My lowest point came when I said these words: “I don’t want to feed her. I don’t want to feed my own child.”
Tears in my eyes, I looked up from my nursing chair at The Hubster, who had our hungry newborn daughter in his arms. I felt like I was trapped in a cruel science experiment to determine how much nipple pain an exhausted new mother could take in two hour intervals before she cracked.
The Hubster looked at me helplessly in his absolutely no-win situation.
This is what he’d hear if he encouraged me to try to feed the baby: “You try ripping the skin off your nipple, attaching a vice grip to it and twisting it hard. See how you like it! Then do it every two to three hours!”
This is what he’d hear if he suggested I switch to using bottles and formula: “You’re not being supportive!”
I can look back at that moment now and smile. The poor Hubster. He was trying to help me but just didn’t know what to do. So he wisely just stood there until I reached out for our daughter.
Memories from my “baby boot camp” days have been coming back to me recently after spending time with some expectant moms. I don’t generally like to flood expectant first-time moms with dreadful stories of about what’s to come, but I do feel the need to dispel the fairytale notion that breastfeeding is easy.
So here goes. Psst! Expectant first-time moms! Breastfeeding is hard. Sometimes, it is really, really hard. I can easily say it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. The breastfeeding classes don’t truly prepare you. That picture in your head of you smiling down at your newborn who is contentedly taking sustenance from your breast? Picture instead trying to line a screaming, wiggling newborn’s mouth with your raw nipple as you brace for intense pain.
In my case, breastfeeding initially involved me simultaneously stomping one foot in agony and muttering curse words as my daughter latched on to my breast.
“If I swear in a sing-songy voice, she’ll never know the difference, right?” I’d ask The Hubster after I’d let out a string of expletives to the tune of Rock A Bye Baby.
I felt like a failure because wasn’t breastfeeding supposed to come naturally? New moms can put incredibly high expectations on themselves to know how to do everything right, especially breastfeeding. I don’t want other new moms to feel like I did, so know this: breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and the baby. No one expects you to just get on a bike and ride it the first time. We need to see breastfeeding in the same light.
I battled through oral thrush, pumping problems, food sensitivities and lots of uncertainty, but eventually, thanks to a wonderful lactation nurse, breastfeeding did become easier, more natural and more like the pictures in books. Curse words left my lullabies.
My best advice? Lower your breastfeeding expectations and ask for help from the nurses and/or lactation consultants at the hospital. Make sure your baby’s latch is right from the start. Ask the nurses to watch you latch on every time you feed your baby for the first few days.
It will make a world of difference in your breastfeeding experience. I promise.
Oh, and you may want to give your husband a few hints about what kind of things you want him to say – or not say – in those first couple of weeks.
L’il Girl Talk
“When I was a baby, I drank milk from your breast,” says The Youngest, age 3, pointing to my right breast. “I got orange juice from the other one.”