Passionate About Pittsburgh
and the Moms Who Live Here

Breastfeeding: The Struggle Is Real

Photo credit: La Leche League International, “Focus on Breastfeeding”

Most of the time, I love breastfeeding my son. The time with him that’s just ours, the special closeness, and the coolness factor that I am feeding him with my body are just a few of the reasons why I continue to do it. But if we’re being honest — and what’s a blog for moms if not honest — there are times when it can be so damn irritating.

If you’re reading this and feeling left out, know that while I am very much pro-breastfeeding, I am also pro-feed-your-baby. I recognize the pressure to breastfeed is real, and if you don’t or can’t, it can feel like a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) form of bullying. We all have struggles and I will never intentionally minimize another mom’s journey. These are only my experiences as well as some I pulled from friends and family.

So if you do breastfeed, whether you feed your baby at the breast or from the breast, there are certain struggles that you tend to accept as a way of life. Accepting and adapting to the struggles makes them easier, but sometimes you just need to vent! I hope if you’re reading this, you can take some solace that you’re not alone. (And for the record, I started writing this on my phone as I pumped because I was too engorged to wait for the baby to nurse.)

Supply

Whether you are dealing with an oversupply, just enough, or undersupply, there are times when nearly every breastfeeding mom has to worry about maintaining supply. I don’t take fenugreek or any other milk-boosting supplement, but Honey Bunches of Oats, protein bars, tons of water, and dark beer are personal favorites to build up my supply when it’s less than normal. Either way, maintaining supply is definitely a top concern and stressor for nearly every breastfeeding mom at some point.

And because maintaining supply is so crucial, forget about taking cold medicine or antihistamines. If you’re reading this and don’t know what I’m talking about, there are certain medicines that are safe for the baby, but will dry you up quicker than you can say ‘milk drought.’ How much fun was cold and flu season without the option of taking medicine? Not very.

When you breastfeed and have an oversupply issue, sleeping on your stomach is next to impossible. Also forget about sleeping on your side if that side hasn’t been emptied in awhile. Oh, well. I’ll sleep comfortably again someday.

Fashion (or lack of it)

Photo Credit: Target

So long, pretty, lacy bras. There are no attractive nursing bras anywhere. It’s as if we’re supposed to sustain life but not our sense of fashion. Thanks for nothing, Victoria’s Secret. 

Standard breast pump bags are not the most attractive, so in addition to carrying the extra bag, you have to forgo a sense of fashion. Fun. (Note: I love Sarah Wells Bags; expensive but fashionable and you’d never know they hold breast pumps.)

Nursing Struggles

Is your baby teething? I feel your pain. Literally! Baby teeth are like puppy teeth … tiny razors.

“Wrangling a howler monkey” is sometimes how I describe the act of calming down a flailing baby who should be nursing but is trying to do all the things before naptime. He kicks, pinches, karate chops, pulls hair, touches my face, oh look the cat… is it naptime yet?

When you exclusively nurse and you’re out with your baby, it doesn’t really matter what event is going on; you have to feed him, or your tiny human becomes a tiny monster. Hangry babies are no fun, so if that means missing a birthday party, dinner, your favorite tv show, etc then miss it you must.

Pumping Struggles

When you’re out and about, and it’s time to pump, your options are quite limited. You’ll need to find a quiet, private place to plug in and pull up your shirt … good luck!

Photo Credit: Medela

Speaking of going out and about, lugging pump parts along with a purse and/or diaper bag is always fun — said no mama ever. You’ve got the pump, the pump supplies, the extra supplies (just in case), the ice packs, the cooler, and the extra burp cloth or small towel. Sometimes, the breast pump bag has enough room for extra supplies and your ice pack/storage, but not always. 

If you exclusively pump, you sometimes find yourself on the opposite side of the same struggle. Opinions: people have them. Maybe you didn’t imagine your breastfeeding journey involving daily pumping and bottles, maybe it’s what you fell into over time, or maybe that’s what you planned all along. Either way, it’s what works for you and your baby, and your baby still gets many of the same benefits of nursing.

Common Struggles

Two words: breast pads. If you’re past due to nurse or pump, or you’re at the store and hear a baby cry, without a padded bra or breast pads you may have leaky faucets.

Clogged ducts, engorgement, mastitis, thrush, blisters, cracked nipples … breastfeeding can be downright painful sometimes. In the first three months postpartum, I had the first four (baby had thrush, not me luckily). Not fun.

Whoever said there’s no use in crying over spilled milk clearly did not just knock over six ounces of pumped milk. 

Your schedule tends to revolve around when you need to pump or nurse. Keeping to a schedule is vital to maintaining milk supply and of course, avoiding a cranky baby. This part can drag on you at times.

Because of that, you sometimes feel that your body no longer belongs to you. This can drag on you at times, too. For example, there are many medicines that just aren’t compatible with breastfeeding, which makes dealing with some chronic conditions a lot harder. If you nurse, can anyone else put your baby down to sleep, or just you? Forget about date “nights” until your baby is somewhat weaned. Do you drink socially? You have to plan your alcohol intake so you aren’t nursing or pumping anytime soon. What if your baby develops a food allergy? If you intend to breastfeed, you’ve got to cut out that part of your diet. It’s not easy.

Despite all of this, I never second guess my decision to nurse my baby. Does it wear on me sometimes? Yes. But I feel very fortunate that I’m able to do it. We are nine months and going strong. Plus, my husband has been very supportive the whole time, which helps a lot when it gets tough. And when all else fails, there’s always humor!

Photo Credit: Pinterest Breastfeeding Memes Board

What about you, mamas? Fill in the blank: “I love breastfeeding, but [    ].”

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