I have a secret. It’s not really a secret ’cause I tell a lot of people, plus most people who spend any time around me pick up on it pretty quickly. That being said, it still definitely still qualifies as one of those dirty little secrets of parenting. I HATE breastfeeding. I have spent well over two years of my life nursing my kids. And I mean no bottles, no formula, every two hours (if I am lucky to get two full hours) nursing my kids. And I hate it.
I love that I have been able to do this for my kids. I am so, so thankful that breastfeeding worked out for us. It is inconceivably hard to master at first. And no one can understand that except a woman who has tried. When I thought it wasn’t going to work and I might have to switch to formula when my oldest was a week old, I cried for hours. There are obviously a lot of benefits of breastfeeding. The health benefits to mom and baby alone are worth it for me. Plus, once you finally have it mastered, it is the magic cure all for newborns. Baby’s hungry? Throw ’em on the boob. Baby’s startled? Quick, shove a boob in their mouth. Getting a little tired? Suckle off to sleep. Cold? Cuddle in and nurse. Can’t figure out why they’re crying? A boob never hurts! Add to that, not having to deal with midnight trips to the kitchen to sterilize, mix and heat bottles. I will take the roll-over-and-whip-it-out method of overnight feeding. (Yes, we co-sleep, along with a lot of other things I said I’d never do before having kids!)
Yep, breastfeeding was the right choice for us. But I still HATE it. With a passion. I have never enjoyed that special bonding of breastfeeding. I have definitely bonded with my babies, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t find the process of breastfeeding to be more bonding than just cuddling them into my chest. Those moments in the first two weeks or so, when your baby is screaming and hungry and your nipple is actually in their mouth but they won’t close their lips together and suck; yeah, not exactly feeling that wave of maternal love rushing over me. If anything, cuddling is much more bonding to me, since I’m not worried about latches and leaking and all the other breastfeeding logistics.
So, latches, and leaking, and all the other breastfeeding logistics. I remember reading , before giving birth to my first, that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt as long as you are doing it properly. I call BULLSHIT on that. I assumed I was doing it wrong for the first week ’cause my god, the searing pain. In hindsight, of course it hurt! It’s breastfeeding. Sure, it hurts less if it’s done properly but in what world does applying significant sucking pressure on one of the most sensitive areas of your body for 6-8 hours a day, all of a sudden, not result in some pain. And chapping. And cracking. And that’s when “latching” is working well. I don’t know why it is so hard to figure out the latch thing at first, but it really is. All the while you are sitting with your breasts out for the world of visitors, or whoever, to see. And it’s leaking. Like sometimes spraying half way across the room, leaking. And all over your clothes and your baby’s face. And it’s sweet sticky milk, which is so much fun to be covered in, until your next shower which will be god knows when. Of course, all of this is being figured out when you’re on the biggest hormonal roller coaster of your life and your emotions are completely out of control. Your only real job is to keep this thing fed and you can’t understand why it is so hard and how the human race hasn’t died out before this point if it is dependent on getting newborns properly latched onto nipples.
I don’t think there is anyone I have spoken to in the last 4 years that doesn’t know I hate being pregnant. Surprising, since I have three children, but that just speaks to how much I like babies. And how bad my short term memory is now. I am always happy to have the pregnancy over with when baby is born, and have my body back to myself. But it’s not really, because of breastfeeding. I can’t drink coffee because my babies go PSYCHO when I have had a real coffee/decaf mix up (I think we legitimately delayed my brother in law from having kids by a year or two when Owen got a little real caf breastmilk at 4 months old and happy screamed until 2am). I can have the occasional beer or glass of wine, but not without worry and guilt about it. And all that talk about breastfeeding making you lose weight? I know I am in the minority here, but I cannot lose weight while breastfeeding. I can work out. I can eat healthier. I can reduce my daily caloric intake. Nothing! I have dropped my last ten pounds of pregnancy weight within a month of weaning both my boys. Never before then though. And even when the weight is dropped, everything else has too!
My real secret shame is that the reason I hate breastfeeding most of all is super selfish. It’s not that formula fed babies typically sleep through the night way earlier. Or that only I can handle midnight feedings. I can handle the sleep stuff. I just want to be able to leave my kid for a few hours on a date with my husband, or a girls night, or anything selfish like that. I mean, I do do those things, but I know there is a significant chance of her screaming the whole time so I can’t really enjoy any of those things. Especially if they go on for more than say 90 minutes. I feel like the worst mom when we get home and her cheeks are red and tear-covered. And I never fully believe the babysitter when they say “she’s only been really upset for the last five minutes”. Then your baby realizes you’re home and hits the craziest combination of anger and elation. And then she latches on and lets out a sigh of relief ten times bigger than her tiny little body and almost immediately nods off to sleep.
It’s amazing being that person that they love more than anyone and anything else in the whole entire world. But it’s also a terrible curse of responsibility. I can’t help but wonder if that would be all that different if we bottle fed. And would it be all that bad if they loved me a little less and their dad a little more in that first year? I obviously wouldn’t do anything differently, since I have had the chance three times now and still choose to breastfeed. But I am happy to come clean about not enjoying it.
So, to all the mom’s who fought through the pain, the frustration, the limitations and all the other curses of breastfeeding, whether for a day or a decade, I literally feel your pain! To the moms who didn’t, in my opinion, you really aren’t missing as much as some say. To ALL the moms, you do what is right for you. And complain about it whenever you get the chance ’cause damn this motherhood thing can be tough some times.