Monday, February 28, 2011

breastfeeding: 3 truths and one lie

i nursed bella for over a year. i am proud of myself. and i am proud of bella. but i learned a lot during that time. like, people don't really talk much about it except to cram it down your throat say that it is best and formula is "poison" (not my words). i am a breastfeeding advocate. i think, if you are able to, everyone should at least try. but i recognize not everyone has the option. if my situation was different, i can't say that i would have proceeded to nurse for an entire year.

many people spout rhetoric about how breast feeding is "natural" and that there is nothing better, but here's what they don't tell you....

truth #1- breastfeeding is hard. at first. it takes a finesse that is not in any way, shape, or form natural, to get a baby to latch right each time. yes, breastfeeding itself is a natural process, simply meaning there is nothing synthetic about it. but the art of breastfeeding, the actual physical act, does not come naturally. it can be overwhelmingly frustrating. in the early days, i would cry just thinking about the next feeding, and how hard it was going to be.

truth #2- breastfeeding is beneficial. do i need to expound on this? other than the nutritional part, which everyone seems to harp on, let me just say that at 2 am, then 4am, then 6 am, when bella would wake for feedings, if i had had to make a bottle each time? i may have hurt someone. sleep deprivation makes me crazy (as it does most people i know) and being able to feed her without fully waking up sometimes, saved my life. i kid you not. plus, knowing myself, had i needed to fix a bottle for the 3rd time at 2 am, there is no telling what would have made it in there. or what temperature it would have been.

truth #3-breastfeeding is hard. wait, i already said that one?? well, it's true. and i hate hearing that people quit or choose not to nurse just because it was too hard. i guess this stems from my frustration at people who get pregnant easily and didn't even want a baby. because there are people out there who want to nurse and can't, it seems unjust to me that there are people who are capable, but don't because it was too hard. (please don't confuse this with people who have issues like work, medications, illnesses, etc. i mean people who just say, i don't want to do it because it is too hard. period. end of statement.)

support systems are CRUCIAL to new mothers who think they may want to nurse. without one, it IS too hard. surrounding yourself with people who make you feel weird will only make it harder. surrounding yourself with people who are supportive, even if they don't fully understand it, will help make you feel like you are doing something important. and that's good. because you are.

a big fat lie: "breastfeeding should never hurt". on day 2 in the hospital, the lactation consultant came in and asked if i had any questions. i didn't but i did mention that i was sore from nursing. "breastfeeding should never hurt!" she insisted. over the next few weeks, i felt immense guilt that i was doing something wrong because it DID hurt. it hurt a lot. i remember a few times actually screaming out when bella latched because it hurt so badly. i kept feeling defeated. that i was doing something wrong. that i had failed because it hurt. and i feared that it would always hurt. i even threatened (myself) that i would never do this again. but then, slowly the pain subsided. eventually, it didn't hurt at all, and feeding bella became a joy, rather than a burden.


Max said...

FANTASTIC POST!!!! Yes, BFing does hurt in the beginning, and to say it isn't supposed to hurt discourages people ever more. I also wanted to add to the benefits of breastfeeding in terms of speech development. It aids in speech development so much due to the amount of muscles it takes to nurse, in comparison to bottle feeding. Great job!

Allison said...

Oh Justine I know alll too well.. Me and Lexie are in our 8th month of breastfeeding as you know. You have been the only person I could ever talk to about it since I know no one else that breast fed. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done besides raising my crazy child hahaha. I don't know how many times I have said to myself "I can't do this anymore." But then a few hours later or the next day I think oh I was just being stupid. I still sometimes think "How will I go through this again with my next one?". I think I'm just going to bottle feed but then I'm like no I will regret it.

SpitFire said...

I completely agree. It's definitely the way to go, if you can. I've tried with both my babies...the first one I only made it 2 months before I ran out. :( The 2nd baby, I made it past 4 months, and wasn't producing enough. But I'm still trying! We have our 3rd on the way, and I'm definitely going to try again with this one. I'll keep trying until I stop having kids.

Justine said...

@max-there are so many awesome benefits-i didn't even know that was one if them. my hope in writing this was to encourage those moms in the beginning stages. if someone had told me "it hurts like hell in the beginning, but it gets better" i think i would have felt a lot better. at least i would have been better prepared.

@ali-i'm glad i have been able to be there for you!! and i'm glad you have asked me stuff =) it makes me feel good that i could encourage you even a smidge.

@spitfire-i think it is so awesome that you keep trying! i remember telling myself, "make it to 6 weeks, and you're good!", "just make it to 3 months!", just make it to 6 months" i just never wanted to be disappointed if i couldn't do it longer. the important part is that you give it your best shot.

Special Physician said...

I agree hundred percent, it is a myth that breast feeding hurts, with proper care & knowledge it is a no pain task.