On Breastfeeding, A vent

Or Breastfeeding: It is hard

“Breast is best” was continuously pounded into my head throughout my pregnancy. At the childbirth classes it was assumed that the pregnant partners would breastfeed (“Remember to tell the nurses that you are planning on breastfeeding. Make a sign if you think you’ll forget.”). I did a bit of research (read: Pubmed search) and decided that indeed breastfeeding would be best. Therefore I signed up for a class on breastfeeding and assumed that would be that.

The class was less helpful than I thought it would be. It was largely a propaganda session to convince all of us there that breastfeeding was the best choice (Really though, why would I have paid money for a breastfeeding how-to class if I didn’t plan on breastfeeding?). Still, I figured breastfeeding is natural and has been occurring for however many thousands of years and should be simple to figure out.

I’ll pause for laughter.

Yeah, I was wrong. Breastfeeding is hard. For the first few days I truly hated it. I had just made it through a little over 2 day long labor (53 freaking hours) and was exhausted. Kiddo didn’t want to eat and just wanted to sleep (that was the last time that occurred). And to top it all off, the nurses freaked me out about my milk not coming in 24 hours after delivery (I later found out that 3 days post-partum is common and 24 hours is very uncommon with first time mothers).

I was instructed to pump using the hospital grade pump for 15 minutes a side after each feeding. Keep in mind that a newborn feeds every ~1.5- 2 hours-- timed from the start of one nursing session to the start of the next-- and will often nurse for 30 minutes a side. For those of you keeping track, that means that at most I had a 30 minute break between nursing/pumping sessions to do vital things like eat and sleep.

Additionally, Kiddo had latch problems. As in he did not latch. Many of my memories around the two days after Kiddo was born involve desperately trying to get him latched and fed. (Finally a nurse gave me a nipple shield and Kiddo ate like a beast. Promptly afterwards the nurse told me I should wean him off of it. Not. Helpful.)

We eventually go the hang of it with the help of a wonderful Lacation Consultant at Kiddo’s pediatrician’s office. (I don’t know how much they pay her. But whatever it is, it’s not enough.) The wonderful LC fixed Kiddo’s latch and helped me figure out how to handle the engorgement issue. It was and has been pretty smooth sailing (thus far).

However, everyone told me that after a few weeks I would love breastfeeding and the bond it created between me and Kiddo. That has yet to be true. Granted it is possible that it has strengthened the bond between me and Kiddo, but I don’t love breastfeeding. I tend to be annoyed by it. I can’t be away from Kiddo or the pump for more than 3 hours (except at night). I haven’t slept through the night since three days before Kiddo was born. I have to carefully calculate the timing of a well-deserved glass of wine (or bottle of beer) or forgo it entirely. It causes me a lot of stress since I work and am away from Kiddo for hours at a time and have to be constantly concerned about pumping enough milk to keep up with Kiddo. Also, for the first 4 or 5 months of Kiddo’s life the only thing that would soothe him at times was the boob. And so on and so forth.

Still, I don’t absolutely hate breastfeeding and I think that it probably provides optimal nutrition for Kiddo. Also, I’d imagine that having to warm up or mix formula in the middle of the night would annoy me even more. Additionally, when we travel or run errands I don’t have to think about packing formula (which is not an inconsequential bonus considering how much stuff we cart with us). So, I absolutely do not think that formula feeding is any better. I just wish that more people had warned me that it was hard.