Acceptable in public or not is not the focus of this post.
Instead, this is about a little head nod, an arm around the shoulder, a little shout out if you will, to all of us who found breastfeeding difficult, and thought we were alone in that.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I had this little fantasy that we would have this joyful, pain-free, easy-peasy birth. He would go right to my breast and all would be right with the world. I would nourish him as only a mother could.
Mamas. You feel me. This is not quite how that went.
When it came to breastfeeding, my son and I were far from “naturals.” (And I’ll just save my non-fairy tale birth story for another time.)
I’m going to be real about breastfeeding, like I wish others would have been for me. Because it can feel so isolating thinking you’re the only one who struggles.
(But before I do, let me just say to all the new mamas reading this, my son is now 8yo and we all are thriving just fine despite what seemed like the end-of-the-world breastfeeding difficulties that consumed us when he was first born!)
First of all, for me anyway, breastfeeding hurt. Nobody mentioned that. In fact, it was hard for us both. He was tiny and there was no way to tell how much milk he was actually getting. He didn’t latch properly. He had reflux. And in some way messed-up way, I felt to blame for this.
Also, at the time, there was great concern by the specialists helping me that the baby would have “nipple confusion” so we were discouraged from giving him a bottle in the beginning. This meant sleep-deprived, hormones-out-of-whack, brand new mama was in charge of every single 2-hour-from-start-to-start feeding.
I remember my 80-something-year-old grandma asking me one of those early days what I did all day since I was not working and home with the baby. I gave that some thought and realized that I was literally feeding him for what felt like 20 hours of the day. And the last 4 were spent doing laundry, burping the kid, and trying to sleep for an hour.
I hung in there and nursed him for 4 months. I pumped for a month when I went back work and when I wasn’t producing enough milk to make it really worthwhile, I decided that was enough. Goodness was the guilt thick with that decision.
It wasn’t until my son was about 6 months old that I was at a picnic with a fellow new mom. We exchanged niceties and then somehow found the courage to break the self-imposed silence and eventually talk about the difficulties we found we actually shared when it came to breastfeeding.
She told me something her son’s pediatrician said that I wish I would have known before I waded through the breastfeeding months with my son alone:
The benefits of breastfeeding are negated if you are not bonding with your baby.
That hit me right in the heart. There were many times that I sat in my rocking chair trying to nurse my son, and I actually felt mad at the tiny little life because we couldn’t get it right. It hurt. It took forever. It seemed like he spit most of it up afterwards anyway. And then there was the enormous guilt for feeling angry. And the guilt that I couldn’t nourish him as I thought I should. And the guilt for considering to stop breastfeeding.
But you know what? He’s now an awesome 8yo. And by the way, I didn’t nurse my other kids and they are healthy and fine as well.
So what I can say now, breastfed or not, they make it. They thrive.
The bigger way more important point here is to love yourselves, mamas. Talk about it if it’s not working for you. And do what needs to be done to bond with your baby.
That’s my 2 cents, anyway.