The other day, a friend of mine who is pregnant asked me if I liked breastfeeding. It seems like the obvious answer would be “yes.” After all, I’ve been doing it for almost two years now, and people don’t just do things for two years that they don’t like. But with breastfeeding, it wasn’t that simple. There have been good days and bad days (or weeks!). There are moments of pure bliss and moments of pure frustration. I’ve laughed, cried, screamed, and slept while breastfeeding. Today, I am walking around with a knot in my back because I breastfed my sick toddler all night long, and laid in the most uncomfortable position. Not that I would have it any other way, but I can’t necessarily say that it has always been enjoyable.
This was my response to her (with a few edits ):
I don’t know if I would say I like breastfeeding in terms of how I like other things… I like watching good movies, I like eating chocolate, I like sitting on the beach, I like good wine (I really like sitting on the beach while drinking good wine) – those are all selfish likes, I guess, and that is how I would typically determine that I like something. Do I like sticking my boob in my kid’s mouth whenever the mood/hunger strikes him? Well, not exactly. It’s not something that I necessarily look forward to (except when I needed to relieve the pressure of engorgement. Ha!). However, I like it in an unselfish way, I guess. I know that I am giving him the nutrients/antibodies/etc. that he needs. I know that I’m giving him comfort that he craves. So in that sense, it is satisfying and rewarding. It’s worth it. Breastfeeding also gives me some peace of mind that I am doing something really great for my kid. So, it has been a positive experience, but I’m not sure if I would say that I “like” it. I like a lot of things about it, but I wouldn’t say that I actually like the act of breastfeeding.
Also, the likability factor changes every day. The first few weeks were challenging. He didn’t have the best latch so it took a while to work that out (stock up on lanolin!). Then we got thrush when he was about 3 weeks old. That lasted until he was about 6-7 weeks old. Around 2 weeks, he hit a growth spurt, which is really common at that age so get ready, and he nursed around the clock. I mean – I would be nursing him for 4 hours straight. Or I would nurse for 2 hours and he would take a 30 minute break, only to eat again for another 2 hours. It was exhausting. I called the OK state department of health’s lactation consultant hotline, and she assured me that it was normal and to just keep feeding him. She told me that he would go back to normal after 5-7 days, and he did! They were amazing. I highly recommend calling them if you have any problems or questions. They are probably the reason I continued to breastfeed. I would say that I was fairly educated on breastfeeding. I previously worked with a breastfeeding study, I took the breastfeeding class and read the books, but I still needed more guidance.
Once those first few weeks were over, it got a lot easier. He eventually started nursing less frequently and for shorter periods of time. I learned how to safely co-sleep, which was a life-saver for me. It allowed me to breastfeed and sleep at the same time.
I was nervous about breastfeeding in public, but once I tried it a few times, I realized it wasn’t so bad. I eventually had no problem breastfeeding in public.
I’ve only recently started to dislike breastfeeding. The kid is heavy and wiggly and I’m just sick of it. Also, weaning really sucks, but I don’t have the patience to let him completely wean on his own, which typically doesn’t happen until they are like 2.5-5 years old (or older!).
On the positive side though, it is relaxing and it gives me a great excuse to just sit or lie down and relax. Breastfeeding also meant that I got to hold Gavin and take care of him. It definitely helped with bonding. We had to get in tune with each other and stay in tune. Breastfeeding definitely facilitates one of the closest and deepest relationships you’ll ever be in.
So yeah… it’s good and it’s bad. It fluctuates from minute to minute or day to day.
And here is my unsolicited advice – if possible, spend as much time alone with the baby as possible in the beginning, or with just your immediate family. This will give you the chance to really listen to yourself, to your instincts, and get in tune with your baby. I thought that I wouldn’t know what to do, but I did. Next time, I will definitely limit the visitors. Breastfeeding can be challenging and it is not something you can easily do in front of a crowd. I’ve had more than one person tell me that they eventually had to lock themselves in their room and focus on nothing but breastfeeding. Also, everyone thinks they know better than you do, and that is intimidating to a mom with a newborn. When I was struggling with breastfeeding in those first few weeks, a lot of people told me to just switch to formula. The idea was tempting, but I was prepared for people to say that, and I tried to ignore them.
Usually things that I like are easy or selfish. Breastfeeding was neither. I guess it is like saying that I liked college. Overall, yeah, I liked it, but it certainly wasn’t easy. It was an experience, and like most experiences, there are pros and cons, good days and bad days, happy moments and sad moments. Ultimately, it was worth it, even if I didn’t always “like” it.