Breastfeeding. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?
Doctors and parenting magazines alike will have you believe breastfeeding is a one way ticket to eternal health for your children. And maybe it is, I’m not a doctor. But like anything in parenting, it’s not exactly heaven on earth.
I breastfed my son for six weeks and my daughter for 13 months (exclusively), so I feel I have some input on the subject and I’d like to share my thoughts. I promise not to sound like some pro-breastfeeding advertisement, like so many articles I’ve read touting the whole “breast is best” thing. There are pros and there are cons, like everything in the world. Take it or leave it.
1. Yes, it does hurt at first. The Breastfeeding Police don’t want you to know that– they want you to think your kid isn’t latching on correctly or that you’re doing something else wrong to cause the pain. But that’s bullcrap. Your milk ducts get clogged and swollen, your boobs fill up with more milk than Sunnydale Farms, and your nipples get so chapped from the constant moisture that you could slather on 80 pounds of nipple cream and still it won’t help. What will help? A little time. You just have to wait that part out. Eventually you find your groove and it’s all gravy from there. Well at least until they start teething (yes, seriously).
2. It really does promote bonding. Like serious amounts of bonding. I guess they sort of look at you like you’re a giant walking ice cream sundae. They can’t get enough. My daughter, now three years old, still looks at me like I’m dessert. And she hasn’t nursed in two years. She is decidedly more attached to me than she is to my husband — like really, really, really attached to me — and it’s been that way since day one. I am no scientist, so I can’t say with certainty that it’s a direct result of the breastfeeding. But it sure as heck feels that way. Like in my heart and stuff.
3. Sometimes, you just can’t do it. And that’s totally okay. I breastfed my son for only six weeks, and I will tell you why. He was HUNGRY. So, so, so damn hungry. Your body is supposed to like miraculously make just as much milk as your baby needs. But my son wanted to eat every freaking half hour. It was insane how hungry he was. When I finally gave in and gave him a bottle, he gobbled it up like I’d been starving him for weeks. And maybe I had been. They say it’s “rare” that a woman is unable to provide enough milk for her child, but I think that’s phooey. Here’s why: stress causes a decline in your milk production. Stress! What new mom isn’t stressed out? So I say go with your gut. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.
4. It’s okay to go public. I didn’t, and it’s a big regret. My daughter used to pull my nursing cover down when I was nursing her (yea, that’s another thing that happens when their motor skills kick in). At the time, the mere thought of anyone catching a glimpse of a little exposed nipple by accident was terrifying to me. I used to think moms who would breastfeed openly were totally nuts. But I was wrong. You know what’s nuts? Cowering in a dirty public bathroom stall to feed your hungry kid. Which is something I’ve done countless times, despite how gross it is. Now I think that’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I’m not saying you should walk around the mall topless or anything, but feel free to do what’s comfortable and don’t worry what others might think. Just let them stare; it’ll probably be the highlight of their worthless day.
5. Sex? No thanks! I’m pretty sure this is a biological thing, but your sex drive is severely diminished when you’re nursing. Tell hubby to purchase some good hand lotion, because that’s all he’s getting for a while. If he complains, tell him to quit his bitching. When you stop nursing it comes back times a thousand. You’ll be on baby #2 before you know it.
6. You’re hungry. All. The. Time. It’s like your pregnancy never ended. Actually, it’s worse. Because when you were “eating for two” before, one of you weighed less than a cantaloupe. But the good news is that you’re somehow magically burning calories while you breastfeed, so you can skip the gym and have another burrito.
7. The breast pump is the creepiest-looking contraption ever invented. You’re literally being milked, Bessie. It looks weird, it feels weird, and it’s a tremendous pain in the ass. The only thing worse than all that pumping is the prospect of it going to waste. Whoever coined the phrase “stop crying over spilled milk” never spilled eight ounces of that freshly-pumped liquid gold. Hell hath no fury like a nursing mom whose milk has gone to waste. Dads, take note and be VERY CAREFUL when handling those precious bottles. Your life may be on the line.
8. The Breastfeeding Police won’t like this, but I’m telling it like it is: I see virtually no difference in the health of my exclusively breastfed child and my non-breastfed child. If anything, it kind of feels like the one who breastfed gets sick even more than the other one. It’s just an observation I’ve made, one that shouldn’t sway anyone’s decision to nurse in either direction. I just kind of hoped I’d find myself in that germy pediatrician’s office a lot less with the breastfed child, and it hasn’t worked out that way. Maybe my supposedly magical breast milk is just no match for those slimy monkey bars at the park or the snot-covered play doh at preschool.