At Stroller Strides every day, we are given a question to answer when we go around the circle and introduce ourselves and our kids during our warm up. (Side note: I love that about Stroller Strides; it really adds a connection with the other moms and kids instead of just focusing on the workout the whole time!) The question we happened to have on that rainy day was one thing about mom life that you simultaneously love and hate. For me? That would be breastfeeding.
There are things that I absolutely love about breastfeeding--namely when little man is calm, quiet, focused, and snuggly. I am in breastfeeding heaven and love looking at his sweet little face as he happily sucks away. But there are also things that I absolutely hate about breastfeeding, that I really feel no one told me about beforehand.
Oh sure, I took Breastfeeding 101, I read all the blogs with titles just like this blog post's, but really why did no one tell me about this!? Their blogs said, "It hurts." "You'll feel like a milk machine." "It's hard at first." "Your boobs will be different sizes." In class I learned about different positions, mastitis, and the breast crawl. But then I started breastfeeding and it turned out to be way different than expected. It made me cry a lot in the beginning weeks/months and now it mostly just makes me frustrated and irritated (when he's not being cute and snuggly, that is).
Let's start with the POSITIONS.
First off, no one told me that you have to stack nursing pillows to make that tiny baby tall enough to be level with your boobs. I had to go to B.O.O.B.S. group at the Cap Wellness Center to find that one out. Now that Judah's bigger, I can just fold my leg under me with the nursing pillow on top and he reaches it okay, but I still have to hunch over or push the pillow up behind him (that's for a different reason; see below.)
1. Sidelying: They told me this position would help you sleep while you breastfed at night. Correction. I don't think I've ever been able to sleep in this position. I have to hold myself up to keep him on the nipple; I can't keep a pillow under my head because it ends up pushing against his head and shifting him away from said nipple. I did no sleeping. Also, no one told me that this position could help if you have an overactive letdown (also something no one told me about.) Judah was practically drowning from milk intake every time I fed him in the early days because it would go too fast. So I had to feed him in this position all the time. It was super inconvenient, especially when I was out and about. I'm glad the back of my car is big because I would curl up back there and feed him in this position.
2. Cradle: This is the primary one we do. Recently, I've had to use the pillow behind him to push him closer to me because he likes to push away from me while he's latched and suck from as far away as possible. Nipple stretching? No one told me about that...
3. Football: I don't know how anyone does this comfortably. I couldn't get the hang of it when he was little. The past couple months it's been the one that we switch to when he keeps yanking off and latching on again over and over and over quickly. I think the milk might come out faster this way for him so it keeps him a little more engaged. I have to hunch over him to get him to line up right though. No one told me how to avoid bringing your breast to the baby instead of bringing your baby to the breast. That definitely does not happen in this position for me.
Moving on. MASTITIS.
I've had it twice, and I've fought it off twice. No one told me you can get it from wearing a tight sports bra. Both times I started a new workout regime is when I got it. The tightness of your bra can clog your milk ducts.
So how do you avoid mastitis without just not working out at all?
1. Feed the baby before you work out. Empty your breasts as much as possible.
2. If you're prone to clogged ducts, skip the tight bra and go with a looser fit one. Stick to lower impact exercises with the same intensity.
3. Feed the baby right after working out. Rid yourself of any of the clogs that may have happened with the sports bra.
4. Clean your breasts thoroughly afterwards. I time my workouts so little man goes down for a nap right after. That way he can sleep while I shower and change.
And if you do start to get it? Treat it immediately! As I said, I've successfully fought it off the last two times I started to get that harsh pain in my breast and it never turned into the full-blown ordeal. And it is quite the ordeal. No one told me what it would be like; I just knew what it was. Picture this: sharp pain in a specific place on your breast that you must massage thoroughly--kneading with your knuckles or brushing over with a comb while your baby eats. And your baby needs to eat more often to help draw out the infection. Top that with the flu. Because that's what you feel like. You hardly have any strength or energy to get out of bed and your shivering and sweating from a fever at the same time. So yeah, you really don't want to get mastitis. But hey, if you happen to, did you know you can fight it off naturally? Check out my blog post on fighting mastitis naturally here!
But let's talk about the real reason I despise breastfeeding: BABY AEROBICS/DISTRACTIONS.
No one told me about this. Right after I started dealing with it when Judah was about 5 months old, I heard someone else mention it at B.O.O.B.S. group. We all nodded sympathetically and half laughed, "Yeah, that's pretty normal" but no one had any suggestions to offer. I sadly don't have much to offer here. Judah could care less about eating, I believe. He wants to look at everything around him. Someone coughed? Dog had an itch? Door slammed outside? Little dude must YANK off to look in the direction of the noise. He won't stay latched for more than 5 minutes at a time, and that's only if he's REALLY hungry. Typically, he lasts 1-3 minutes before he yanks away from me. I haven't had to use the nipple cream since the first month of breastfeeding, but I've had to bust it out again. I can't fathom what will happen when he gets teeth. :-O Flicking him only makes him scream and get worked up so he does it even more. He could care less about eating, so stopping the feed won't do anything to train him--it'll just affect my supply and make him cranky. I've stopped feeding him a little early in the feed at times now because he won't stay latched more than a few seconds at a time. He doesn't care; he just falls asleep for his nap anyway.
It's gotten ridiculous. I feel like he hardly gets any milk at his feedings. He'll eat for a total of 7-9 minutes (which includes the time yanked off to look at something). He's always been on the smaller side, so this makes me especially concerned. He won't take a bottle anymore so I don't feel like I could supplement even if I needed to. So far, his growth has still been increasing at his doctor visits, so his doctor said she's not concerned. But the last check he had was at 6 months and he doesn't have another until 9 months. I weigh and measure him at home, but I've always gotten different results than they get at the doctor, so I don't know how to make that more accurate. My OB-GYN said he may just be a baby that gets a lot of milk in a short time. But when Judah pops off, milk isn't spraying everywhere. My letdown has decreased a lot since the early days; I assume because of his current eating habits and lack of interest in eating. I sometimes wonder if he's not interested because it doesn't come out that fast. Supply and demand...what a frustrating cycle!
I never thought it would be that big of a deal to feed him the first year. But now I'm understanding a little better why moms give up on breastfeeding sooner than that. I thought the only challenges would happen at the beginning, when you and baby are learning how to do it. But no. That part is hard, yes. That part hurts, no doubt. Baby falls asleep during feeds so he wakes up more often, which is frustrating. But this 7 month stage is equally trying. Thankfully I don't have crazy postpartum hormones added to the mix right now, otherwise I'd probably be crying as much as I did in the beginning. The only thing that has somewhat helped is to nurse him in a darkened room, where there are no other people or dogs, the sound machine is on, and he's in his Zipadee Zip all ready for his nap. The atmosphere is calmer and less distracting. That's the best I can do right now. Feeding him in public or with a nursing cover no longer works, so I have to plan my feeds around when we're at home. Even still, sometimes he would prefer to just whack me in the face instead.
I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer or anything. I just felt really unprepared for what I experienced, and I don't want you to be in the same boat. I've found as a mom that it's really nice to know that these things no one told you about are actually normal--even if no one mentioned them as they were telling you "all you need to know" about it. Most people tend to post the 'I'm a Perfect Parent' stuff up on social media for everyone to see, which is not the whole truth and sure makes the rest of us feel like we're failing. So here's to breastfeeding! The hard, tell-it-like-it-is, nitty gritty, day-to-day stuff that's real.
Motherhood sure has its difficulties, and breastfeeding has brought many surprising ones. But of course, like I mentioned before, there are wonderful and beautiful things too. Now that he sleeps more at night (and therefore me too!), I don't mind the middle of the night feeding. He's so calm and peaceful--content to snuggle in my arms and eat. It reminds me of the early days when he would just cuddle with me. I love that time with my son; I cherish it. I know it won't last forever.