O.K., I admit it, sometimes I HATE breastfeeding. There, I said it. At three a.m. when I am awakened for the third time by my sweet eleven month old nuzzling up against my shirt and crying, I have to say that I have bottle-feeding baby envy. I want nothing more than to hand my baby over to my soundly snoring hubby and say, “Baby’s awake. It’s your turn to give her the bottle.” And then roll over and go back to sleep.
Now before the breastfeeding advocates start telling me how “breast is best,” and that “if you co-sleep then you can sleep right through the feedings,” let me be clear here: I am a HUGE advocate of breastfeeding, if it works for your family. In addition to being a mother, I am also a former women’s and children’s nurse who has helped numerous women with breastfeeding those first few precious days of their newborn’s life. I’ve read the statistics about breastfeeding and increased childhood immunity, brain growth, and emotional comfort. I am on board with the benefits of human booby milk.
Personally, I breastfed my first child until the age of three and am planning on breastfeeding my second one as long as she seems interested. Also, I am no stranger to co-sleeping. My first born was in the family bed until well past toddler hood and my eleven month old is currently sharing a bed with us. Despite the family bed arrangement, however, I STILL am not getting much sleep, as the co-sleeping advocates claim is possible. I am awakened by her every noise, and am awakened at least four times for nighttime feedings. Unfortunately, being a light sleeper, I am not able to sleep through my baby’s gymnastic style feedings, in which nipple pinching, hair pulling, and bladder kicking usually commence. And once my little one is finally sleeping again, inevitably she is cuddled up so closely next to me that I am unable to move without waking her. Naturally, this is when I find the need to use the restroom.
We did try to transition her to a crib a few different times, which simply resulted in me sleeping on the hard floor next to her crib all night long because I had to breastfeed her every three hours or so and then get her back into the crib asleep. This was a parenting “FAIL” for me. I was just as tired as when co-sleeping, but now had sore muscles and back pain from sleeping on the floor.
Daytime naps are even worse. Nine times out of ten my baby will only fall asleep nursing and then refuses to let go of the breast. I have tried a pacifier, which works for a short time, but generally, I spend hours of my life staring at the ceiling, waiting for her to wake up, and desperately needing to pee. Again, at these times I have bottle-fed baby envy.
If only I could learn to pump. With my first, I tried it once and got so frustrated that I gave up. I have managed it a handful of times since my second babe’s birth, but found it to be a colossal ordeal and extremely time-consuming venture. By the time I gathered all the supplies together, got the baby set up to entertain herself for twenty minutes, used the double pump, labeled and stored the milk, then washed all the supplies (by this time the baby is screaming for attention, by the way…), I find that an hour has gone by and I only have enough milk for one feeding. Ugh. Honestly, I have no idea how moms working outside the home ever breastfeed past their maternity leave. I have the deepest respect for their dedication, but admit that I probably would not be breastfeeding my little one if I had to return to the workforce right now.
One may ask, after all this inconvenience, exhaustion, and whining, why do I bother to breastfeed at all? Well, as with all parenting choices, I do it because I believe the benefits to my child far outweigh the minor aggravations it causes me. For instance, when she was ill recently and not drinking many fluids, I didn’t have to worry about her getting dehydrated. I just popped a boob in her mouth and “BAM!” she had all the fluids and electrolytes she needed to fight off the virus. When she wakes up in the middle of the night with teething pain that is unrelieved by medications and cold washcloths, “Ta-Da!” breastfeeding to the rescue again to comfort her back to sleep. The breastfeeding boob is a superhero that helps my little babe through the daily trials and tribulations of emerging toddler hood, strengthens her immune system against lifelong chronic illnesses like asthma or allergies, and helps her brain development. And in all honesty, there is something so magical about looking into your babe’s sweet face as they roll their eyes back in breastfeeding bliss and knowing that you are providing that comfort for them with your own body.
So, all whining and silliness aside, I have found that deciding to breastfeed, though it is “natural,” is not an easy choice to make in our modern day society, and requires dedication, patience, and community support. Thus far, it has been the right choice for our family, but I know that it is not something that it possible for every family. I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my little one this time, and to have had a flexible work schedule with my older one, and yet, I still find breastfeeding to be a daily challenge. It’s one that I choose, however, because as much as I may hate it sometimes, I find that in the end, I love it even more.