When I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I knew right away that I wanted to breastfeed him. Not because of some holistic belief, but because we were poor and breast milk is essentially free.
|Breastfeeding my 2nd child was much easier.
Later, I found out that breastfed babies are statistically less prone to ear infections than formula fed babies. Since my ex-husband and I both suffered from chronic ear infections as babies, to the point where I had been rendered deaf and required surgical intervention to restore my hearing, this was amazing news.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know anyone who had breast fed their children. I had no first had knowledge of the process, or the negatives. No one spoke to me about the hardships of breast feeding. The consultant who came to my room in the hospital, after I had just suffered through an extremely painful and scary emergency cesarean, chastised me for supplementing my new baby with formula.
She didn’t care that I was trying to recover from a major surgery and that I needed to rest after having been through an extremely traumatic event. She spoke to me as if I had been giving my newborn son poison, which set the tone for the rest of my time as a breastfeeding new mother.
That woman was wrong to treat me that way. Additionally, by not explaining the hardships that my family would face with an exclusively breastfed baby, she was downright negligent in her duties as a breastfeeding advocate.
Please, allow me to pass on to you the knowledge that I gained from exclusively breastfeeding two babies.
Breastfeeding is a huge personal commitment.
When you choose to breastfeed, you choose to take on almost all of the feedings. If you work, you will need to pump during the day or risk becoming painfully engorged and losing your milk supply.
Your breasts will leak.
You will need to wear breast pads in your bra to keep your shirts from getting soaked. You will also need to wear a bra all the time. As you might image, by the end of a day at work, if you haven’t changed your breast pads, they smell.
Mastitis is a thing.
I had no idea what mastitis
was, until I was in the ER with a 104-degree fever. Your milk ducts can get clogged and infected, which can then result in a serious fever and, in my case, a brief hospital stay. As a symptom, I also had a red blotchy spot on the infected breast.
Breastfed babies eat more often than formula fed babies.
This means about twice as many nighttime feedings, or half the sleep. No one told me this, and I thought something was wrong with my son because he ate so often throughout the night as compared to my friend’s kids who slept for hours at a time.
|My right breast produced much more milk than
the left. Ultimately, the left stopped altogether.
Feedings can be painful.
In the beginning, your nipples may crack and bleed. There are creams to help, but it can be painful. Pumping is also painful for many women.
You DO NOT have to breastfeed.
Formula is not poison. You are not a bad mom. Even if you started breastfeeding, if you want to stop, for any reason, it is OK to do that.
Not all women can do it.
For some women, breastfeeding is just not possible. This is also OK.
Breastfeeding my son was incredibly difficult. I was tired and depressed. Pumping was uncomfortable for me and my ex-husband was not very supportive. Despite this, I did choose to breast feed my daughter. Only this time, I was much more prepared for the hard times and sleepless nights.
This time, I have a husband who supports me and tries to help take some of the burden off of my shoulders. In the early days, when our daughter would eat and poop several times a night, I would feed her, then he would change her. It may seem small, but that extra few minutes of rest made a world of difference.
No matter what you choose to do, don’t let anyone make you feed bad about it. Love your baby, embrace the chaos and the exhaustion and do what you can to remind yourself that it is only a small amount of time in a big life.