For something that is so instinctive and natural, breastfeeding is hard yakka! My little guy latched on less than an hour after being born and I thought that was the hard part over – boy was I wrong! The pain that followed was almost unbearable. From cracked nipples (including losing a chunk out of the left one), infections and eventually developing Reynaud’s – breastfeeding was just not enjoyable for us. We both ended up in tears, he – because he was hungry and frustrated and me – because it hurt worse than a simultaneous Brazilian wax, bra strap flick and root canal. So I’m a failure right? I should relish the bonding time, with my little one gently gazing up at me while his tiny being is nourished with all the goodness only a mummy can provide, right? Wrong! Breastfeeding is freakin’ hard and doesn’t work for everyone!
Before I had the little man, I thought I understood breastfeeding and the challenges I might face. Daddy Mac and I attended antenatal classes, even going for extra credit by attending the additional hospital breastfeeding session with a lactation consultant (a job I did not know existed!) We had heard about the importance of the correct latch, checking for lip and tongue ties, the various positions you can nurse in – even the size of our little ones stomach from birth to 6 months. We knew all about breast milk being the most amazing ‘superfood’ for our little one, the concepts of the supply and demand phenomenon – we thought we knew what we were in for. But there is so much that you are not told about breastfeeding. I think Scary Mommy sums it up best here but I would like to add: If, for whatever reason under the sun, you can’t breastfeed – life will go on!
You are no less of a Mum if you feed your baby formula than those who breastfeed. You and your baby will still share an amazing bond. Your baby will still be happy and healthy, gaining weight and outgrowing their clothes by the day (or so it seems!) Life will go on, the earth will continue to spin and you will continue to be the best Mum you can be. But it’s not always that easy, is it? With raging new Mum hormones, sleep deprivation and a little person who relies on you for every single thing, the pressure to breastfeed can be overwhelming. For me, giving up breastfeeding broke my heart. I cried for days. I was enveloped in a black cloud of failure. All because I thought breastfeeding = being a good Mum. Well you know what? I have been formula feeding my little man now for 6 weeks and he is healthy, happy, growing, learning, changing, pooing, peeing and sleeping. He is gorgeous and hilarious and frustrating and just plain amazing.
Now, the title of this post – why is breastfeeding so hard? I honestly can’t answer that one. Every Mum will have her own struggles (or lack of) and every baby is different. If there was a simple answer, I really wish I knew it and could share it with all of the Mums in the world who have/are/will struggle like I did. If I could take away any of the heartache that comes with the struggle, I would do it in a heartbeat. Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves? Maybe we’re trying too hard? Maybe there is too much emphasis on ‘breast is best’? Maybe woman have always struggled and it’s just not talked about? Who knows. But what I do know is I am a good Mum.