Ultimately breastfeeding, much like childbirth, is a beautiful and messy picture of sacrifice.
The Motherhood Collective is thankful to Heidi for letting us share her post today! Please check out Heidi's blog over at Notes From Heidi!
After six weeks of breastfeeding for the second time, it’s confession time: I don’t love breastfeeding. In fact, I don’t really even like it that much.
I first acknowledged this a couple of weeks ago and it’s actually made my struggle to breastfeed a little easier. Oh, and before I go further, know that I’m not writing this to complain, but quite the contrary. Giving up the desire to love breastfeeding means relinquishing an area of motherhood that I have little control over. It means sacrificing my expectations for something more important. These are both good things.
I write this to share a little of my journey with my boys and to hopefully shed some light on a couple of breastfeeding struggles which might be a surprise to other couples (because they certainly threw us for a loop at first!).
My boys haven’t been easy. Callan took several weeks to latch, so most of my milk expression was via pumping, which I found incredibly awkward. He had a golden time of a couple of months when we did great, but most of the time he was claustrophobic and pulled to get away. That made me constantly sore and unable to do anything but hold on til he was done. Sean, while he latched immediately and that was wonderful, has reflux issues. He spends about half of our nursing sessions gasping, choking, and getting frustrated because he can’t get more than a couple of mouthfuls at a time. If I keep him on a strict two hour schedule he does better, but anytime I give in and feed him more frequently he nurses worse and more often, since he can’t get as much to eat.
My boys’ struggles are pretty easy to figure out and pinpoint; but they’re only half of the equation. My problems are a little more difficult to manage, and I have to overcome them nearly every single time I nurse. First off, I don’t like the feeling of nursing. It’s a relief, sure, especially then I’m swollen to twice my normal size and sore. But once the relief is over I don’t like the way it feels. I have to force myself to relax, hold the baby loosely, and try to think about something else. Then there is the let down, when the milk starts to flow, accompanied by a hormonal crash. I literally spend a few minutes in a deep depression with the let down and have to just ride it out til things stabilize. We’ve learned that most discussions have to simply wait til I’m done nursing; I’ve even cried when Alex was joking, solely because of the hormones.
I am blessed to have a wonderfully supportive husband when it comes to breastfeeding. I am still tempted with Sean to pump and just give him a bottle; Alex helps me stick it out. During those really hard days with Callan he would sit with me through every nursing session he was home and just be there. I didn’t want to be touched or helped, but I spent so many nursing sessions crying because it was so hard that having his company encouraged me to keep trying, even though it took over a month to get the hang of it.
No, I don’t like it. But when I see Sean’s chubby cheeks and look back at pictures of Callan (too big for his Bumbo at five months!), I try to remember that it’s worth it. That the long term benefits of this bit of short term discomfort for me means my boys are healthy and thriving. If I can just keep that in mind, my breastfeeding journey will, in the grand scheme of things, be a good one.
Note: I starting thinking through this blog post in the thick of the reflux battle with Sean. Since then we’ve stuck to a strict schedule and he’s gotten much better; I’ve even had a couple of “in love” moments while watching him nurse. It appears that with the highs, lows, and middles of breastfeeding, we’re on middle ground for a little while…thank goodness!