I am all about keeping it real and keeping it honest. Why? Because when you act like your life is perfect, you make it harder for everyone else. Case and point: When I was pregnant, all I heard about breastfeeding was how amazing it was. I heard about what a beautiful bonding experience it was, how you’ll always cherish those moments, you get the picture. What actually happened was very different.
The first few days home from the hospital I was literally bedridden with anxiety about being this little human’s answer to just about everything. My breasts were sore. Nothing made sense. Breastfeeding sucked. (Get it?!) All I knew was that this was supposed to be natural and easy, when it was everything but. I felt alone, I felt like there was something wrong with me, and this made it a thousand times harder than it needed to be. If someone had just been honest with me about their experience, I think that first week or two would have been bearable at the very least. But no one told me what it’s really like to breastfeed.
I slowly realized that it sucks for most people, especially in the beginning. It’s just something no one talks about. Well, hello, nice to meet you. My name is Sammantha and we’re going to talk about what it’s really like to breastfeed.
First and foremost, breastfeeding can be an extreme mind fuck. I’ll go ahead and guess that this is especially true for first time moms, who have never had a baby, never produced milk, and never fed another human with that milk. You can’t see how much you’re giving your baby, your baby cries for reasons you don’t yet understand, and it’s just impossible to believe that you are able to produce this life giving food to feed another human. It’s bizarre.
So, you don’t believe it.
Your baby cluster feeds (which is normal, good, and temporary), and you’re convinced she won’t stop breastfeeding because you aren’t making enough. Babies are only supposed to eat every 2-3 hours, right? So why isn’t she getting off of me? I must not be making any milk. I’m starving my child. I’m a horrible mom. Someone get me formula, I can’t kill my child. All of that anxiety when in reality, your baby is preparing you both for a growth spurt when she will need more milk.
There’s also the anxiety that suddenly you are the only person on this planet that can feed your baby. That’s a lot of pressure, my friends. Pressure that I want none of. So I got a breast pump, thank you.
And don’t even get me started on the never ending anxiety that one day you’re just going to look down and realize your breasts are empty and you will never be able to breastfeed again.
Babies burp. Everyone knows that babies burp. Sometimes we intentionally make them burp. Or, sometimes when your breastfeeding and the baby is latched to your nipple, you suddenly feel the hot breath of your child belching on your boob. It’s a thing that happens. And they say breastfeeding is beautiful! If you’re into that sort of thing, that’s cool. I’m not particularly interested in having humans burp on my nipple.
Okay, so this one can happen to anyone holding a baby, but it’s particularly beautiful and special and oh-so-magical when your baby is physically attached to you. I’m talking about the baby pooping on you. You’re holding the baby nice and close to you, you hear the gulps of her swallowing and think about how awesome it is that you have the privilege of breastfeeding, and then you feel it… She shits in your hand. Her special gift to you. Thank you for the milk, mom, look what I did with it!
This one is almost more disgusting than the previous two bodily functions. Are you ready? Okay, good. Picture this – You’re laying down on the couch before bedtime, breastfeeding your baby to sleep. You’re having a rare moment where you think “Okay, I can do this. I got this. Yeah, I can be a mom. No… I am a mom!” And then she unlatches, looks at you with those big blue baby eyeballs, and throws up her entire meal, all over your naked breast, stomach, couch, and then lays her face in it. Breastfeeding is such a wonderful miracle.
I don’t know when it happened, or how it happened, but there came a time when Temen realized that my breast could be not only her food source, but also her pacifier. Her toy. I’m not saying I’m okay with it, but it happened. So now, every once and a while once she is done with her meal, instead of unlatching (like what I like to think normal babies do) she just starts chewing on me.
Oh, baby is crying? Here mom, take her. You suddenly become the person that gets her anytime she’s fussy, crying, or anything. Why? Because you have the boob. Never mind the fact that she could be bored, overstimulated, cold, hot, uncomfortable, or just want to cry, you have the boob so you get the baby. You are her human pacifier, good job. See where your college degree got you?
Have you ever been in a sleeping bag with another human? It’s warm, right? That’s what it feels like when you breastfeed under any sort of cover. Hot. Warm. Muggy. Humid. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not pleasant. I’m not saying you have to use a cover. In fact, I aspire to be that woman that whips her boob out without thinking about it in Target. I’m all about normalizing breastfeeding, I’m just not personally there yet, so I use a cover. The covers are hot. Even if you don’t use a cover and you’re being all #blessed and doing skin-to-skin while breastfeeding, that can be hot too. It’s like holding hands for an extended amount of time with someone prone to sweaty palms. It’s not cute, but you keep doing it because it’d be rude to pull away.
People say that breastfeeding is less expensive than formula. I’m inclined to believe that, but it certainly isn’t that much more affordable if you also pump. You have the pump, pump bottles, spare pump parts, pump bra, baby bottles, bottle cleaners, breast milk storage bags, nursing bras, nursing tops, lactation cookies, nursing bra pads, lacticups, haakaa, whatever, it’s expensive. I could spend an entire paycheck on breastfeeding/breast pump stuff. In the long run is it more affordable? Yes, but not by much. This goes double if you’re a bit psycho like me about keeping up a supply so insist on having a healthy supply of Gatorade, mother’s milk tea, fenugreek, and lactation cookies around – which could easily add up to the same amount of money spent on formula a month.
YOU CAN’T DRINK WHILE YOU BREASTFEED AND IT’S RUDE BECAUSE YOU CAN’T DRINK WHILE PREGNANT EITHER. Okay, fine, so I know people say you can drink while breastfeeding, so long as you do it responsibly and wait long enough afterwards to breastfeed. But I’m anxious (see number one) that she’s going to demand to be fed immediately after my first drink, because that would be just my luck. I’m also not about to break into my freezer stash because I have this fear (see number one, again) that my supply is going to one day just dry up like the Sahara and I’m going to be left with no option about how to feed my child. So I’m going to need that freezer stash. So no champagne for Sammantha, even though it’s the one thing I craved while pregnant other than Costco hot dogs (which I’ve since had five of).
When you’re feeding another person with your body, you get hungry. I am more hungry today than I ever was pregnant. You could put my dog’s head in front of me and I would gladly eat it if you gave me some barbecue sauce. I’m joking about eating my dog, but seriously, I’m starving. In fact, we should add this to the “Expensive” portion of today’s blog. The increase in our grocery bill has to be as much as formula is each month. So the hunger is real. All day long I’m eating. The good news is that breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, so I’m not gaining as much as I would if I wasn’t breastfeeding. But still, this can’t be healthy.
So there you have it — What it’s really like to breastfeed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy breastfeeding now. I feel a little bit like a super woman when I’m able to quiet and calm my baby down by just pulling my shirt down. I like that I’m giving my baby all of these antibodies and other nice things. It’s cool that my baby is being fed. All of this is good, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Is it fair to compare it to marriage? Maybe? Like, how everyone says “it’s so much work!” yet still seem to enjoy their spouse? It’s kind of like that I think. It’s kind of fun when it doesn’t suck.
But maybe that’s just life in general, kind of fun when it doesn’t suck. 🙂
P.S. Not listed are actual supply issues, latching issues, soreness, leaking, being alone in an office while playing the part of a cow, everyone asking you if you’re breastfeeding, milk taking up your entire freezer, and engorgement … just to name a few other beautiful parts of breastfeeding.