When my first son’s birth went sideways and turned into a traumatic mess, breastfeeding was my saving grace. I didn’t get to meet my baby until he was twenty-seven hours old. I didn’t get to properly nurse him until he was three days old, but he was a natural. Once he was out of NICU, I just put a boob near his mouth, and he latched onto it like a pro. It was the only thing that went the way I planned, and I needed that win.
I ended up nursing him for fifteen months, and I nursed my second baby for about 14 months, too. Now I am breastfeeding my last baby. We are almost 10 months in, and she’s slowing down. I bet she will wrap up around the same time that her brothers did. I will probably breastfeed her for a few more months, then she’ll be done, and my titties will be retired from the lactation game for good.
I thought I would be sad, but honestly?
Breastfeeding can be annoying as hell, and I am not shedding a single tear about the idea of hanging up the old nursing bra for good in a few months.
Before I go on I should acknowledge that I am so thankful I got to do this. I wanted to breastfeed my babies so badly, and I am deeply grateful that I got the chance. I know some women want to and cannot, and that is a sadness I do not carry. By sheer luck, it worked out for me, and I’m glad. But I am also committed to truth-telling.
Yes. Breastfeeding is free, convenient and can be really sweet.
But for me (and lots of other women) at some point, it starts to feel kind of exhausting and annoying. I’m glad it’s almost over, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t talk about this part of it.
I can admit that when you’re nursing a teeny, sleepy newborn and they fall asleep and let out a little sigh of contentment, breastfeeding can feel kind of magical. In that postpartum hormonal cloud, it can feel like the heavens have opened up and sent you a sweet little angel puff. It feels amazing that your body is providing this perfect nugget with the sweet elixir of life.
If you can ignore the intense post-birth uterine cramping that breastfeeding can cause, (and if your baby has a good latch that doesn’t pinch the shit out of your nipples) you might just find yourself having a sweet, beautiful, happy tears kind of moment every time you feed your baby. The beginning of the journey can be beautiful.
Even now, once in a while, breastfeeding still feels like the sweetest thing in the world. My baby is beautiful, and sometimes in the right light when she’s calmly nursing, I look down at her and I think, “What the hell could I ever have done to possibly deserve to have you?” It can be precious.
But most of the time, it’s just not like that for me anymore. Breastfeeding an older baby is different. I mean, you nurse your kid like six to twelve times a day for months on end. Every few hours you have to stop what you’re doing (even if you’re sleeping), whip out your boob and feed your baby. Again.
It isn’t always precious. Sometimes it’s a chore and it’s tiresome and you don’t feel like it. It’s okay to look at them one in a while and think, “Are you effing kidding me? I literally feel like we JUST DID THIS.”
It’s absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed and touched out by breastfeeding. It’s time-consuming, and there’s just So. Much. Touching. It can feel like someone is just on you literally every minute of your life.
When your baby is standing next to you on the couch pulling your shirt off, shouting, “BOOBIE!” and smacking the top of your breast like a bongo drum, it’s normal for you to need to psych yourself up for a minute before meeting that boss baby’s demand.
And there’s nothing quite like the phase where they just don’t know WTF they want. They want to climb up, nurse for 2 seconds, get down, eat a Cheerio and then, right when you get your boob put away, come crawling back for more. They spend the first 10 minutes of every nursing session latching, unlatching, latching, unlatching. Twiddling the other nipple. They’re looking around and wriggling like they want to get down, but they cry if you actually put the boob away.
Finally, after what feels like fifteen minutes of alligator wrestling, you get them settled, feel the telltale signs of letdown, hear them starting to suck and swallow…then a dog barks or a toilet flushes. Without warning, (and without breaking suction) they whip their little head around to look, and pop off your nipple without warning, spraying milk everywhere.
The nipple is ATTACHED. That shit hurts.
Speaking of things that hurt… lots of breastfeeding babies bite. It hurts even when they don’t have teeth, but add those needle-sharp incisors and you’re in for a real shock. But don’t forget not to shout! Your baby will act like you’re the asshole if you yelp out loud when they chomp your nipple halfway off.
Look. I love lots of things about breastfeeding. It’s free. I don’t have to wash bottles. It’s good for the baby, and it’s good for me, too. It can be really sweet. It’s worth doing it if you want to and it works out for you.
But if breastfeeding also makes you feel really touched-out and frustrated sometimes, that’s totally normal. If it gets to be too much, it’s totally cool for you to call it off. Formula is a perfectly adequate, valid choice for feeding your babe. Even if you really want to do continue and have no intention of stopping, nursing can feel like a lot sometimes. It’s a huge commitment, it’s not always blissful, and we should really talk about that more often.