Breastfeeding can best be described as a LOVE/HATE relationship. I’m more on the love side of breastfeeding now. This may be because I will be weaning Heidi soon as her one year birthday just snuck up on us. I definitely wouldn’t call breastfeeding easy. It can be really rewarding and enjoyable if you can hold on long enough. In fact, if you can make it through the first month, you can make it through a year! I had all kinds of trouble with breastfeeding and wanted to encourage any moms who are thinking of giving up. You can do it! (And if you don’t or are unable to- that’s okay too!)
When I was pregnant with Aniston, I remember my mom telling me that I should have no problem breastfeeding. Something along the lines of “Every mother in our family has been able to breastfeed without problems.” So there you go. The stage was set – should be all downhill after the birth… right? WRONG!
Let me divide this post appropriately into the love/hate sides of the matter.
LOVE – The Connection
Aniston had no interest in breastfeeding for hours after her birth. (Looking back now, I wish I would have requested that she laid on my chest for as long as possible and I think that would have helped matters.) I tried unsuccessfully to get her to latch throughout the afternoon. That night, the sweetest nurses had taken her to the nursery for a few hours so Dustin and I could sleep. I was totally conked out when all of a sudden I sat straight up in bed – looked over at Dustin and said “It’s time!” I think it was around midnight. I phoned the nursery and asked them to bring Aniston back to me. “She’s ready to eat.” I told the nurse. The nurse assured me that they could bring her in an hour or so and that I could rest. “That’s okay. Go ahead and bring her please. She’s ready to eat now.” I replied. I could not believe that from across the hospital, I was so in tune with my baby. Sure enough, when she brought her to me, Aniston latched on and started drinking away happily for the first time ever. I cried tears of joy. “My first motherly instinct! I am a mother!” I told Dustin who was looking back at me through half-shut eyes.
Breastfeeding gives you the ability to connect with your children in a way that is completely impossible without it. I could be miles away from Aniston anytime during her first year and know when she was getting hungry. I could sense her hunger coming on. I was the ONLY provider of nutrition for her or Heidi for the first 6 months of their lives. That is a really neat feeling and one that no one else could ever experience. God designed us to be with our children and to feed them. He gave us special signs to know when the baby is getting hungry and hormones that release in breastfeeding mothers to make them even more anxious when they hear their babies cry. That is amazing!
LOVE (and a teeny bit of hate) – Forced time
If you make the commitment to breastfeed your child, you are sacrificing hours upon hours upon hours of your time. You are also committing to being with your baby or possibly your pump every 2-4 hours. I’ve had friends take a vacation about a month after their baby was born…. without the baby. That is not happening if you are breastfeeding and to be honest- I wouldn’t want it to. I cannot for the life of me imagine being away from my child when they are that young. Heidi is a year old and we have never spent a night away from each other. I’m proud of that. I have really loved how connected I feel to both of my girls. But… it would have been nice if I could take a long break to do some shopping by myself without worrying about a pump or a hungry baby. I’ve had a couple of friends who spent a night or two away from their child with a pump in tow and I think this is great if you need a break and can work out all the logistics. I just never wanted to deal with lugging a pump or storing milk at a hotel, blah, blah, blah. Plus, I still can’t imagine not putting Heidi to bed. Regardless- if you breastfeed – you are making every bit of nutrition for your child and committing your time to your child AND that’s the way I think it should be! If we went on vacation… so did the baby!
HATE – Engorgement
Breastfeeding went fairly smoothly in the hospital until I got home and my milk came in. My boobs felt like basketballs. They were rock hard and absolutely huge. I remember Dustin walking in and I was just sitting on the couch looking miserable, no doubt. “Those are the biggest boobs I’ve ever seen. Like bigger than Dolly Parton’s!” I probably shot him a death stare but it was so true. You could eat dinner off of them if you needed to. I could not even attempt to lay on my stomach or even on my side because of the enormity of them. I was severely engorged for at least 72 hours. It is a viscous cycle. It makes it difficult for the baby to latch when they are so hard. If you take a warm shower and attempt to release some milk, you will feel better and baby can latch again, but you’ve just sent a message to your boobs that you need more milk. I walked around with cabbage leaves in my robe praying that visitors would stay away until I could at least put on a normal shirt. (They didn’t and I felt extremely awkward.)
HATE – The blistering/ initial pain
For the most part, breastfeeding was easier with my second baby. Heidi latched on as soon as they gave her to me after the birth. She laid on me skin to skin for close to 3 hours. They held off on everything so that I could have that first initial contact with her. I am so grateful that I had the chance to bond with her for so long as soon as she was born. I didn’t get as engorged or leak as bad with Heidi because it seemed like my boobs had pretty much figured out the routine. BUT this time around I developed blisters. Those things are SO PAINFUL! Every time that Heidi went to feed I would squeeze my eyes shut in preparation for how bad it would hurt. It took a couple of weeks for them to heal. Even if you don’t develop blisters, it is still painful when they latch on for the first couple of weeks or so. My husband was super supportive and would run to the store for lanolin or cabbage leaves as needed. 🙂
I have since found this cream that I loved! You can click on the picture to see it on Amazon.com.
I never tried these but they were highly recommended by several of my friends if you are thinking of giving up from the pain! They can also be helpful if your baby is having trouble latching.
HATE – The leaking
Oh, the leaking. After the engorgement settled down, I continued to leak profusely all day every day for months. And months. And months. I don’t’ think that most people have this problem but for some reason, my breasts just didn’t figure out the schedule. I had to sleep on folded towels to try and keep the bed dry. I used the disposable breast pads because they worked the best and changed them constantly. I could be at the grocery store, eating dinner, at church or where-ever else, look down, and see wet spots on my shirt. I could hear a baby cry and start leaking. It was super annoying and extremely embarrassing.
LOVE- The weight loss
If you continue to breastfeed, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT – possibly a lot of weight. When I first got home from the hospital, the weight came off pretty rapidly and then I got stuck. For me it was about 5-10 pounds over where I wanted to be each time. At least, I thought I was stuck. I started writing down my weight once a week or so on a sticky note in my bathroom and realized that even though I thought I was stuck, the weight was still coming off slowly. I was not watching my weight or dieting at all. I have been a vegetarian since college so you can call that some kind of diet, but I was eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and still losing weight. Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories. I have also read that when the baby is between the ages of 3 months and 6 months, moms lose the most weight. This can be attributed to the baby being bigger and wanting more milk, but they are still too young for solid foods. This was also true for me. With both girls and no dieting, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight or smaller before they were 9 months old. It takes 9 months to gain it, give yourself 9 months to lose it before you freak out. Your stomach will not look so strange and EVERYTHING else will go back to normal. (Or close to normal:)) Another benefit of breastfeeding is that your uterus will contract much quicker than if you choose not to. Experts estimate about a month sooner.
LOVE – Money saved!
I don’t think about it too much, but breastfeeding saves you tons of money! When Aniston was 6 months old, my supply had run out and she took about a bottle a day of formula. I just couldn’t keep up with her even though I was pumping twice a day at work. Anyways, once I had to start supplementing her I really noticed how much money breastfeeding saves you. Formula is pretty expensive and they can go through it quickly if that is their only source of nutrition. I’ve read that breastfeeding saves you approximately $2,000 per child per year! That’s pretty good. That number also doesn’t take into account that formula fed babies may need more visits to the doctor and medication which brings me to my next point….
LOVE – The health benefits
Formula fed babies tend to have more ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. They also lack the antibodies that breastfeeding mothers produce to fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections, risk of diabetes, cancer, or other diseases. Breastfed babies are also less likely to die of SIDS. Formula fed babies are more likely to become obese later in life. Just this paragraph is enough to make you want to breastfeed your baby. We all want the very best for our babies! There are also health benefits for us Mamas. Breastfeeding reduces your level of stress and the chance of developing postpartum depression. Studies have also shown that breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of developing certain cancers.
HATE – The lopsidedness
So… this probably won’t happen to you, but it did to me. One of my boobs decided to give up a month into Aniston’s breastfeeding journey and about 5 months into Heidi’s. (It would have happened much earlier with Heidi if I hadn’t been prepared and did everything I could to try and keep it going.) No matter what, if you are breastfeeding your boobs go through multiple sizes a day depending if it is time to feed or not. Well… when one side decides to quit, that side is about two sizes smaller than the other. Thank goodness when I finished breastfeeding they equaled back out. 🙂 Until then, I had to try to find bras that were in between the two sizes and hope they would work and bathing suits to cover the awkwardness. Oh, yeah, that leads me to another point!
HATE – The awkwardness
Breastfeeding and pumping can be extremely awkward. I never could master that cover. I used it multiple times but it was always hanging right in the babies face and who wants to cover their head with a blanket while they eat dinner? I’ve marveled at mothers walking around with the baby in the carrier and breastfeeding them so easily. I’m a hoarder of baby wraps and carriers but I still could never get this to work. I found myself feeding while sitting fully dressed on public toilets. Ew! I’ve had to breastfeed in my car and sometimes I just yank it out in front of whoever when the baby won’t stop crying. I have nothing against mothers breastfeeding in public, but I just felt strange. Pumping seemed even more awkward to me. I did not want Dustin to see me pumping. There is nothing attractive about your nipple being pulled in and out of that machine. Its just one of those things that I feel like should be done in private. I felt like a cow anytime I was hooked up to it. Even though at school I kept my classroom door locked with a large sign that read “DO NOT ENTER” complete with a cow and a glass of milk – I still had 3 different people come in the room while I was pumping. I dove under my desk every time. AWKWARD! Another good lead in to my next point…
HATE (and a little bit of love) – The Pump
If you did need a break for a little bit or if you are working, the pump becomes your best friend… sorta. The reason I have a little love for my pump is because it allowed me to work as a kindergarten teacher while breastfeeding for a year with both girls. I pumped as often as the baby would eat so when I first returned to work, that was 3 times a day. Finding the time to devote to pumping is extremely difficult. Thankfully I had some teacher friends who helped manage my class for me whether at recess or in their classrooms. Without them, I’m not sure what I would have done. It is a huge commitment, takes up time, and like I said before a little awkward. With my first baby, Aniston, I just couldn’t figure out how mothers were breastfeeding and finding time to pump extra. By the time I had Heidi, I knew how to do this better but I really hated pumping extra to try and build a supply. I was proud of myself for having about 50 bags when I went back to work. Some have way more! Either way that stuff was liquid gold. I shed a few tears when my husband accidentally left one at room temperature for too long. Crazy but its a lot of work. Breastfeeding moms know what I’m talking about!
You can click on the picture to see the pump that I recommend on Amazon. I did get a free pump through my insurance both times I had a baby, but it did not compare to this one by Medela! I sold the other two at consignment and kept this one. You might want to check with your insurance first and see if you like the one that is offered to you. If you aren’t getting anything when you are pumping- it’s probably not you. It’s probably the pump.
LOVE – The Convenience
Once you get past the first month or so, breastfeeding becomes incredibly convenient. No washing or sanitizing bottles, warming up milk, running to the store for formula, etc. I didn’t have to lug around a huge diaper bag with bottles, bottle warmers, formula, etc. Once I started supplementing with formula I realized how much more convenient it is to just breastfeed!
LOVE/HATE – The allergies
We noticed that our easy baby Heidi was not so easy anymore sometime when she was around 4 months old. I’m sure part of this was that 4 month sleep regression but she also had some dry spots and would scratch herself so hard that she would cut her skin. It also varied from day to day how she seemed to feel. When she was around 5 months old she seemed especially cranky one day and I got worried that she was still hungry even though she had just finished breastfeeding. I quickly made up her first bottle of formula and fed it to her. She drank it pretty quickly and immediately started choking and breaking out in hives. I had no idea what had happened. She was gagging over and over. I was home alone and absolutely terrified. I called my dad, sister, and mom all of who are in the medical field for advice. I gave her some benadryl and after a couple of hours she settled down. If my dad wasn’t an ER doctor I would have driven her there myself but just followed his advice over the phone. The next day we saw an allergist and confirmed that she had developed a milk and egg allergy. We were shocked as we have no history of allergies in our family that we know of. The allergist told me to switch her to soy formula. When I told him that I wanted to continue breastfeeding he explained doubtfully that the only way to continue was to cut out all dairy and eggs. That’s the path I chose. On the LONG drive home I tried to think of things that I could eat and the best thing I could come up with was cereal with soy milk. I had several frustrating days where I couldn’t think of a thing to eat and would end up nibbling on this or that. It seemed like every single label I looked at had milk in it or egg. I had to figure out if any of the ingredients were even processed with milk or egg because that also could cause a reaction. I had to make sure everything I ate had no butter, cream, margarine, etc. I’m not going to lie. I missed cheese pretty badly. Since I was a vegetarian, I relied on cheese quite a bit to add flavor or keep me full. Even though it was a pain and I could eat basically nothing at our Thanksgiving dinner that year – I’m so glad that I stuck with it because Heidi went right back to her happy self and I educated myself on all of the things that Heidi could and could not eat. I basically lived the life that Heidi will have to live until she outgrows her allergy so I’m pretty glad I put myself through it.
So there you go… let’s see… the total is 7 reasons to love breastfeeding and 7 reasons to hate it! 🙂
I’m declaring LOVE the winner as the “Love” reasons strongly outweight the “Hate” in my opinion.
Did you have the same love/hate relationship? Let me know in the comments!