Before I became a mom, I used to hear women say: “Breastfeeding is hard!”
I never really understood what they meant. I knew that nipple soreness is a common problem in the beginning, and I knew that some women have trouble with supply and others are away during the day and have to pump a lot, which sounds not only difficult but a lot to manage. But otherwise, I really know yet what was so hard about feeding your baby from your breast. Not to say that I thought it would be totally easy, I just didn’t know what to expect.
Now that I’ve had 4+ months of breastfeeding every 3 hours or less, I understand a bit more of the picture. (That’s over 1,000 nursing sessions, by the way!)
I do want to say also that we have been lucky and seem to have no problems with breastfeeding, so I realize how much harder it can be if you put complications on top of a normal nursing schedule. Keep in mind too that this post is based on my personal experiences only!
On a normal day in the privacy of home, breastfeeding is a complete joy and there is nothing hard about it. I did experience a LOT of nipple soreness. I took me a month to really say “this doesn’t hurt” and probably twice that time to be able to not even feel much other than gentle tugging. I wasn’t expecting it to hurt as much or as long as it did, and that was…hard! But I was dedicated and grit my teeth through the worst parts and luckily, as many other moms promised, we came out on the other side ok.
It was hard at first to get Mazen’s latch right. Everyone told me his latch was perfect, but it just didn’t look as much like a wide open “drinking” motion as the You Tube videos I watched. I realized with time that the older he gets, the more he is the model drinker. Now his latch is perfect, and he gulps milk just like a textbook baby. It just took us 4 months to get there I think he just had to wait until his mouth got bigger to be able to use it effectively. So in the beginning there was a lot of worry about latch. Luckily his weight gain was stellar so I never worried if he was getting enough, but there are lots of moms who have that added stress. There are always questions floating through the back of my mind: “Am I feeding him too often? Too infrequent? Is his staying on long enough? Too long?” You’d think these answers would be clear, but sometimes they are not.
I STILL don’t really like any of the sitting positions, and I find that side lying is the most comfortable for me and the best way for Mazen to latch. I’m sure it’s an error on my part, but in the sitting positions, I just feel like he’s a bit twisted on and they still hurt a bit, but with side lying, he’s nose-to-nipple perfect and can easily latch himself on. I love lying down, and it’s a great opportunity to rest. He now knows when we lie down to roll onto his side and open his mouth like a baby bird.
Probably the biggest current challenge of breastfeeding for me is nursing in public. I know I could just bare all, but I’m quite shy (I don’t even nurse in front of my family) and so I struggle with covers and balancing Mazen on my lap in strange places. Plus spraying milk all over and getting too hot and where did that burp cloth go and can someone pass me my water bottle!? I try to time it so we were back home for nursing sessions, but of course that’s not always possible. I sort of dread breastfeeding in public because it’s 100 times harder than it is at home.
Pumping is also hard. I heard once that it takes two pumping sessions to make one bottle of milk for a feeding (because pumping is not as efficient at removing the milk as a baby is). I rarely pump now because I got so tired of cleaning parts and bottles. Hats off to you moms who pump daily at work – as much as a breastfeeding supporter as I am, I’m not sure how long I could do that. One thing I did discover recently: my electric pump parts were not clean and we had been on a car trip and ohmygoshIhavetopumpNOW happened. Luckily I have a hand pump too (this one) so I used that instead. I was shocked to discover how much more effective it was!!!!!!!!!!! Now back when Mazen was a newborn, I tried the hand pump and didn’t have much luck, but now things seem to have changed in the way I let down and I suppose milk production too because what would have taken me 30 minutes to get with the electric pump came out with the hand pump in 10 minutes. I was thrilled to be able to get a whole bottle in that short amount of time, and ever since I’ve been using the hand pump over the electric. I’m glad I have both because they have both served great use over the course of 4 months, but the hand pump is 10 times easier because there is less to clean and carry around. So I my advice to you casual pumpers: you might give the old hand pump another go around and see what happens. PS. Massaging my breast is much easier with the hand pump and I get a lot of extra milk with compressions.
Lastly, the breasts are large and in charge!! I’ve never been scared of my body like I am sometimes when it’s been a long time since I’ve nursed (like in the middle of the night if he sleeps unexpectedly long). The engorgement is scary!! They are really hard as rocks, and all I can think about is “Where is my baby because I need to release this milk now!” You kind of wonder what would happen if you didn’t have a baby or a pump nearby…. So even if your baby takes a bottle well and you have a confident babysitter, you still have to think about your breasts on date nights or days away from home. The milk has to come out…or else.
Before I had Maze, if you asked me what I was most excited about as a mother my answer was breastfeeding. It was something I couldn’t wait to experience. It definitely hasn’t been everything I expected, but the good parts are even better. My favorite time is first thing in the morning when he wakes up babbling in his crib and I bring him into bed snuggled under the covers for breakfast.