Breastfeeding is NOT for the Weak – but You Can Do It!

If you’re thinking of giving up, you’ve come to the right place.

grayscale photo of woman carrying a baby

When I got pregnant I knew I would breastfeed my child. Partly because that’s what you’re “supposed to do” and partly because I felt like it was what would be most natural and, let’s be serious – cost effective. I had heard of the discomfort that comes with breastfeeding and how important it would be to stock up on lanolin and nursing pads. I researched breast pumps and feeding positions, bought nursing bras, and picked maternity clothing based if I’d be able to nurse in them. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

The moment my son was placed on my chest, he held is head up and was already rooting. He tried latching and I felt absolutely no pain! We relaxed for an hour with his mouth on my nipple and I figured I had been one of the lucky ones who wasn’t going to have an issue.

Natural. Easy. Exactly as expected.

When we were being transferred out of the delivery ward and to our room, my midwife noted my breasts were leaking through my gown already. Colostrum was in full effect. I was learning how to ensure he was latching properly, and while there was a bit of tenderness, I felt okay overall. I knew he’d have to nurse frequently the first week and especially the first few days, but I completely underestimated what that meant.

It didn’t mean waking my son every 2 hours to make sure he was nursing enough like my friends had done. It meant sitting there with him latched to me for 8 hours straight, switching sides every hour, and literally sobbing from the pain. By the end of the first night, not only was I completely raw, I was also bruised and starting to scab.

Every midwife that came into our room told me it was normal and to keep him latched on as much as he wanted. Every mother I reached out to told me it gets better. Every latch was excruciating and the thought of pulling him off and fixing it when he had latched on incorrectly was terrifying. Luckily, my husband (usually) didn’t let me sit there with him latched on incorrectly, but would help me break the seal and try again. His support and presence while I was nursing our son helped me through every painful moment.

He was constantly filling my water bottle, stroking or kissing the top of my head during painful latches and silent (and not so silent) tears, feeding me when my hands were full and I was starving, and above all – he was there. Partners, take note. I doubt many first time moms would say it, but just having someone to rely on that tells you what a great job you’re doing when you feel like giving up is huge.

I wanted to give up. So. Badly. I thought about it every time I nursed my son. Every time he stirred. Every time I thought about feeding him again. I wanted to quit. Honestly, I probably would have had my husband and I been better off financially, but we really couldn’t afford to have to buy formula when feeding our child didn’t have to cost anything. At the time, I resented it. I resented how strapped for cash we were, our tiny apartment, and the fact that I had to endure, what felt like torture, because we couldn’t afford the alternative. Two months in, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because had there been an option to quit, I would have taken it. I would have used my son’s lip-tie as an excuse, or maybe the scabbed nipples, the inability to get him to latch, the uncomfortable positions, the constant nursing all through the night… I would have used it all as an excuse to stop. I wouldn’t have pushed through. It would have been easier to quit.

If you’re thinking about quitting, I get it. Hearing that it gets better simply doesn’t help. Those words don’t comfort you as you try over and over to get your baby to latch correctly while gritting your teeth. They don’t help when you’re running on fumes and are at the end of your rope. I honestly understand. I was there.

Introducing formula might sound so good right now and if it does, I don’t blame you. If you do, I don’t blame you. If you don’t, I don’t blame you. If you choose to pump, pump. If you choose to give formula because it’s just too much, give it. But if you want to nurse, if you’ve looked at your baby and known this is what you want to do, don’t give up.

You can push through. I promise.

-LP

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