The breast isn’t always best.
Everyone always talks about the benefits of breastfeeding and how great it is for the baby, but what they don’t talk about is how much it sucks for the mother.
Breastfeeding isn’t for the faint of heart. The cracked and bloody nipples are enough to make any new mother wave a white flag of surrender, but the fun begins again once the baby decides to test out his new teeth on your already tender nipples.
Although I breastfed both of my children until after their first birthday, it wasn’t always a pleasant experience, especially with my first child, who took over eight weeks to latch correctly.
While breastfeeding can be a rewarding experience (that’s what I tell myself, anyway), here’s a “let’s face reality” list that I wish someone would’ve shared with me before I decided to breastfeed.
- There’s no such thing as modesty. Give up all notions of modesty right now because there’s no such thing as privacy when you’re breastfeeding. I don’t think there’s a single family member, including my in-laws and the entire Kohl’s parking lot, who hasn’t seen my breasts. Don’t bother purchasing a fancy nursing cover because it won’t work. My daughter hated to be covered and flung off any type of cover that I tried to use, and my son would pretend that I was a buffet as he would unlatch to look around, leaving my breasts totally exposed, before he would decide to continue eating again.
- The conversations with older children are beyond awkward. My four-year-old son thinks that feeding a baby out of breasts is the most fascinating thing in the world. I didn’t want to leave him alone while I fed my daughter in another room, so he insisted on sitting right next to me and staring at the baby (and, therefore, my breast) when I was breastfeeding. He even tried breastfeeding a doll, to my husband’s chagrin. Also, trying to pump in front of children is always exciting. My daughter would immediately whine and point at the bottle while my son stared at the flanges and asked why my nipples were moving.
- Only horrible birth control options are available. The only birth control options available to a breastfeeding mother are IUDs and progestin-only pills. Neither sounded appealing to me, but since I hadn’t decided whether I wanted a third child (let the fun begin again), I opted to use the progestin-only pills. Since I could never remember to take my pills at the exact same time every day, I had a perpetual period. Also, the birth control pills did nothing to help my raging hormones; I felt like a teenager again with my acne and oily skin.
- You’ll be hungry all. the. time. Breastfeeding supposedly burns an extra 500 calories a day, but I found myself overcompensating (three dozen cookies, anyone?) and eating more than the recommended extra 500 calories. I was always hungry, especially after pumping. With my firstborn, I lost the pregnancy weight almost immediately, but for some reason (maybe the cookies), that didn’t happen with my second child. Even though I breastfed her for over 15 months, I still struggled to lose the weight.
- My sweet tooth went through withdrawals. My children have food allergies, so my diet was also restricted when breastfeeding. That delicious bowl of ice cream? Not an option when your baby is allergic to milk. Cookies and cakes? Nope, my kids are also allergic to eggs. Luckily, I was eventually able to find milk and egg substitutes, but I still needed to watch what I ate.
I ultimately decided that breastfeeding was the best option for my family because my kids’ severe allergies limited the formula options. Between my two kids, I breastfed for a total of 31 months (shocking, I know). Even so, breastfeeding wasn’t always a picnic, and I really wish someone had warned me about the excruciating pain initially. According to my lactation consultant, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but tell that to my cracked and bleeding nipples.
Note: if you’re looking for some breastfeeding help, this list of breastfeeding resources helped me survive!