Next in the Things That Suck series is breastfeeding. When one thinks of breastfeeding, one can (if they have not experienced it) think of many things. Wetnurses in the Tudor period, some old National Geographic magazine with boobs 4 feet long and kids hanging off them, movies featuring tranquil mothers stroking contended babies’ foreheads within a soft focus lens. Like that crazy lady from Hand That Rocks the Cradle, or somesuch.
These images are not untrue. But they are not the whole truth.
My whole truth (notice I did not say everyones – this is only my opinion) is that breastfeeding sucks. New moms, take note: BREASTFEEDING IS NOT SECOND NATURE. You and your offspring will have to work, often times very very hard, to do it. That is the first thing people won’t tell you – you will fail many many times at it. There is a reason that typing in ‘breastfeeding’ to Amazon will yield at this typing 4348 products. Books, nipple butter, cold/warm compresses, breast pads, milk bags, milk pumps, milk storage containers, instructional manuals, necklaces that your kid can hold while he feeds, special shirts, special bras, special pillows, you name it, it’s been made (and more than likely now resides in my home). This breastfeeding game is a tough one – remember that.
And frankly, I feel no grand life force surge through me to my child when I breastfeed, no bond of love and universal harmony. I generally am too tired at 4 in the morning to ponder life’s mysteries; I am trying not to fall asleep and smother my kid with my boob. When I do gander at my kid, he is gnawing on my boobage, falling asleep halfway through, squirming, screaming, repeat ad naseum. And the fun kicker is, newborns generally need to boobie feed every 2-3 hours or so. That’s 8-12 feeds per 24 hour period. Some kids feed fast and hard, and can be done in 20 mins. Some can take an hour. That means when you look at the clock from the little boobie nest you have made for yourself on the couch, you will be in that exact same position in 3 hours, whether your kid takes no time at all to feed, or takes all the time in the world. Alex had to be formula supplemented from the get go (my first night was spent in the mommy ICU getting my blood transfusion, and it took a really long time for my milk to come in after the birth trauma), which the the Catch 22 of breastfeeding – to get your supply good and up, your kid has to feed all the time. When you formula top up, the kid doesn’t feed as much, and your supply dips – which means you need more formula at the next feed. Lather, rinse, repeat. When Alex was first born, his feeds (20 mins on each breast, nappy change, and a bottle) took 1.5 hours. Now we’re down to an hour, but it still sucks ass to have to get the bottle ready while boobie feeding (or have my poor, also sleep deprived hubby do it while I am boobie feeding) and know you will be doing the same thing in 2.5 hours.
Sidebar: When they say new mothers nest, they don’t mean metaphorically. Here is what I have surrounding me when I feed: Bassinet, burp cloths/change of clothes for diaper blowouts, water bottle, cup of tea/hot cocoa, large cup with cool water to chill down formula bottle, snacks (fruit, chips, mini muffins), changing mat/diapers/wipes, baby meds (we just stared Gaviscon and Zantac, and whatever some of you may think about Big Pharm, that shit WORKS on infant reflux), a gazillion pillows to prop myself up on (yay episiotomy!), cell phone, house phone, remote, computer. Yes, it does take up a lot of room. Yes, it is annoyingly in the way. Yes, you will need every single thing for every single feed, or you will go insane.
Want some delicious irony? Your kid can be allergic to you. Yes, YOU! Your child can be allergic to your milk, or rather what is in it. So you cut dairy, wheat, soy, brocolli, meat, peanut butter, oranges, any and every item the internet tells you could be setting your kid off. And then your midwife looks at you like you’re an idiot and tells you that you need meat/wheat/etc to get your boob supply up. Catch. 22.
This doesn’t even begin to touch the craziness of the more severe issues you can encounter. These are some common horrors I have been lucky and have not experienced yet: Your kid can have tongue tie, where the underside of his tongue needs to be severed to attach properly; you can have blocked ducts, where the milk gets lodged in your boob (very painful); you can get a yeast infection on your nipple (and his mouth); the hits just keep on coming.
We won’t even get into the politics of breastfeeding in public, boobiefeeding past the age of 1 or 2, etc. The two times I’ve boobiefed (very modestly) have been fine with no complaints, and he’s only one month old. We won’t begin to argue about formula versus boob. Alex takes both for now, and will hopefully be solely boobage fed by the end of month 2.
So why do it? There are moments I have no idea. Yes, you get nutrients to the kid, and wonderful antibodies. Yes, it helps tone up mummy’s body (uterus as well as burning calories). Yes, it is natural. And yes, I will fight tooth and nail to hit that 6 month mark even if I have to top up the whole time. Cracked nipples, a sore back, long nights, feeling like a failure for having to top up, all of that is still worth it.
I tell you all this because I believe it will get better. I tell you all this because I *have* to believe it. I tell you this because if you are a mum, I want you to understand that I feel your pain. I tell you this because if you’re not a mum, you may have more patience for the mums in your life (or the strangers you meet who happen to be mums).
I tell you this because it’s a crooked game, but it’s the only game in town.
…but it still sucks. 😉