I am going to start this post with a confession that may surprise you. I exclusively breastfed but it really irritates me when people only portray the positive traits of breastfeeding. While the La Leche League is a lovely group (led locally by our very own Courtney), I think even they would admit that one of their biggest topics of discussion during meetings is the variety of problems that breastfeeding moms encounter. Breastfeeding isn’t a static choice. Instead, it is a choice that comes with challenges that evolve as your child grows and develops. I am writing this post to be honest and to show that no matter how you choose to feed your baby there are always challenges and the grass is NOT always greener.
The Ball and Chain
Wheeled out of the recovery room and excited to try my hand at breastfeeding, I was shocked when I realized it wasn’t an instinctual thing. Much to my surprise the heavens did not part, and the angels did not sing. Instead of it being a natural, beautiful bonding experience, within just a few feedings I had cracked, bleeding and sore nipples. Thank heavens for a wonderful lactation consultant that stopped by that night as a favor and helped to guide me in proper latch and technique. If she hadn’t stopped by that could have been the beginning and end of my breastfeeding odyssey. While I was lucky I didn’t have supply issues, it was still very hard to be the sole provider for baby in the early days.
Weston loved to eat and eat often. Some nights I would feed him every two hours throughout the night. Evan tried to be helpful by changing diapers and bringing the baby to me, but honestly what was the point of him getting up if I had to wake up to feed the baby anyway? Shouldering the entire brunt of feeding responsibility for a newborn was often exhausting. Sometimes in the wee hours I wondered if it was worth it or if formula feeding moms had it easier? I can remember bargaining with myself many times late at night “You can do it, just one more week.”
Indeed, if you are a new mom looking for a trick to keep yourself going or inspire yourself, one of my best ideas was what I called “The one week rule.” I gave myself permission to give up, absolutely guilt free, if I felt the same way one week after I had made the decision to quit breastfeeding. Luckily, every time I made it to the one week quitting mark things were better and I was able to press on. As Weston grew, breastfeeding evolved to be much less taxing physically, yet it was literally the ball and chain that bound us. If I had to leave the baby for any period of time I was forced to lug along my pump instead. Working and even traveling to New Orleans to rent the house we live in now was so much more challenging dealing with the issues of where to pump, when to pump and how to store my milk. I remember one trip where I literally pumped for three days straight every 4 hours. I took a flight home where I carried on a cooler with over 100 oz of breast milk. Formula feeding surely would have been easier.
The Mommy Super Power
Health benefits and personal goals aside, I persevered and continued to breastfeed because I started to feel that it was a kind of mommy superpower. In times of illness or stress it was so comforting to us both. It was an automatic off button. It would cease the crying and end the strife. If Weston was up too early, which was a really frequent occurrence, I would bring him into bed with me and he would feed and cuddle for at least another hour or more. Sleep and cuddles are a valuable commodity worth their weight in gold in the mommy world. Once established, breastfeeding was also very thoughtless. All I really needed to carry was some diapers and wipes. No need for bottles, water, formula, or any other products. I loved being able to leave the house with the baby quickly without planning. Knowing that I would never be caught unprepared for a feeding was reassuring and confidence inspiring. Breastfeeding became my ticket to a lazier and more unplanned style of parenting. I appreciate anything that can help make parenting feel more laid back when you are often adrift in a sea of decisions and possible pitfalls.
Depending on your own personal views you might be disappointed that my breastfeeding post isn’t more adamant about what is the best choice. You might find my views wishy washy or even somewhat apathetic. The truth is I am somewhat apathetic. Breastfeeding ain’t easy, and it’s a very personal decision. It is a struggle, a chosen path, a difficult journey and indeed both a ball and chain as well as mommy superpower. If you choose (or chose) the path that I did, I think you’re awesome, but if you didn’t and you’re a formula feeding mom, I commend you, too! Motherhood is tough, and nourishing an infant, no matter how you choose to has its pro’s and con’s.