Breast Feeding is hard. Not only is it all consuming but it is also mentally and physically straining. It is akin to having a full-time job that requires you to be on call 24/7, 365 days a year with no sick or vacation days. It also takes time, patience and a supportive circle to accomplish. Below are 8 Hard Truths about Breastfeeding.
- Not Everyone Can– This is so true and rarely mentioned. Not everyone has the time to commit, milk supply to sustain the nutritional needs of a baby, milk Never comes in, baby has nipple confusion, can’t latch or a plethora of other reasons. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. Using formula is not wrong and no one should make you, a mother, feel guilty or think differently about that fact. You are feeding your baby and giving them the nutrition they need in order to grow and be fed. Period.
- Every child is different– Just because a mother was successful Breastfeeding one child does NOT mean they will be able to breastfeed another child. This was my dilemma with my second son. For my first, I was lucky enough to breastfeed with very little supplementation for the first 6 months before I went to work and my supply tapered off. But with my second I was unable to breastfeed at all, due to the fact that he was placed in the hospital with severe jaundice just 2 days after birth. During that time they gave him 3-4 ounces of formula at every feeding and I was just unable to keep up the supply for his demand. My milk never had a chance to come in. You know he is just as healthy and wonderful as his brother despite the fact that he never had a chance to breastfeed. No mom guilt here.
- It is painful– At first when you and baby are learning how to latch, it can be painful. Nipple cream is your best friend. It takes a couple of days to a week for a new mom to relax and for baby to learn how to feed in an efficient way. But until then, us mothers have to suck it up a bit. Now don’t get me wrong, if it is excruciating then there may be a larger issue and I recommend you to talk to a lactation specialist. My third and newest baby has a slight tongue tie and that means that she had a hard time latching. Those first few days made me question my decision to breastfeed but I spent extra time researching and asking questions and we eventually figured it out. Now 6 weeks in it still hurts the first few seconds of latching then morphs into a comfortable pulling sensation.
- Exhausting- This is on top of the expected newborn exhaustion. When you decide to Breastfeed, you are committing to feeding on demand until a routine is set and that can take a while. Breastfed babies tend to cluster feed at intervals to let your body know when to up its supply. This means that you may be confined to the couch, bed or chair for several hours while baby suckles. Babies also do NOT care if that time is in the middle of the night or that you may have been up for nearly 24 hours. They are hungry and you are their food. So exhaustion is real.
- Selfless- Be prepared to put your needs on the back burner for a time. This is a selfless act of love for your child. And I do mean selfless. Taking long luxurious baths are no longer an option because if baby becomes hungry and it will, your bath just became a lightning fast dip in the water. For me, showers are more practical at this stage. As are quick one pan dinners for the family and light makeup for the day. Dang, even this post has had to be paused multiple times due to feedings. Everyday gets better though because you and baby become more attuned to each other and a routine starts to form.
- Mentally Challenging- You’ve had your baby and you think “I can be normal and comfortable again.” Think again. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion can make you emotional and a tad bit mental. It is in those times that as a new mom you start asking yourself “what would a bottle hurt, so I can get some sleep?” In my experience, this is the most enticing thought that crosses my mind at 2 am. But I ignore it because I have been doing so well breastfeeding this child. As breastfeeding gets established other things start to cross your mind such as Mom guilt because of all the time spent with the new baby, the thought of “what about me?” and “when does it End?” All these thoughts are completely normal and do pass. It is just getting passed that stage. But if self harming thoughts start to emerge or you feel as though some thoughts are NOT normal, do not hesitate or be afraid to reach out for help. There is nothing wrong with asking questions and seeking help. Postpartum Depression is real and treatable.
- Physically Straining- Besides the mental aspect of coming to terms with Breastfeeding, it causes a physical strain as well. Nipples are sore, shoulders ache and lower back becomes sore. Keeping mindful of posture will help with shoulder and back pain. Nipple cream and a good latch will help with sore nipples. As your baby grows, you will become stronger but right after birth, it is trying physically because a new mom is trying to heal as well as feed her child.
- Affects the Whole Household- Don’t be fooled, this is a family affair. Yes, mom, you are doing the brunt of the work but the whole household feels the repercussions of breastfeeding. Late nights affect your significant other as much as you. Cluster feedings frustrate everyone because dinner is pushed back, play time is passed on and 1 on 1 time with the other children is limited. Everyone in the house wants attention from mommy and there are only so many hours in the day. Make sure you include siblings in on what you are doing and why. For me, I like to make the times I feed, times for playing card games with the boys or reading a book they like. Helps them feel included as well as creates some quality time for themselves and I.
Breastfeeding is wonderful for you and baby in so many ways even through the hard truths. But you should know using formula is not a deterrent or wrong decision when it comes to your babies health and well-being. It requires just as much commitment but also allows a little more flexibility for mom and family. Besides providing for the needs of your baby is the priority and that is what matters. As a Mom of 3 beautiful and healthy babies, I believe it is vital to understand what you are getting yourself into when breast-feeding. It is a full-time commitment that affects the whole family but the result and outcome is worth every minute. All 8 truths above have come from personal observation and experience. Baby girl and I are 6 weeks into exclusive breastfeeding and everyday has gotten better. We are bonding wonderfully and we are learning everyday together . As long as she continues to get what she needs from me there will be no need for supplementing. In the coming weeks I will begin pumping to give my family and I more flexibility during feedings. This will allow us to go on day trips if they come up or quicken grocery shopping. It will also help my hubs and baby bond more effectively. I hope as you read this article you found some interesting input and took my experiences with a grain of salt.
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