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The Breastfeeding Blues

I don’t like breastfeeding.  There, I said it.  I feel a little less maternal now but it’s true!  I DON’T LIKE BREASTFEEDING.  I know, I know.  No need to shout.

I’m not a prude.  I have nothing against breasts and babies coming together.  I completely support women who breastfeed (if that is what works for their families of course).

I breastfed my son until he self-weaned a few days before his first birthday.  My son was awesome at it.  He was so large during those first six months that people would say: He’s a formula-fed baby, right? (I know. Who says that? No one dared touch my baby or baby bump, but I just couldn’t stare down the weird comments.) Nope. It was MY breast milk that put him in the 99th percentile (even though he was born at a mere 7 pounds 13 ounces).  My doula said: Some of us our meat cows and some of us are milk cows. You, my friend, are a milk cow.

But even with all this positive feedback, I didn’t like breastfeeding. Maybe it’s because I’m not a touchy-feely person and you kind of have someone attached to your body every 2-4 hours AROUND THE CLOCK.  Maybe it’s because I don’t like being needed so much. Maybe I’m weird.  You know what?  WHO CARES?  Facts are facts.  And I REALLY don’t enjoy breastfeeding.

So along came number two. And we breast feed. Heck, she latched on while we were still in the operation room gets my uterus sown up (TMI?).  Great! Or as great as it is when you are doing something you don’t like every two hours around the clock. But between check-ups at two and four months, she did not grow enough.  She was definitely breastfeeding.  But not for long enough.  I had just chalked it up to her being a snacker, but I guess the triple-threat of being a snacker, me chasing around a toddler, and her laid back nature, meant that she was not eating enough.  So we got the lactation consultant and the breast pump and the emotional support and the boobs and the baby on board.  And we got her weight stable.  Yay!

Except I now continuously worry that she is hungry.  She’s crying?  Hungry.  She’s reaching for me?  Hungry.  She’s sleeping?  Hungry.

So not only do I not enjoy breastfeeding, but now I cannot trust the process.  I get frustrated and anxious.  I wonder, deep down, are we really bonding over this process?  Or is my determination to breastfeed her as long as her brother (that’s a whole different guilt trip, oh I mean blog post) or as long as the AAP recommends (I’m not even going near the WHO recs — I could not do anything I dislike for two years.  Please don’t ask.) driving a wedge between us?  Because I don’t feel loving and cuddly when we breastfeed.  She’s nine months old now, and I’m still watching the clock and her latch and my positioning and getting upset when she stops every few minutes and wishing I could weigh her afterwards.  Is it worth it? Or are my breasts just getting in the way of our cuddling?

This posted also appears on The Mommies Network

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

18 thoughts on “The Breastfeeding Blues

  1. I feel exactly the same way. I always loved what breast feeding did for our son, but I didn’t really enjoy the process until very late in the game (around 8 months). And I only really enjoyed it then because it was the only time he’d stay still long enough to cuddle.

  2. Get thee to a bottle!!!! Seriously, I think it sucks (no pun intended) that in an attempt to let people know about the benefits of breast feeding and overcome the stigma it once had in our culture, we’ve created this horrible pressure for Moms to breast feed. It’s ridiculous. I loved breast feeding. I was one of those “boob first, questions later” Moms whenever my babies fussed. I loved that I could soothe them, feed them (and fatten them–you’ve seen the evidence!)–it made me feel very powerful and competent as a mother. But it seems to me that if feeding produces anxiety and stress in the Mom, it can’t be such a fabulous bonding, nourishing experience, yada yada yada … for the baby. So do what’s right for you and tell the AAP and WHO to “suck it!”

  3. I am still slightly weirded out about the fact that my body produces MILK – (wha??? crazy!) – I mean, especially those first six months when you are sustaining a little person’s life with your chest are pretty darned amazing when you stop to think about it.

    that said… The process definitely has its ups, down, and related emotional and logistical issues! I remember the huge, huge, awesome sense of freedom that came with L’s weaning… but also a little, slightly sad, loss of connectivity and babyhood (wait, he can be totally nourished by anyone? anywhere? sniff!)

    I’m seriosuly struggling this time around with the nursing GUILT issues (baby #1 was huge, baby #2 is small… am i feeding him enough? is he eating enough? is he small b/c of ME?? should I supplement???) The whole pride / guilt emotional spectrum when it comes to nursing is a bit of a rollercoaster in my brain, which messes with me on a regular basis.

    Nomatter how long you have or will nurse your babies, I give you major props for a) trying and b) sticking out something for your little ones even though it was not your favorite experience! This also seems to me an issue that’s heavily at the forefront of maternal worry, but ten, twenty years down the road will all be a part of the baby blur (“oh no! he didn’t get accepted into Harvard Law?? I SHOULD HAVE BREASTFED ONE MORE MONTH!”… “she didn’t call this weekend?? WE COULD HAVE BONDED MORE DURING BREASTFEEDING!”) – nope, cast the worries aside… those little ones know you’re loving them and caring for them and providing for them in all kinds of ways… not just at the leche cafe : )

    I’m pretty sure that any mom who makes it through more than a few months of breastfeeding deserve an award for endurance and perserverance (IT’S NOT EASY!!!).

    And any mom who makes it through more than a few months of bf’ing with more than one kid in the picture deserves a MAJOR award! …so yours of course should be coming soon, via US Mail, check your mailbox… though I hear sometimes their service is not so great : )

    1. Thanks for all your kind comments and support. We are breast feeding less thanks to our pediatrician who said STOP WORRYING (see this post for previous examples) and added water and milk so I feel a lot less stressed and a lot less important. Which is GREAT.

  4. Thanks for posting this. I know I’ve only been at it at little over one week, but it’s been HARD. I thought this breastfeeding was supposed to be natural & instinctive. Not so. It’s HARD. And I’m not very good at it. So its good to hear that I’m not the only one. I was starting to feel like a failure last week.

    And I know what you mean about ‘snackers’. That’s Max. He sort of sleeps while he nurses. So we’re working on that, since I woke up with mastitis on Tuesday.

  5. Thanks for your comment over on my blog. I think its totally okay to not be stoked about breastfeeding. After all, it's a bodily function. You don't say, wow, I love it when my mitochondria enter the Kreb's cyle (I actually had to look up Kreb's cycle on Wikipedia to make sure it involved mitochondria. Yes, I did do that badly in med school biochem). Personally, I wouldn't say that I don' t like breastfeeding, but I didn't find it to be the ultimate maternal experience. First my daughter lost a ton of weight and was on a bili blanket. Having that thing poking into you is just not fun. Then I couldn't get the pump to work for almost 6 weeks. Then she had reflux. Then she spent the first 5 months of her life eating for 45 mins at a time, EVERY 2 HRS. And she didn't gaze adoringly at me during feeds, she just closed her eyes and sucked. So I watched TV and surfed the internet and it actually became some welcome “me time”. I'm sure you're not driving a wedge between you by your non-cuddly feelings, since I'm sure you are plenty cuddly to her at all other times. For me it was more about the benefits of breastmilk than the bonding, which we got plenty of elsewhere.

  6. My bad subject was micro… although bio chem only went well because a good friend was a genius at it and took the time to explain it to me in VERY SLOW DETAILS.
    Thanks for your comment and checking out my site 🙂 My son was the same way with breastfeeding. It wasn't bonding. It was “me time.” I finished like four books those first few months!
    My daughter? Not so much. She'll pop off for anything! I'm lucky to check my email on my iPhone before she tries to eat it!

  7. I'm with Stef. I wrote about breastfeeding back in January, too, because my daughter was not very good at it. She fidgeted a lot, which made me sore, and after each feeding, cried like a rabid cat. I decided I'd get a break once a day and my husband could give her a formula bottle, and guess what? No crying after the bottle. Satisfaction. So, as hard as it was, I switched her to the bottle. I felt guilty for a while, kept seeing so many women breastfeeding that I felt like I was in La Leche commercials, but now I'm fine with it. He can get up at five and give her a bottle. I can go away overnight and not have burning boobs. If you don't like it, dear, you should move on. In a lot of ways, I wonder if formula was invented by a man whose wife was a feminist. (I'm probably going to get hate mail for that one.)

  8. I think that it is a very personal decision. And we went to one bottle a
    day and introduced milk as soon as possible so I just felt less stressed
    about the breastfeeding thing. I think that we have to do what's best for
    our family as a whole. No one member can be more important than another,
    and when we breastfeed at the detriment to our sanity, we are not going to
    be good moms. So good for you for doing what was RIGHT instead of what is
    ACCEPTED. PS. We weaned a few weeks ago and just switched to milk. And I'm
    very okay with it!

  9. I'm all for breastfeeding, but only if baby AND you are into it. I think the most important thing about nursing is that it is a relationship. And if you are not feeling it, that's what bottles are for. Don't feel guilty! You've made it 9 months already. That is awesome. Give yourself a pat on the back and run on over to Babies R Us for some bottle love. Your baby with be just fine either way!! Big hugs.

  10. You’re right, it is a very polarizing issue. There’s pride, guilt and defensiveness on both sides.
    I went through lots of emotions while/about nursing. It got more and more painful with each child and hurt the entire year I nursed my 3rd. Sometimes I stared at them non-stop during the feeding but usually I was doing something else: sleeping, eating, reading, taking care of another kid, even fixing dinner.
    It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be.
    .-= Cranky Sarah´s last blog ..Letting go =-.

  11. I love your honesty and seriously – it is not all fun at all. I think it’ totally cool to go s long a you really want to or feel like you should and then call it a day and move on to the cuddling. That’s the best part anyway.

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