Nursing is one of the most controversial decisions you can make as a new parent. The research alone can consume you and make you feel like you’re deciding the fate of your child’s entire future. Hardcore “breast is best” advocates lay the guilt on thick, and often make it sound like anything BUT breast is practically poison.
I have news for you… your child’s success in this world does not depend on your boobs. Think of all the successful people out there. Think of your friends whom you adore, are kind, funny, intelligent, and everything a good human being should be. Do you think they were ALL breastfed? Pretty sure not.
When you come across someone you admire, or aspire to be like, what kind of questions do you ask them in order to find out how they’ve accomplished what they have? I guarantee it never even occurs to you to ask “Hey, did your mom nurse you when you were a baby? Is that how you were able to [insert major achievement]?” (Or at least it’s not your very first question. If it is, you may want to start with something more like “Hey, what did you study in college?” instead.) Case in point, my husband was not nursed and I think he’s pretty damn amazing, intelligent, hot, funny, an exceptional father, and all around everything a good person should be.
All that being said…I nursed both of my kids, and the thought of nursing a baby is probably the only thing in this entire world that could get me to have my tubes untied. Don’t get me wrong, I love those kids more than life itself. But if I’m being completely honest, the idea of nursing again played a big part in me wanting a second.
When I decided to breastfeed with my first, it wasn’t solely for the baby’s health benefits you read about. I didn’t even know that it’s the best postpartum diet plan out there. I mostly wanted to do it because I’m stubborn.
That’s right, I’m stubborn. And if I decide I’m going to nurse my baby, there’s very little you could do or say to change my mind. Mother Nature sure didn’t seem to be on my side when my oldest was born. In all the research I’d done, I somehow missed these key breastfeeding secrets, and had trouble right from the get-go:
I couldn’t get her to latch. When she did figure it out she latched on like a vampire. This was more painful than childbirth (since they have yet to come out with a nipple epidural). I’m not proud, but I did yell the “f” bomb on more than one occasion. Luckily it was not her first word. I had cracked, bleeding nipples, got mastitis, found a lump in my left breast, got a biopsy (everything was ok) which caused my production on that side to plummet, and that’s all before I went back to work and encountered a new set of problems. Sound magical yet?
THEN, when I did go back to work, I had to figure out where and when to squeeze my pumping sessions in. I was a sales rep so was on the road all day and didn’t have an office where I could pump. It didn’t take long for me to find every parking lot in the Salt Lake Valley that had a shaded, semi-private spot where I could relieve my engorged breasts—discretely under my nursing cover, of course. I had to keep back up shirts in my car for when I leaked, and had to ask myself every morning if I was wearing a bra.
At this point, you may be wondering why anyone would want to put themselves through this if they weren’t opposed to formula. One word. Bonding. Now I’m sure you can form the same bond with your baby by formula feeding, I’ve seen it, but something happened to me in those moments of nursing that I can’t describe. I’m not a super touchy-feely gushy person, but after all the “f” bombs and tubes of nipple cream were out of the way, I felt a connection to this little being that made all the bad in the world disappear.
I would never tell my husband this, but I cherished those feedings in the middle of the night when everything was so quiet and peaceful. In that moment the baby had one need, and I was the only one that could fulfill it. We were in a bubble. I had no idea it would be such an emotional experience!
I’m not out to make anyone feel guilty if breastfeeding ends up not being their bag. My goal is simply to fill you in on some of the more difficult aspects that I wish someone had told me. And maybe if you’re more mentally prepared, it could help the process go a little smoother. I know I didn’t have HALF the issues with my second as I did with my first. I learned the value of nipple cream early on, discovered how to relax, didn’t yell any obscenities, and cried only when I thought about it being the last time I would ever experience such oneness with another human being.