Sometimes I really, really hate breastfeeding. There, I said it. Sometimes I hate breastfeeding.
It seems like such a simple and natural thing, but it is not. Of all the things that stress me about having a baby and being a mom, breastfeeding is by far the most stressful, the most emotional, the most taxing, and the most complicated. I cry when Oliver won’t latch. My nipples feel like they are on fire after almost every feeding. I feel like a failure when I struggle with it, and I feel guilty when I think of giving it up. It is not uncommon for a feeding to leave both of us frustrated and crying.
From day one, I have had significant over-supply issues coupled with a forceful let-down. This means that I have out-of-control leaking and painful engorgement, which in turn makes it very difficult for Oliver to latch (imagine trying to latch on a wet bowling ball). It also means that for Oliver, nursing is like trying to drink from a fire hose — the poor guy chokes, gags and sputters through each feeding, and gets sprayed in the face with milk every time he pulls away to breathe. This constant on and off the breast and gasping for air leaves Oliver really gassy, which is not a particularly comfortable state.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Oliver is an angry impatient nurser. When he wants to eat, he wants to eat NOW, and he does not wait patiently for my milk to let-down. No, he starts screaming and punching at my breasts, getting himself so worked up that once let-down occurs, he is too frenzied to nurse properly. Then, because he does not latch right away, milk starts spraying everywhere, which only pisses him off more. We are lucky if we have one nursing session a day that is not accompanied by a melt-down.
Oliver also periodically “forgets” how to breastfeed. He will let me know he is starving, but then once I put him to the breast, he just stares at it like he has no clue what to do. Then, because he is hungry and not getting milk, he starts screaming. I take him away, he screams. I put him back, he screams. After a few rounds, I cry. Then, he finally eats … usually.
Breastfeeding is also not all that convenient for us. We are still in the remedial stages where Oliver is only capable of eating under a set of highly specific conditions. Namely, I have to be sitting bolt upright, nursing pillow in lap, with one hand supporting my breast and the other guiding the back of his head. Plenty of light is also required, which means that nighttime feedings are far from restful and serene. I read about all of these other women nursing in their sleep, laying on their sides, or while walking through the park with their baby in a sling. I hate am insanely jealous of these women and their breastfeeding prodigies.
In short, breastfeeding is a sacrifice, a HUGE sacrifice, and sometimes it feels that way. And, sometimes I want to give it up. But, I won’t. Not because I am some sort of martyr, but because formula is expensive I appreciate the health benefits that breast milk can provide, and despite the difficulties and stress, I am proud that I can provide them.
I just wish it didn’t have to be so damn hard …