|Someone likes to eat…|
So here’s the thing. Breastfeeding is quite possibly one of the most natural things shared between mother and child. I do not even mean that in a figurative sense.
I mean — literally, nature intended for women’s bodies to produce nutrient-rich milk for their small children to drink, flowing from their breasts. At it’s basic core, this is what breastfeeding entails — the unstoppable production of sustenance for our children that only has one (well, two) ways to escape a mother’s body. Breastfeeding is healthy for both baby and mother.
Okay, so now that we have all that on the table, there is something else I’d like to say. Breastfeeding may BE natural, but for me, it does not feel natural. It is awkward. It is sometimes painful. In the newborn days, it is messy. It does not make me feel like a natural mother. It definitely does not make me feel like a sexy wife. The time I spend doing it makes me feel like less of a mother to my three older children.
But you know what? It is getting easier. Everyone says, “just give it two weeks” and then every mother should be pretty well-adjusted. Well shoot. Two weeks came and went, and yes, I was a lot less engorged. But no. I was still not “used” to it. It took me about 10 weeks to really stop hating the task.
Disclaimer: If you are pregnant with your first child, reading this, don’t swear off breastfeeding and look away now. I’m going somewhere with this.
Hate? That’s a strong word, I guess. Perhaps a better choice is “resent.” A child of any age is a needy being. A child that is a newborn is in a heightened state of neediness. My husband is a wonderful help, and the times when my mother and mother-in-law have visited are great too. They can all bounce with her, and carry her, and change her diapers. But you know what they can’t do? That’s right. They can’t snap their fingers and suckle a child.
But what about bottles? It’s a good alternative for children that actually accept them. My daughter — thus far — will not. Pumping is another issue. I have a really nice electric pump but it is still not the most comfortable process. It also feels pointless if I know my daughter is not going to end up drinking it.
So if I am/was so miserable breastfeeding, why not just close up shop? Why complain after the fact in a lengthy blog post? That answer is actually pretty simple. For the qualms I have with breastfeeding, I hate the alternative even worse. I don’t care if every other mother in the world wraps up her breasts after delivery and stocks up on cans of formula. I fed my first daughter that way for 10 months after I quit breastfeeding early on. It’s not really about nutrition to me. It’s about being able to do something for my daughter that may not come so easily but that I believe will help her later in life.
And really, for the awkwardness that I feel doing it, my baby loves it. She relaxes in my arms and puts her little hand on my chest. In those moments, she feels comforted and loved. It forces me to take a break from everything else going on in my life and just be still for awhile. I return to my tasks feeling refreshed and re-focused, and honestly think that I get more things done with built-in feeding breaks during my day.
The other kids understand that they must wait for whatever they need while their sister is eating. They usually plan all of their mischievous activities around regularly scheduled feedings. They are surviving the moments I am incapable of instantly meeting their needs. It has made them all just that much more independent.
So for anyone that is struggling with the mental or physical limitations of breastfeeding, just know that it DOES get easier. If your experience is similar to mine, the things that you initially hate about the process — being the only food source, the time commitment, being the only star in your child’s sky — will end up being the things you like the most.
Maybe not after two weeks. Maybe not after two months. But eventually your mind gets in sync with what your body is already doing on its own. When you look back years later, the brief period of time that you had those precious moments alone with your little one will be just a flash in the pan. So hang in there. You can do it.
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