No one will ever tell you how hard breastfeeding is! I have breastfed 3 kids and they each had their own challenges. I have heard that if it hurts, you aren’t doing it correctly, the latch is wrong, etc, etc…I am here to tell you that information is so untrue! I have experienced more pain from breastfeeding than during labor! I have also experienced great joy from it as well. I know it isn’t painful for everyone and those are the lucky ones.
When my first baby was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My main reasons for wanting to breastfeed were I knew it would save us money and it was better for her. I did not read any books on it and the only thing I read about breastfeeding came from the book What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Don’t get me wrong, I love that book! I mean, how hard could it be? It is the most natural thing in the world. I was in for a shocker! I wish someone would have prepared me for the challenges that lay ahead. I did not expect to be a cow, providing milk for my baby ALL THE TIME! I did not expect my nipples to hurt so bad. I did not expect to fear when my baby would latch on (whose latch was correct by the way)! I did not expect to cry from the pain. I did not expect it to be worse than going through labor. I persevered for 3 weeks through the pain and frustration and finally the pain started to ease up. It took about 3 weeks for my nipples to get used to nursing. But…I never enjoyed it even after the pain went away. I feel like I missed that early bonding experience with my daughter because all I did was feed her and I did not enjoy it. I kept doing it because it was better for her. At 8 weeks, I returned to work and was still determined to provide her with the best milk I could. I pumped during both of my breaks and through my lunch period. I started to dry up and then I was frustrated that I couldn’t produce enough milk for her. I took Fenugreek, Alfalfa and drank more than my fill of Mother’s Milk Tea. Nothing worked. I finally had to stop breastfeeding my daughter when she was 4 months old. I was so much happier when I didn’t have to nurse her anymore. I felt so free! I feel guilty, but I think it was better for us.
23 months later came baby number 2, a boy! I still did not read any books on breastfeeding, remembering how hard it was the first time. My son did not eat as often as my daughter, so I was able to go longer periods between feeds. I still experienced the excruciating pain for the first 3 weeks as I had previously. He had a correct latch as well. I was not as determined to stick with it this go around. By the time he was 3 weeks, I was sleep deprived, bitchy, in pain and just wanting to sleep! Understandable, I think 🙂 At the hospital, they had given us some formula samples and I asked my husband to give my son formula for the first time. That was the beginning of the end of our breastfeeding relationship. My husband fed him and I slept. It felt so good! My milk finally dried up at 3 1/2 months. Since we were supplementing with formula and I was getting a break, I did not feel like we had any bonding issues. I was happy. I never truly enjoyed nursing him either. I just did it for the immune boost.
Fast forward 5 years and we welcome another baby boy:). I was determined to breastfeed this time and stick with it. I read books during my pregnancy and decided I would go see a lactation consultant once the baby was born. It helped that I wasn’t going back to work with this baby and I didn’t have to worry about my milk drying up. I was prepared for the pain and expected to hate the first 3 weeks of breastfeeding. Even though I expected the pain, I think it was the worst ever! I did not think it could be any worse that what I had already experienced! I saw the lactation consultant at the hospital and again, we had the correct latch. By the time we left the hospital, I was sore, but not exactly in pain. When my baby was a week old, the pain started. My nipples were cracked and started bleeding, which I did not experience with my other two. I would start sobbing before he even latched on, I was dreading it so much! I went to see a lactation consultant at the hospital to see what I could do. Although the latch was correct, I was not holding him in the most comfortable position. The new position (holding baby up high, across your breasts) helped, but did not make the pain go completely away. We also had some other challenges that prevented my milk from coming in as fast as it should have, and my baby was losing too much weight. I did not want to put him on formula so I endured the pain and pumped every time he finished nursing to ensure a good milk supply. After about 2 weeks bi-weekly weight checks, his weight was where it should be and I was so happy I did not have to supplement! It took about 2 1/2 weeks for nursing to become somewhat comfortable and not painful. Here we are 7 months later and we are still nursing! It did not become enjoyable for me until he was 4 months. It seems like it takes that long for both of you to be comfortable (at least in my experience). I can definitely see why so many women give up breastfeeding! It is not always easy. I am so grateful we made it through our challenges and now I look forward to our nursing sessions. I can honestly say I will be sad when he no longer wants to nurse. That is something I NEVER thought I would say!
None of this would have been possible without a supportive husband. He encouraged me every step of the way and helped me so much. Although he could not endure the pain and frustration, he did anything he could to help me. He did a lot of research online, went to the lactation appointments, bought supplements, encouraged me…Without his support, I would have given up after 3 weeks with all of my children. I think this is another reason so many women give up. If you don’t have the support you need, you will not succeed. I encourage every woman wanting to breastfeed, to read, research, get help and support. You can do it and the rewards are immense! 🙂
I would love to hear about your own breastfeeding adventures!