I have a confession to make.
I don’t like breastfeeding.
Oh, I will continue to nurse Baby M, unless advised otherwise by a qualified doctor, but I don’t have to like it, any more than I have to like changing his diapers. It is necessary, natural, and good for his health, but that does not make it enjoyable or fun.
I object to all the propaganda I have come across that makes breastfeeding out to be a transcendent experience, something that all good mothers cherish. Mostly, I find it messy, painful, and boring.
This is not an invitation for advice on how to improve Baby’s latch; it’s not that I’m doing it wrong, but rather a symptom of the fact that he wants to nurse all the time. Nursing is the only thing that will calm him when he is having crying fits / gassy spells, which is pretty much all day, right now. For hours at a time. The constant abuse makes my nipples sore, and that is just an unavoidable side effect of the constant nursing that I just have to cope with. Trust me on this one. I’ve spoken to an army of lactation consultants about it.
However, my lack of enthusiasm about breastfeeding makes me feel a little…well, like maybe I am doing it wrong. I mean, it’s the ultimate earth-mother experience, right? It’s how you bond with your child. Everything I have ever read describes it as beautiful and meaningful and all that. Nobody mentioned the cracked, bleeding nipples (the brochure mentioned “some mild discomfort”), nor the hours spent stuck sitting in a chair, trying to focus on a book when you’re up at 4 am for the third time that night. Or having the baby kick said book repeatedly out of your hand, or kick the cracked, bleeding nipple on your other boob, or kick the (not yet healed, still very sore) C-section incision site. Or the frustration of always having a sweaty, hot little body on top of you, when it’s 35 degrees Celsius outside, and the last thing you want to do is snuggle up with anything warm.
Instead, as far as I can tell, you’re supposed to be happy to get up at 3 am (after an hour of sleep) to tend to the needs of your little bundle of joy (they never mention the shitty diaper, either), and lose track of the entire hour you spend feeding, due to being transported by the the joy of staring at his contented little face. This lady has it all figured out (and writes beautifully about it, I might add), and I kind of envy her, but that’s not how I have experienced the whole breastfeeding gig.
The reality is – MY reality is – that it’s work. Lots of hard work. Sometimes it really sucks. It’s endless nights that I can barely keep my eyes open enough to make sure kiddo stays properly latched (if I fall asleep, and he slips a bit, I pay for it the next day), followed by endless days that I can barely keep my eyes open enough to shovel some cereal down my throat and go back to feeding. My nipples aren’t bleeding anymore, but they sure do hurt. Engorgement is a daily experience, since kiddo nursing all the time (even when my breasts are empty, and/or he’s just chewing a nipple, rather than actually eating) signals my system to make more milk. In plain English, engorgement means your breasts are overfull, and they feel like a couple of huge, bruised, heavy water balloons strapped to your chest – I have this ongoing feeling like I’ve been kicked in the boobs by a horse.
Then there’s the boredom, and sweatiness, and general I-don’t-wanna-but-I-have-no-choice-ness of the whole thing. Your body is no longer your own. It’s not like I can hand Baby M off to Hubby to deal with the feeding – sure, I could pump and let Hubby bottle feed, but I’d still need to pump in the middle of the night (to keep supply up and relieve engorgement), and it’s easier to just cut out the middleman, as it were. And there’s the being tied down, and / or trying to figure out how to feed the kid in public, without flashing dozens of random strangers, while kiddo is determined to kick off the blanket you’ve thrown over yourself in an attempt at protecting your privacy. And the leaking, the messy, sticky, potentially really embarrassing leaking. Did I mention the sore nipples? I completely don’t get how this is transcendent.
Oh, there are moments to treasure when I truly love holding the little guy, all sleepy and snuggly and (most of all) quiet, but they are just moments, usually interrupted by crying or spitting up or loading a diaper. That’s okay – I didn’t sign up for parenthood for the glamor, and there are other rewards, even now – like when Baby M coos, or grins, or even just watching Hubby interact with his son (which is amazing all by itself). I’ve heard that the first six weeks are the hardest, and maybe it will get better, but in the meantime, I don’t want to feel pressured to treasure something I don’t enjoy. Like I said, I do think breastfeeding is important (very important!), and I will keep on doing it (though I may also whine about it), but I want to put another viewpoint out there, as I have only ever seen one article that suggests that breastfeeding might be anything other than amazing, and I think we need to acknowledge the unpleasant aspects, as well as the good. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way; we should not be made to feel inadequate or like bad mothers, just because we don’t enjoy the breastfeeding experience.