As of this writing, I have spent exactly 26 months breastfeeding. With my first, I became a fierce but quiet “lactivist.” I couldn’t understand how people wouldn’t even try. I made it to a year exclusively breastfeeding my son without a single issue. Two years later, God laughed at me and gave me twins. After I nearly died on the day they were born and then struggled to keep up with their feeding needs in the first week, I remembered that formula was in fact NOT the devil as I had once quietly thought to myself.
Many lessons have been learned from that, but the two important ones here are:
A) I’m not in control
B) I needed to chill with my attitude toward people who didn’t breastfeed.
Both times, I experienced most, if not all, of what Linzy named in Part 1. Confusing lactation advice from professionals, exposure that rivals topless dancers, expenses, binge eating, staining, loneliness, and struggle. Doubt. Frustration. Confliction. It didn’t stop me, but that was the choice that best suited ME and MY FAMILY. I couldn’t believe the negativity and holier-than-thou attitude in the comments sections of her post. I know that everyone has had at least some struggle with feeding related issues, whether it be boobs, bottles, or picky eaters. If not, they’re not admitting it or their time will likely come, like mine did.
But you know what else I experienced the second time around that I never did the first time?
Mastitis, constant clogged ducts, nipple and ductal thrush, milk blebs (and bleeding from them). Pumping hours a day to upkeep a double supply so we didn’t have the financial strain of formula on top of everything else. Working full time throughout and juggling a preschooler were exhausting additions.
It’s not all sunshiny rainbow unicorns as some people would have you believe. Even successful breastfeeding journeys have major periods of trial.
There were many moments where I couldn’t believe what I was doing to make it happen. I found myself on all fours, holding a vibrator to my boob while pumping stubborn clogs out because I was desperately trying to ward off mastitis again. (Yeah, I just admitted that, and yeah, it works—thanks La Leche League Discussion Boards!) I found myself trying to excavate a milk blister on my nipple with a sterile needle and bleeding every time I pumped. My sink is permanently stained purple from the gentian violet, and I acid-burned a layer of skin off my boob using a too-concentrated mixture of grapefruit seed extract trying to cure thrush “naturally” when the prescription meds weren’t helping.
It’s no wonder people give up. And I don’t blame them if they do, or if all of this terrifies anyone enough that they decide not to try. Not. One. Bit.
But there are a few other things no one tells you.
It might be the only thing you ever felt like you were naturally good at doing.
I’m what people like to call “six inches deep and a mile wide.” I’m a little bit good at a lot of stuff. There hasn’t ever been anything that I’ve been totally awesome at from day one. Except breastfeeding.
It might be your way to cope with depression and anxiety.
The only time I felt normal and good enough when I had postpartum depression and anxiety was when I was breastfeeding. I couldn’t be myself, but I could be a dairy cow, and that kept me from losing it.
You might be afraid to quit.
I haven’t stopped with the girls yet because I’m not ready to start the new phase of life where I’m finished with babies. I’m scared to move on, so I’m not rushing it … even if it hurts, literally. As long as they still need to nurse to go to sleep or have a few minutes of peaceful stillness, I’ll take it.
You might cringe every time someone calls you “Supermom” when they find out that you’re (STILL) breastfeeding.
See the three points above. I don’t need or want kudos. I’m simply doing what’s right for the three of us today. But I would like for people’s choices to be a little less scrutinized and the scope of “normal” to be expanded. There’s this magical window for breastfeeding, it seems: if you don’t make it to a year, you’re looked down upon. If you go past a year, you’re a hippie weirdo. So basically, we have exactly 24 hours where we’re doing the “right” thing.
You might ask yourself every day why you’re still doing it and if it’s worth it.
It might be easier to quit. It might be easier to keep going. Only you can make that decision, and I hope that you are surrounded by people that support you, whatever your choice.
So yeah, there’s lots of crap people don’t tell you. I just hope people don’t give you crap for whatever it is you choose to do.
P.S. You’re doing great.
I love love love your point about “it may be the only thing you’re great at” – of course I don’t think that’s literally true (for you OR anyone else) but whenever I feel judgment for having to supplement and then feel guilty for being 100% okay with it …. I have to remind myself that I am great at other things and for whatever reason being a dairy cow is not one of them. And if I have come to a place of content with that AND am rocking in other areas, why does anyone care? I am great at a lot of things; making copious milk is not one of them. C’est la vie. But I now realize that for people judging those who supplement or choose not to nurse … perhaps being a dairy cow is what gives them confidence. And that is awesome as well.
This was great Lindsay! After having just gotten through the first month of nursing Luke (ONE baby), I’m again freshly appreciating how ridiculously challenging breastfeeding two would be. Not impossible obviously, but definitely requiring a lot of determination. I completely agree that nursing is HARD and I think part of why I love it so much is that I have gotten a lot of fulfillment from pushing past the hard parts. It’s been a lesson in mothering since there are so many moments that seem IMPOSSIBLE and then the next day, everything seems possible again. Thankfully I am a dairy cow and so breastfeeding has been very possible for me. Like babies, moms are also different, namely their circumstances, and it’s not fair to judge another because it’s very likely their experience was not exactly like your own. Something we all need to remind ourselves of – great post!
This is awesome. I love your blog. Thank you for being so open, honest, and blunt!