You have all of the details mapped out in your mind and all of the supplies checked off of your list. The glamorous images of happy breastfeeding mothers and their babies flood your newsfeed.
We were MEANT to do this. I CAN do this. I WILL do this.
You anticipate the experience wholeheartedly. You take a breastfeeding class. You scour the internet researching the best foods for breastfeeding mothers and enlist advice on the best bras for the job. You’ve memorized all of the benefits of breastfeeding, the gassy foods to avoid, and how to ensure the perfect latch. You’ve committed to the fact that breastfeeding is the only option for you.
When the baby is born, he/she is perfect in every way. You are head-over-heels in love at first sight. With their first breath of life, you are ready to commit every ounce of your life into making sure that they thrive.
Only your breastfeeding journey takes an unexpected detour.
The baby won’t latch….
The baby has tongue tie….
You’re told that you have flat nipples….
Whatever the case may be – you spend the first two weeks fully devoted to breastfeeding.
You QUICKLY realize how NOT-so-glamorous the gig really is.
You are sore. Sore is an understatement. It feels like your breasts were rubbed with sandpaper. They are cracked. They are bleeding. They are raw. You go through a tube of Lanolin a day – praying for the pain to stop.
You are engorged. The liquid gold finally arrives in full force. If you’re not breastfeeding – you’re pumping. If you’re not pumping – you’re packing your bra with ice. You try everything in your willpower to make it past this week.
You are exhausted. On one hand, your breasts hurt so badly that it’s hard to even hold the baby close to your chest. On the other hand, you never want to put them down. Somewhere between love and delirium you manage to wake for feedings every 2-3 hours. You don’t remember the last time you brushed your teeth and in between crying and sweating all night long – you realize you actually stink.
Your breasts are leaking everywhere, all-of-the-time.
You finally figure out a way to hold the baby with one hand and shove an entire meal down your throat with the other hand in less than 60 seconds.
You survive your first evening cluster feed.
Momma, this is HARD. This is the hardest shit you’ve ever done. And I hear you. I hear you loud and clear from amidst the trenches of 2 a.m. feedings. Because I, too, have been there.
The first time around – you’re not quite sure if you can pull it off and are amazed if you actually do. The breastfeeding struggle comes as a complete shock to you. You survive the two week uphill climb and continue to breastfeed for 10… 12…. 20 successful months. You are a goddamn rockstar.
With the birth of baby #2 – you feel like you’ve got this in the bag. You know EVERYTHING there is to know about breastfeeding… (a lie that you’ve bought into and later learn was far from the truth). The pain comes flooding back like a bad nightmare, but you hold on tight and manage to survive it. You breastfeed for 2… 4… 6 successful months. You are a hero. You deserve a freakin Emmy Award for breastfeeding a newborn while try to entertain that toddler.
Now. Let’s imagine. On top of all of this madness, you now have three children to care for. That’s right. In comes baby #3. The reality of trying to do it all smacks you in the face like your co-sleeping child in the middle of the night. You question yourself over and over –
How the HELL did I ever breastfeed?!
Having three children and trying to breastfeed is probably the most insane thing you’ve ever tried to pull off. There is NO time for anything. You can’t find the time to shower or sleep or eat a meal. In fact, the last thing you remember eating was scraps of food off of your toddler’s plate from dinner a few days ago. You are constantly living to take care of these three little humanoids.
The thought of…. school lunches? making breakfast? getting dressed? You’re not a goddamn Olympic gold medalist. And that’s exactly what you would need to be to juggle this circus. It’s a marathon even with the best of help. There’s no time to spend with a cluster feeding baby when you have to make dinner, help with homework, do laundry, rush off to soccer practice, and bath your other two children. The list for a mom of three is endless. You add breastfeeding to the mix? Oh hell no. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY.
I tried breastfeeding and did breastfeed – for a whooping 8 weeks with baby #3. And of all of the reasons I could ever imagine to quit breastfeeding (and there are SO SO many) – losing my sanity was the final straw. It wasn’t the stint with mastitis or my need for a glass of wine. It wasn’t the low milk supply or the inability to pee while feeding for 60 minutes straight at a clip. No my friends, time was my greatest enemy.
So if you’re a first time mom or a third timer like me. Let me be clear…
IT’S OKAY NOT TO BREASTFEED!
One more time for those of you who are still unsure….
IT IS FREAKING A-OKAY NOT TO BREASTFEED!!!!
A mother and baby’s health and happiness are the absolute BEST reasons to quit breastfeeding. If you’re feeling anxious….suffering from PPD…. your baby isn’t gaining enough weight… or you’ve just HAD IT trying to figure out how to add a few more hours onto the Earth’s rotation – stop it right now. Do not ever… NOT FOR ONE SECOND… tell yourself that you have to continue to breastfeed because that’s what is expected of you.
This may seem like the biggest, life-altering decision of your life right now – you wanted to breastfeed so badly – but I can promise you… in a year’s time… this issue will look like a speck of dust in the scheme of things. You’re baby will have the same immunity and the same remarkable intelligence as all of the rest of their breastfed peers. I can assure you there will be no noticeable difference between your sick-booger-eating child and the sick-breastfed-booger-eating child next to them.
Whether you tried breastfeeding for one day or one week… You are strong. You are enough. You are doing what is best for you and for your baby and that is what motherhood is all about. I give you the green light to pack up that nursing cover and those nipple shields – guilt free. You have nothing to prove! The decision alone – to do what is best for you and your family – already makes you an amazing mother.
If I can quit breastfeeding, so can you.
I promise, your sanity will thank me later.