I Have a Confession to Make …

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 …

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5 Responses to I Have a Confession to Make …

  1. Katie says:

    Joane – I so remember that annoyance and frustration and it is HARD in the beginning. It gets easier though, I promise. We had a hard hard (TERRIBLE) time for the first 8ish weeks, and it finally started to improve. Now that he and I are both used to it, it’s actually easier than bottles, but if you would have told me that in the beginning, I would have laughed at you! Hang in there. 😦 I remember that all too well.

  2. laurapayette says:

    I wish I had lots of sage advice to give you, but breastfeeding didn’t work for me despite wanting it to (and working at it). My little girl (almost 7 weeks old) wouldn’t stay latched, wouldn’t suck at the breast, and was losing weight like crazy. I switched to pumping and she does great with a bottle. I don’t produce enough for her, though, so I have to supplement with a little formula everyday. I wish I had oversupply problems like you, so I guess the grass is always greener. Motherhood sure is hard work!

  3. Mom says:

    JoAnne, I know it’s not funny but I laughed my ass off! Hang in there. That’s how it was with me, you, and both your siblings. It really does get better. Trust me. I’m your mother.

  4. amylynnp says:

    It’s a dirty little secret that a lot of moms feel that way! Breastfeeding is talked about as being completely natural and convenient but it is anything but. The good news is that it does get easier. I felt the same way with Madeline, and it took a solid 2-3 months to even begin to feel like it wasn’t something I dreaded, and honestly it never was the picture-perfect image that some women have. I never mastered nursing in bed while lying down, I ALWAYS had to support/hold my breast for her, and never mastered the art of nursing in a sling. But I nursed her for almost 2 years, so it wasn’t pure misery! Hang in there. It will get easier, although it might never be story-book perfect. That’s what makes Oliver unique!

  5. man says:

    oh, man, i laughed, too! but only because my baby is four days younger than yours and i so understand how awful it was in the beginning. we ended up having to switch to bottle feeding him pumped breastmilk to get his weight gain up, but when i think back to the first two weeks and the NIGHTMARE that breastfeeding was, i totally feel for you. we still try to breastfeed a meal or two a day, but it’s just the worst, and he ends up punching me my breasts and just yelling at me when i’m not doing it right.

    i hope you have it in you to keep at it!

    formula is way too expensive. 🙂

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