I know this is a taboo topic, but I’m going there anyway – especially since I drove myself CRAZY during those 8 months.
You might be wondering why I’m even thinking of this subject since it’s been months since I’ve been “there”, but I came across this photo in my Facebook memories this week and had mixed emotions.
A part of me thought, “you were so strong for pushing through.”
Another part of me thought, “you SOOOOO should have quit.”
I ended up polling my friends on Instagram, and was shocked that the majority agreed that breastfeeding was harder than childbirth, which blew my mind!
This is one of those subjects that ruffle feathers, so I just want to clear the air in stating that this post is simply my personal experience and opinions, which is not meant to be taken as advice, guidance etc.
Looking back, I had to think – “was it worth it?”
And while I’ll never truly “know” – here’s what I can tell you guys.
I’m going to lay out some of my REASONS (aka assumptions) for wanting to breastfeed/pump, and then I’m going to share my truth as well as it specifically happened for us during those 8 months and beyond.
Reason #1 – It’s easier.
HA… I think laughing is good enough for this one. This was by FAR the hardest thing I have ever done. The physical and emotional strain of breastfeeding for me was harder than infertility, pregnancy and childbirth combined. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never been through those things, or to someone who had a great breastfeeding experience – but this was my truth. I honestly wish I took a class and I wish I was more persistent about getting help sooner. I never thought “easier” would require a total of FOUR IBCLCs an ENT, a Pediatric Dentist, two tongue tie revisions, a dozen or so trips to the pediatrician for weight checks and two months of pure agony and stress to even be able to breastfeed – but that was my story. I have never cried more. I have never felt more guilty or pressured. I have never been so unsure or conflicted with decisions. It was NOT easier.
Reason #2 – It’s cheaper.
If breast-feeding worked well for me and I was able to do it “exclusively”, it would have been – but it wasn’t. Between breastfeeding pillows, breast pads, cooling gels, nipple creams, nursing bras, nursing shirts, lactation teas, lactation cookies, pediatric co-pays for weight checks, breast milk bags, coolers, breast pump parts, a hospital grade breast pump (if you need it) and whatever other “things” you may accumulate throughout the months (maybe even a deep freezer if you build a great stash) — it may not be cheaper.
Reason #3 – It will be a great bonding experience.
So the backstory is that we were never “exclusively” anything. We used breastfeeding, breastmilk in bottles, formula in bottles and we CO-PARENTED. My experience is reflective of our methods, but Jack never preferred one of us as a parent. Sure we bonded, but I don’t believe it’s because I breastfed. I’m also a work-from-home-mom, and have always been Jack’s primary person – but he runs to Dad any second he gets and LOVES being with his grandparents at 13 months old. I truly believe anyone who bonds with your baby, will in fact bond with your baby.
I also know that I spent many seconds, minutes and hours upset, stressed or forcing myself to think of something else while trying to breast-feed during those first 2-3 months, when I should have been focused on ACTUALLY bonding.
Reason #4 – It’s easier on their stomach.
In the first month, Jack presented to have “colicky” symptoms many days, and as a clueless parent – that’s exactly what I thought it was. “It had to be the small amounts of formula we are giving him to supplement,” is what I convinced myself. This assumption caused even more anxiety and stress – as if I didn’t have enough. It wasn’t until we went to our third IBCLC that we did the naked weight and post feed weight, where we determined that Jack really wasn’t getting much milk.
He didn’t have colic – he was friggen hungry!
Society convinced me that formula was poison. It was inexperience, stress and the lack of support, resources and guidance we have in those early postpartum weeks and months.
Reason #5 – Maybe it will prevent allergies?
Around 3 months old, Jack would occasionally break out in an eczema like rash on his chin – which I attributed to drooling. It would come and go, but eventually got worse. We assumed he had sensitive skin. We assumed it was because WE had sensitive skin. We consulted with our pediatrician and eventually a pediatric GI who diagnosed him with a milk protein allergy. I was never a big dairy consumer, but the little amounts I had in my intake was enough to give Jack a reaction. I had to cut all dairy out and change his formula – but we did it.
A few months later he grew out of his dairy allergy, but became allergic to eggs (which we are in the process of training him to grow out of) and now tree nuts.
I have a shellfish allergy and I wasn’t breastfed, so naturally – I assumed it was due to that. One of my biggest reasonings for breastfeeding was to hopefully prevent this, so it was a huge blow when his allergies surfaced.
Reason #6 – It’s “best”
If you are reading this sentence hoping to find the answer or clarity on your own beliefs – let me tell you —- FED IS BEST. A happy mom is best. A happy husband is best. A happy FED baby is best! Sure we hear this a lot – but do we truly believe it? We should!
So was it worth it?
You might think I’m crazy and hypocritical – but YES.
I’m personally happy I did it all and stuck with it because I would have questioned giving up sooner.
Had I given up breastfeeding at 1 month, I probably would have blamed his tree nut allergy on stopping.
Irrational? You bet, but – I’ve been living with myself for the past 34 years and I know exactly how I react and respond to things.
Would I do it again?
YES, but differently.
Knowing what I know now would be crucial in having a better experience next time around. I also have all of the resources, tools, war wounds and a hospital grade pump to get me through it all.
The big difference between then and now is being logical and practical with troubleshooting problems, asking for help sooner and knowing when to stop.
I know this final thought might seem strange, but I feel like I can conquer the world because I breastfed! It comes easy for many, but for me this was beyond hard from a mental, emotional and physical perspective. I often find myself thinking, “I breastfed, so I can do this” – even if I’m giving myself a pep talk for folding laundry haha.
Hopefully your journey with this life phase was easier than mine, and if you are currently living it – I’m sending you positive vibes girlfriend! It ain’t easy, but you are doing a fantastic job!