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.
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?
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.
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.