgusting. I’m extremely lucky to have never experienced that, but you read about it occurring all the time still to this day. So for anyone unsure about their rights on breastfeeding in public, please consult the federal Sex Discrimination Act (1984), which states that a child can be breastfed anywhere any time. This includes expressing milk either by pump or hand. Although it’s important to note that the act of feeding must not endanger the life of yourself, your child, or anyone else. Example, it’s probably not a good idea to breastfeed your baby whilst driving a car, jumping on a trampoline, or scuba diving.
11. You spend all that time almost killing yourself trying to breastfeed only to to be told it might not actually be worth it or any more beneficial than formula: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3246372/Breast-NOT-best-comes-IQ-Children-breastfed-no-intelligent-bottle-fed.html
12. You start to feel really terrible for all the complaining that you do. Perhaps you have been really lucky and can breastfeed. But maybe it didn’t come “naturally”. You worked extremely hard to get it right and maintain it. And you’ve done nothing but complain about the experience. Because it’s easy and common to complain about things that are hard. But you feel like you can’t share your experiences because you know plenty of people who just weren’t able to breastfeed, and you know it really hurts them that they weren’t able to do it and experience it. So you keep quiet in order to spare their feelings. It doesn’t make your feelings any less valid. What’s important to remember is everyone has their own experiences and feelings, and we should be respectful and understanding of others and their choices.
13. And after everything you’ve been through, when you do complain and wish that it was all over and that you didn’t have to do this anymore, reading articles like this make you feel like an ungrateful douchebag: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/09/07/trans-father-rejected-as-leader-breastfeeding-support-and-advocacy-group/ (Good on him by the way. Totally amazing and inspiring)
14. Weaning is its own seperate emotional rollercoaster. You might have experienced some or all of the above. Perhaps you just can’t wait until that child of yours is weaned and you never have to whip your boobs out in public again. And yet when you come to it, it’s very hard to accept that “this will be the last time”. From the start I had always wanted to try and breastfeed until Stormaggedon was one, and then decide after that if it was a good time to start weaning. He was completely weaned by 13 months, and I’m glad that it worked out that way in the end. I’m frankly utterly amazed that people can continue breastfeeding for years. I just felt like I literally had nothing left to give him, as my supply had all but dried up. If you’re one of those mothers who do wish to continue past a year or two years, I’m frankly in awe. Admittedly I don’t personally agree with breastfeeding past the age of two, however I am not here to tell you that you shouldn’t be doing it, or that it’s wrong. What is right for your family and your personal circumstances is entirely up to you. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. For me, even though I had such an emotional time and I was glad to have finished, it was still really sad knowing that “this was the last time”. I sat there just before his bed time gazing down at him, quietly whispering “this is it”, but knowing that there is still going to be plenty of times for us to remain close. And knowing this makes me happy.
So I say again, breastfeeding is great and wonderful, but can sometimes be an absolute drag and a LOT of work. If you feel like you need assistance, then I really do recommend getting yourself a lactation consultant. They can be a bit expensive, but luckily Medicare will cover some of the cost. I would just Google lactation consultant and your area, and heaps should pop up. In the mean time the Australian Breastfeeding Association has a huge amount of information on their website. Go to http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au for more information. They also run the helpline 1800 Mum 2 Mum (1800 686 268). I made at least 5 calls to this helpline, including a few in the middle of the night. Extremely useful.
So what were your experiences? Have you got any stories that you wish to share? Funny, sad, emotional, annoying? Feel free to comment below.