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Parenting

Breastfeeding Sucks

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It’s two in the morning, and my baby is screaming. Not a normal scream either. I mean that makes your eye start to twitch kind of scream. He’s hungry, and I’m tired. I fumble with my clothes, wrestle with his stubborn baby hands that keep ending up with his mouth, get him latched on to my breast, and sigh.

I hate breastfeeding. If this had been one of those infomercials they play in the new mother wing of the hospital, I’d have perfect, flowing hair, and my baby would peacefully eat as I rock him in the perfect, sun filled nursery. Instead, he’s gulping like a wild man, alternating between clamping his jaw down on me, and pulling back (taking my nipple with him) as he tries to control the flow of milk.

breastfeeding is hardNot the last hurdle you’ll face

This is my fourth baby, and every time, it’s the same thing. I know the spiel from the doctor. I can recite the promises from the American academy of pediatrics. Breast is Best. It’s better for Mama, it’s better for baby. It’s the perfect food. It’s free. It’s convenient. It prevents cancer and raises IQ and the fate of the free world rests upon me breastfeeding this child.

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t true… but sometimes it feels like that. Breastfeeding is wonderful, and everyone who can should do it.

Right now, its dark, and it’s lonely, and it’s me and my baby and a rocking chair, and oh my gosh, that pain that comes with an unsure latch. I have the number for the lactation consultant at the hospital, and I want to pick up the phone and yell at her for not telling me the truth about how hard this breastfeeding thing is. I really would call her, only I can’t reach the phone while nursing and rocking the baby.

So it goes.

I really don’t understand why we don’t hear more about how hard breastfeeding is. If you thought it was taboo to talk about breastfeeding, try talking about how much breastfeeding sucks. I made the mistake of mentioning how much I disliked someone gnawing at me throughout the day on one of those pregnancy message boards (you know the kind, where all the women sit around, rubbing their bellies, talking about how perfect and wonderful it will be to be a mother?) and about started WWIII.

I was told that I really shouldn’t be having children if I didn’t want to be attached to one 24/7. I was told I was horrible for not enjoying breastfeeding. And I just sat back and laughed.

You see, we do women a huge disservice by not talking about how hard this can be. If we don’t talk about the things that can go wrong, and wear you out, and make you want to quit, how in the world are we going to support mothers and help them continue nursing?

breastfeeding is hardFeed Me.

So here is the truth.

The truth is that nursing hurts at first. Only at first mind you, but for the first 2-3 weeks, you may feel like someone is shoving hot needles into your nipples. Your body isn’t used to the force of a newborn sucking… and believe me, newborns have a STRONG sucking reflex. In addition to this, for the first little while, you’ll also be engorged. This is a really nice way of saying your breasts are going to swell up much larger than your skin will want to allow, and they’ll probably be rock hard, and sore. Your husband will probably love how they look, but you’ll want to murder him for even thinking about touching them. Heck, you won’t want anything to touch them, not even your clothing. If you’re lucky, this will be the only discomfort you experience.

If you’re unlucky, those engorged breasts can lead to clogged ducts, and those can lead to mastitis… which is another nice word for saying your breasts will get infected with rock hard spots of clogged milk. They’ll get red hot and throb, and you’ll want to die. Until you get antibiotics, which will make everything better.

But that doesn’t happen to most people. Just some people. Other mothers will end up with cracks on their nipples, that can bleed, and when you nurse baby will re-open the wounds. That isn’t fun either.

It’s not fun at all. It sucks.

But… but… seriously, this is a HUGE but- it only lasts a little while. I promise you, my dear Momma friend who is reading this post because breastfeeding sucks; this only lasts a little while. It gets better. The pain goes away. All you need to do is survive this for a little while. Heck, all you really need to do is survive this next feeding. One at a time. That’s how you get past the first few weeks nursing.

breastfed newborn

I know you may want to quit (I know I did) but don’t. Not yet. Give yourself a few weeks. Tell yourself it gets better. Get a breast pump to help ease the pressure from being engorged. Get some lanolin for your sore nipples. Put a hot pad or cool compress on your breasts. Go look at the prices of formula in the grocery store, and remind yourself that breast milk is free. Call the lactation consultant, tell her how much breastfeeding sucks, and then see if she can come over and make sure your baby is latching on correctly (latch issues can cause many of these problems). Tell your husband you are not getting out of bed this week, and make him do all the household chores.

After the pain goes away (again, it will go away!) breastfeeding gets much easier.

Hang in there, Mama.

Do you think breastfeeding sucks? What makes nursing difficult for you? What could make it easier? How can you be better supported in your efforts?

Breastfeeding sucks- for a while

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32 Comments

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  • Thanks for the post!
    Here I am, with my naked chest showing my painful breasts, and a sleepy baby on my lap. One breast with mastitis (fever last Night even), the other one burning like hell…
    Breastfeeding sucks. I know everybody says to hang on, that it gets better… But when it is already 10 weeks of pain is difficult to see the end of the tunnel… And I hate everytime I read “breastfeeding should not hurt”, sure! In my dreams! What is that magical formula to make it happen? I do not care waking up at night, but the constant pain is starting to affect… Both physical and mental.

  • Yes! I was careful not to put too much pressure on myself to breastfeed if it wasn’t working out. And all in all, I’ve had an easy time of it. But it still sucks and I still hate it.
    When he was first born the lactation consultants complimented us on how well we were doing for first timers, but it hurt so bad! And they kept saying “breastfeeding should NEVER hurt” so I assumed there was something wrong with his latch, and kept adjusting, which, now I know the latching on is the worst part and I was just making it harder on myself.
    But can we talk about how breastfeeding impacts sleep?
    Breastfed babies don’t sleep as long or as soundly as formula fed babies and THAT sucks more than anything, imo. My son refuses any other form of comfort. So even though I have a helpful partner who would help me in the night, his efforts are pretty much useless and just leave us both frustrated. Also, it seems like when you’re breastfeeding no one but you is really willing to try any other form of comfort. They just hand the baby to you the second he gets a little difficult.
    And THE HANDS! As a newborn, his hands were always in the way. Now there’s hitting, pinching, grabbing. At 8 months, he’s a very distracted eater. I’m trying to make it to a year, but question that decision every day.

  • Thank you for your honesty!
    This is my second baby. I have nurses for 4 months now with him. The beginning was so hard. We got through it. The time after the first few weeks have been hard too. I’ve had clogged ducts 3 times, mastitis once, both nipples have cracked and bled. He spit up to the point of a significant drop on all aspects of the growth curve. After which I stopped eating all forms of dairy due to his suspected milk protein intolerance. Has anyone else out there been forced to cut out dairy? A lot harder than I thought. No chocolate, cheese, yogurt, most crackers (cause artificial cheese and “may contain milk products” is in everything). I was so cranky. Ohhh my poor toddler and husband.
    So one day as I sat in the grocery store parking lot with another clogged duct, painsearing through my boob as I attempted to feed my baby boy, a toddler screaming to get out of her car seat …I decided enough is enough. Everyone Is unhappy. My husband is tired of me giving him death looks for not being able to breastfeed *shamefully hang my head at the ridiculousness of this*. My toddler is tired of the lack of attention and my snappiness *where is my chocolate!?*. My baby is still spitting up and gasey despite cutting out dairy for 2 weeks. And I am in a mess of self-pity, frustration, and feeling like a failure to provide for my baby and family.
    Breastfeeding is great, it also sucks, it also isn’t the end of the world if you stop. You’re still a good mama if you feed your baby formula.
    Side note: The lack of adequate postpartum care for mothers is deplorable. Where is our check-up after the 6weeks to see if we are coping emotionally with motherhood in healthy way, who is checking to see if the pelvic floor is recovering so we can get back to exercising, who is seeing if nursing is still going well? Should the OB-GYN team take responsibility? Should the Women’s care team take responsibility? Someone please take ownership of all these mamas who need support and follow up!

  • It’s 3:02am and I was crying because I feel like breastfeeding has robbed me of any tiny joy motherhood was supposed to give me. I feel like it’s a cosmic joke that I should be given an adorable baby that I love but that I would hate caring for her. I hate breastfeeding. We’ve had her tongue tie clipped but her latch has not improved much over five weeks. I am in pain: my nipples, my boobs hurt from squeezing, my arms and wrists and hands hurt from carrying her and flipping from one boob to another to beg her to feed from both. I hate nursing. I hate that it’s chipping away at my self esteem. I feel like it’s setting me up to hate motherhood since this is my first introduction to it. Thanks for this post. It really helped me get through this night at least!

  • I was on the edge ready to jump until reading this blog. No one says how difficult breasting is. All the videos show you babies that are already latched this reading was heaven sent. Thanks for the honesty I will continue to walk on and not leap lol

  • Thank you thank you thank you! As you said, in the middle of the night you feel all alone, like you are the only one struggling to stay awake, body and mind completely exhausted. And I hate that some people throw a fit if you say one negative thing about the experience of breast feeding. People need to live in the real world, not a fantasy land of breast feeding with butterflies and unicorns. It does suck! Lol But, kudos to us for do what we can for our precious babies!

  • As I’m crying I’m reading this post and feel thankful that someone can relate to what I’m going through. As a mother you want the best for your children and that is why I haven’t gave up..but yes I want too…thanks for the motivation to keep striving.

  • OMG!! LOL! Finally brutally honest truth! I felt like a complete failure after coming home with a newborn and bloody raw nipples. I bawled every time she was hungry and she would feed for hours at a time. Everyone is so pro-breastfeeding that I felt like the worst mother on the planet for throwing in the towel and feeding formula and pumping a few times until my nips healed, (and geez, talk about formula to breastfeeding moms you’d think I was giving my baby poison!) Labor was a breeze compared to breastfeeding! It is SOOOOOOO hard. Thanks for writing!

  • Seriously. Sometimes it totally sucks. You know what else no one tells you? Nursing while pregnant sucks. As in, someone just cut these damn things off and give them to this toddler who isn’t 2 yet ready to wean. Because it sucks. Lol I’m pregnant with my 4th. Told myself after the last one that I’d never nurse while pregnant again bc my hormones cannot handle it. Yet here I am doing it again. It’s better this time, slightly, because I knew what to expect. Although having a nursing toddler during those first couple weeks with a newborn is a god send. Takes care of engorgement.

  • So reassuring reading this! My 1st is only 5 days old and reading this is helping me stay positive and not give up!! Breastfeeding really does suck. I’m a walking vending machine.

  • AMEN!!!! I have started some wars by being honest too. I’m just not one who gets a high off of breastfeeding. I have rejoiced after each of mine weened. Would I go through the pain, for a little while, again? Absolutely. It’s worth it. It gets better. And before you know it, it’s all gone. Thank you for your honesty! You are not alone!

  • Thank you. SO MUCH. Currently feeding my 2 week old for many more times than the 8-12x/24 hr period that the LC tell you. I feel like I could’ve written this, it’s word for word how I’ve felt this week. Exhausted, frustrated, remembering why I said with my first child that- had I known how hard breastfeeding was, I absolutely never would’ve done it. How could I have forgotten how hard it really was in 2 years?! 2 weeks old & we’ve made it through 4 nights where I thought I couldn’t go on. I know it will get better, but this was so encouraging to read. That I’m not alone in feeling like this totally sucks at first. (When my oldest weaned at 10 months, I was devastated and cried for weeks that he self weaned way before I wanted him to & I wasn’t ready to stop.) so I KNOW it gets easier. Thank you again!

    • Congrats on the new little one!!! It will get better- take care of yourself, and give yourself grace in this hard season. Soon, it will be easier.

  • First off- thank you for being honest. I thought I’d somehow be the natural, mother of the earth type who could breastfeed in a field with my other two children frolicking about.

    Let’s be real. My house looks like an episode of hoarders, my 3 and 1 year old have been in their pajamas for 4 weeks, and I don’t remember if I brushed my teeth today. Oldest had mspi. One year old had mspi and corn issue. (By issue I mean choking and gasping for air from reflux. Like ER stuff). So, I haven’t eaten soy, corn, dairy or gluten (I figured why not) for 4 weeks. My sweet baby boy cluster feeds for hours on end. Help? Someone tell me when this gets easier. Someone give me a cocktail. (With no soy, dairy, gluten, corn or um alcohol too I guess)

    • It will get better. I don’t know when- but eventually, it will. Hang in there, complain as much as you want, and keep on keeping on. Cuddle those babies and give yourself some grace. A year from now, no one will care that the kids wore pajamas everyday or that you watched a lot of Netflix instead of doing the dishes. Really.

  • This post spoke directly to me, my baby is 3 weeks old today and I am so on the verge of giving up on breastfeeding. Thank you for the encouragement and letting me know that it will be better soon.

  • Thank you! I feel the same way. I have had lots of problems. I nursed my son till he was three weeks old and I couldn’t take the pain any more. I went to exclusive pumping. Apparently I have Evaso spasm and I am allergic to the medicine that help with it. My only thing that has been awesome is my supply. I had no problems with it! More than enough. Thanks again for sharing.

  • When my baby girl was born all I wanted to do was breastfed! My milk would not come in and sadly never did. I felt like I had failed my baby girl. I had read every new mommy book out there none of them talked about not being able to breastfed. We bought 3 breast pumps and after 3month’s of trying I finally surrendered. I tried everything from diet to mediation. ..lol. I can laugh now, but It was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Through the years nurses have told me they see it allot with endometriosis patients, so maybe that was the cause?. Mine was so bad that I did have surgery before I got pregnant with my little blessing. If god gives me the chance to have another I will definitely try again! I do know we went through so much with finding a formula that she could keep down. My baby girl ended up having a lactose intolerance, so goat’s milk was our choice. Talk about expensive…lol
    She loved it! We also never had to endure the demon spawn throw up attacks anymore…lol
    Life is so precious and every mama story is different in there own special way and this is mine. 🙂

  • I nursed both of my daughters for their first year. It took 3 months both times for the pain to stop and for it to be 2nd nature for both of us. To any new mom out there, give it 3 months. It may feel like an eternity when it’s 2 am and you’ve had an hour of sleep, but 3 months will pass anyway. That baby is worth the effort. And the confidence you gain as a mother is incredible.

    • I would like to second this post. My pain and troubles stopped at 12 weeks.
      I had all the issues in the article plus a couple more (i.e. back in the hospital 3 days after leaving due to a double infection of mastitis and a strep infection from the baby’s mouth through my cracked nipple!). I called every one of my mother friends and asked why they didn’t warn me!?! I had specifically asked to be warned. They said they didn’t want to scare me. Very frustrating!
      Anyhow, we persevered and my little Mr. is now 8 months old and nursing like a champ! It is so nice to not have to wash bottles all the time (or have to wait for a bottle warmer).
      It is hard, but it does get better (and MUCH less time consuming!) and in the end, gets easy. If it is important to you (and do not let anyone else prioritize for you), stick it out. Best of luck to all the new mamas out there!

  • I am also on my fourth baby and I’ve breast fed each one just a little longer than the last. And with each one I’ve gotten cracked and bleeding nipples. My doctor prescribes a nipple cream that is so much better than lanolin. But once I’m past that first stretch I LOVE breastfeeding. I also couldn’t get through without my husband and my mom. He stays home as long as he can and then my mom comes over everyday once he’s back to work. I only just found out that my mom didn’t have a single issue with breastfeeding (she had five children). She’s always been quiet about it because she knew I was having trouble. I think it’s kind of sad that she felt that she couldn’t talk about her good experience just because mine was bad.

  • Hello
    I gave birth in Hungary we had a course for breastfeeding (in here most mum breastfeeds til the child is 3 year old even if they have a second one then they feed little first and then big) In the course the midwife said ” She can tell us all the technic and everything but she can not show how will it be in the first months til we find our most comfortable position, the best way to hold baby without muscle pain in our arm, and it will be also new for baby so she/he might not want to eat at all or most probably hurt us becaouse really hungry We shuold just listen to our own insict and the months will be just weeks and the weeks will be just days” In hospital nurses showed how to breatfeed and they make sure all goes fine but when we reached home after a week It was still all new. Hot shower helped with a knots, and breastpump. And if you pick the baby leg a little open her/his mouths big and you can louch she/he on better and get less pain as nipples dont touch the top of her mouths.
    I sleeped with my daughter instead of my husband for the first 3 months in this way he didnt get ideas, and I had more sleep as she use to wake up every 2 hour, didnt had to walk around the house.
    I survived my daughter is 2,5 and we planning on the next one. 🙂
    Good Luck Everyone

  • It is VERY hard, I was totally unprepared the first time and the 2nd time I thought I had it all figured out and it was still hard! We just don’t get enough support these days, you have to expend a lot of time and energy we just don’t have as mothers of newborns to find the help you need to get through the tough parts. So worth it, but yes, so hard.

  • I have 4 littles also and the first month has been the worst with each one. My nipples were the cracking/bleeding kind and I would cry at each latch. And then one day it got better! I did just have a bit of mastitis last week (and my boy is 5months old) but we were able to work the clog out thanks to a tip from my midwife. She had me place the baby’s chin facing the clog and it has worked each time I have had a problem (at least once per kid) Also, sitting around the house topless helped the cracked/bleeding nipples. Thanks for the laughs, I enjoyed the post 🙂

  • I had very little pain with my first two children. My third child was tongue tied and feeding hurt so bad. Once it was clipped that immediately resolved the pain. I highly recommend seeing an IBCLC. Mine discovered the tongue tie when my baby’s doctor did not see it. I am thankful that it resolved the pain for me as I had other issues with milk supply to deal with!

  • I did not breastfeed my first born (because of a massive internal infection and a heart failure, I was rushed to a different hospital), so with my second kid, I didn’t really know what to expect. For my first, my friends left me alone about breastfeeding, because everyone (including me) was scared for my life. With the second, they offered tons of advice.

    Nobody told me that it would hurt so much. Or that my body might respond to lactation by instantly falling into a drugged-like sleep (causing me to drop the baby a couple of times before my husband and I learned and only breastfed lying on a flat surface). Also, try breastfeeding in public lying on a flat surface! Not doable.

    I managed to breastfeed until 8 months and use pumped milk until 1 year (at which point my heart doctor begged me to stop). But it sucked and I resented all the people who didn’t tell me the truth.

    Afterward, one friend heard me say this and said that it wasn’t like that at all for her. And I realized something. I had my truth, and it was unique, as each truth is. So I forgave them. 🙂 Mostly…

    Giftie Etcetera

  • Fantastic article! I couldn’t help but smile. I’m nursing my 4th child – who is one week old – and I have to keep reminding myself that it will get better. IT WILL!

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