“Breast is best.” It’s a phrase you hear over and over again. I was always one to chime in quickly on this topic with a “Sure, why wouldn’t it be!?” response….until I had a baby, that is. Breastfeeding and I have a love/hate relationship, and I have two polar opposite feeding experiences to blame.
Pre-baby, I was clueless about what to expect when it came to nursing. I obviously knew that for some women, breastfeeding doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to give it try. As adamant as so many people are about nursing, they fail to mention the struggles you’ll endure. In those early weeks of postpartum, the excruciating pain of her latch caused my toes to curl and brought tears to my eyes. It was then that I quickly learned breastfeeding is not for the weak. It’s absolutely draining. Nursing a baby will push your emotional levels to every extreme. I spent hours in the lactation consultant’s office just trying to convince myself that we would make it through, because the reality of spending the next year like this was NOT my idea of motherhood.
“Survival” is the only way to explain that first month into my breastfeeding journey. Honestly, I don’t remember much of it. What I do recall is that I never slept, I maybe showered once per week, and my nipples hurt almost worse than giving birth itself. Once baby and I both had enough time to figure out a routine (and my OB prescribed a steroid nipple ointment…if you haven’t tried it, do it!), I discovered that this whole nursing thing wasn’t as bad after some time. In fact, I fell in love with those intimate increments of the day that I was able to spend with my little bundle of joy!
I made it 7 months nursing my first born before that adventure came to an abrupt halt…pregnant with #2! This time however, was a completely different experience. Our second child spent his first month in NICU, where we were not allowed to even hold him that first week. Breastfeeding was put on hold. I pumped. And pumped. And pumped. With the controlled settings of the pump, the physical pain never came. Neither did his latch. Feeding took place via IV’s, feeding tubes, and eventually graduating to the bottle. He never did take to the breast, and as much as I had cringed all of those painful feedings with our first baby, my heart ached when I finally accepted that I would never be able to nurse this go round. As much as I longed to do so, I’ll be the first to admit that I truly enjoyed being able to watch my husband bond with our tiny babe during bottle feeds.
After being faced with the reality that I could not nurse my child after having successfully done so before, I realized that breastfeeding and I had a love/hate relationship, and here’s why:
I hate waiting for the milk to come in, but
I love those first moments when 2 drops of colostrum is JUST enough!
I hate the frustration of learning to nurse the baby, but
I love that you both find a routine and become a team, reliant on one another!
I hate pain. Ohhhhh, the pain, yet
I love how the sucking sounds of content are his entire world.
I hate the time commitment, but
I love looking into that innocent little face, which gradually forms into such personality.
I hate the pumping, yet
I love competing with myself to see just how many ounces I pumped each time!
I hate the leakage, but
I love the bizarre feeling of letdown (weird, I know).
I hate engorgement from sleeping through my pump alarm, but
I love the fact that I was able to sleep such a long period of time!
I hate that no one else can help once in a while, but
I LOVE that my baby relies on me, and me alone.
We have since had a third baby. Ending so abruptly the first time I nursed, and not getting to nurse at all with my second child, I was elated to be given the opportunity to nurse one more time! He latched within minutes after birth and although the latch & suck was painful, I think having been mentally prepared for it this time, it wasn’t so bad. We also decided to bottle feed as well. After experiencing those intimate moments with our second child, this allowed my husband to bond with the baby, uninterrupted. It may have taken three tries to finally feel like I can appreciate the phenomenon that breastfeeding is, but at the end of the day, I truly do love this moment in time that I know I will some day long to have once again!