Ah, the delights of breastfeeding!
(Can you smell the sarcasm through the screen?)
Here is the big secret no one tells you: Breastfeeding is a ginormous pain. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredibly natural and lovely experience. When it goes smoothly. But most of the time, you feel like the mammal you are. And you might, on occasion, have the urge to let out a long lingering “mooooo.”
Just as every child is different, so are every mother’s mammary glands. Big boobs won’t guarantee you’ll flow like Niagra Falls. Small boobs won’t guarantee you’ll only produce a squirt. One boob might be a producer. The other boob might be shy and not produce at all.
I’ve met lots of moms who have experienced and endured the range of this arguable sweet private hell. With pressure-filled comments like “breast is best,” “any breast milk is good,” “don’t waste the liquid gold,” and, my personal fave, “why are you even breastfeeding?!” it’s no wonder this topic can provoke highly passionate reactions.
Breastfeeding is demanding. It’s a commitment. And though you don’t have to cart around bottles or formula, you are definitely chained to the duty in different ways.
If you are a solid producer and solely breastfeeding, you are committing yourself to waking up every 2-3 hours for as long as you can hack it. Weeks, months, years. It depends on what your goals are.
I, like most moms I’ve met, am a lower breast milk producer. I had to supplement with formula from day one with both of my kids. My body couldn’t keep up with the demands. I felt like a failure.
I pumped whenever I could in order to stimulate (a.k.a. trick) my boobs into thinking the baby was feeding. I ate almonds, oatmeal, drank oceans of fluids, ate my face off, took FenuGreek, and even embarked on placenta encapsulation with my second baby. I met with breastfeeding consultants who massaged me in different positions to help me de-stress and help my milk ‘let down.’
In short: I worked. I worked really hard to produce the most that I physically could. And though I produced more with my second baby, it still wasn’t ever spraying out of my nipples like some of my more fortunate fire hydrant-like spewing mommy friends.
My point is: don’t be hard on yourselves when it comes to breastfeeding. Be flexible and simply do the best you can. I’ve met moms who breastfed 24/7 for 12 months, once a day for a year, and some for less than a week. Breastfeeding taught me just how impatient I didn’t think I was. I hit my three-month goal with both my kids, but not without dozens of moments of wanting to stab my eyeballs out.
Whatever you decide, just remember it doesn’t make you less than the amazing woman you are. There are other ways you can nurture and bond with your baby. And never underestimate the value of someone else feeding and bonding with the baby while you get a break. Those moments can be just as nurturing to your baby, you and your family – it takes a village after all – and that’s truly a delight. –Tera Benoit