Let me preface this post by saying that I fully support parents who breastfeed and parents who don’t. Every family has their own circumstances that contribute to their decision/need to exclusively breastfeed (EBF), supplement or use formula.
My mother EBF two of us three girls. She didn’t say too much about it besides confirming what facts I had already come to know through pop culture and brief conversations. I wanted to know more. So, I did what most BrandNewMom’s do these days-I Googled it! Turns out there are so many reasons why it’s beneficial for the entire family to EBF and I mean how hard could it be? Structure –>function…God gave us breasts to… breastfeed! I found a lot of “how to’s” and references to attachment parenting which, I quite liked. We were planning to practice the whole natural, skin to skin, baby-wearing, sensitive parenting, co-sleeping (some call) hippie train.
Additionally, my prenatal yoga chats often included anecdotes from seasoned EBF second timers. They all gleamed about the loving bond and convenience. I was sold! My husband and I even attended a breastfeeding info clinic offered by our region.
All in all, I thought I had done enough research on the topic. EBF seemed to be painted as something absolutely lovely to look forward to. Or were all these mom’s keeping a brave face and concealing their EBF trials to maintain their “supermom” image?
Once my son was born, it didn’t take long for me to realize that perhaps my EBF research wasn’t quite as exhaustive as I thought. I’m here to be perfectly honest with you. For those who decide to brave EBF, you will need a tonne of concealer, a good support system and have the heart to power through some un-pleasantries that accompany EBF. While all of the positive information regarding EBF is holding true, this post highlights some of the realistic discomforts, unexpected emotions and controversial social issues I experienced being an EBF BrandNewMom.
1- The Slurppery Nipple! (No…not to be confused with the alcoholic beverage) My LO refused to latch on properly. He continually
sucked slurped my nipple in and out like he was a parched desert baby on a 7 Eleven slurpie! Fast forward to day #3 and I had developed a painful cracked nipple! Envision a 3 mm wide paper cut on your milk maker! Suddenly, I didn’t mind having swollen, double D’s and an icicle pad underwear! I had heard about proper latching being one of the common problems with breastfeeding in general. But I guess nothing can quite prepare you for that tearing sandpaper feeling on your nipples. Thankfully our midwives were amazing and prescribed an ointment that healed it pretty quickly. Soon after, my LO learned a good latch too.
2. Sabre-tooth tiger-The nipple pain came back to “bite me in the boob” at 3 months old when he began teething and still haunts me to this day! Those darn things are soooooooo sharp! If he would only stop laughing at me when I wince from his lethal chomp. But my pain pales in comparison to what my poor LO himself is going through. So grin and bear!
3. Frequent Feeding Miles-Not the points club. No rewards. Sleep deprivation is considered a torture technique for heavens’ sake! EBF meant that baby would require more frequent feedings due to the ease of baby digesting breast milk. I figured working shift work for almost 10 years would be a good precursor to the nightmare of nursing a newborn…Nope! This was/is by far the hardest adjustment to get used to! People tell me I’ll get some sleep eventually…like when I’m dead.
4. Bugging Back Pain-I bet you thought back pain was a pregnancy ailment and would disappear once your LO was born? (I’m sensing a theme here) The feeding positions we learned at the breastfeeding clinic were not possible with a heavier baby. So we used the common breastfeeding pillow. Although most breastfeeding pillows claim to be ergonomic, I often ended up looking like Quasimodo hunched over my LO. Low and behold, I developed a strained lower back, was not able to lift my son for two weeks and required physio and massage therapy. Thankfully my husband is a complete angel and helped me in any way he could. My “go-to” breastfeeding position was the laying down position. I wish I had gotten one of these nursing pillows!!!
5. Twiddle-dee- Now I’m told this is a little more rare but is still equally annoying. Twiddling I guess is a thing! For some reason LO insists on reaching down for my other nipple, pinches and twists while he gnaws on my other one! Why should the fun be only for one, right? Ugh!
In a more serious tone…
6. I never expected to hate breastfeeding 50% of the time! Perhaps it was the culmination of #1-#5 but I couldn’t help but selfishly not enjoy it. Yet I frequently remind myself that it’s not for me, it’s for baby so, I forged on!
7. People also have their opinions on when they think YOU should stop EBF. I would hear things like, “He’s too old to be EBF it looks wierd” or “now that he’s a year old it’s time for homo milk”. After finding out who I am as a mom, my answer/ response is, “whenever my LO is ready to wean”.
8-10. Optics-This counts for 2 because it had really effected me. It never occurred to me how uncomfortable OTHER people get when you decide to EBF. Whether it’s in public or at a family gathering, social mores or cultural expectations often dictated where we would end up nursing. At first, when we had home visits, I would leave the room and we would isolate ourselves somewhere until we were done. (Usually 15-30 mins) Then I realized that that wasn’t ideal. So, when I did breastfeed in front of others, I would cover up. Not because I was shy but it was expected of me as the norm for one to do when EBF. I felt conflicted.
At the shopping mall, I used the nursing rooms. They were admittedly quiet, comfortable and really helped my LO focus on feeding. (He was very easily distracted otherwise) But I dually couldn’t help to think that I was hindering the normalization of breastfeeding in public.
I mean you don’t eat your lunch on the toilet or under a cloth. Why should my baby?
I still find it a little uncomfortable nursing around other men. But thankfully I found empowerment through a local breastfeeding support group, ditched the nursing cover and even participated in a Public Breastfeeding Challenge. It also helps to have an amazingly supportive husband!!
I had many preconceptions about parenting and after my son was born, let’s just say, I was enlightened. Like mostly everything else about parenting, EBF isn’t simple. Even though I was ambivalent about EBF throughout his first year, I’m convinced the positives far outweigh the negatives and it was all worth it for him in the end.
Comment below if you had a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding or not?