You’ll find no breast pumps in here. No ultra absorbent, saft, soothing breast pads. No raging nipple coolants. No quick tit revealing (ugly AF) maternity bras. No links. No products. No breastfeeding propaganda.
Sure, if you’re going to offer up your boobs as sacrifice to the baby over lords, chances are you are going to need a few of those listed above. With particular emphasis placed on nipple cream – bulk buy that shit. But you are also going to need someone to tell you the brutal honesty of breastfeeding. It’s painful. It’s hard work. And, controversially, it’s not always best for you or the baby.
The perfect latch does exist – but it’s still going to hurt
Breastfeeding my daughter I heard and read, time after time, that breastfeeding, if done correctly, does not hurt. This statement, unless you are 6 months deep and have established feeding, is complete and utter bull. I’m not saying there aren’t mothers out there that didn’t want to scream to the high heavens at some point during feeding, I’ve just yet to meet one.
Feeding a child from one of the most tender and sensitive areas of your body is going to hurt. And it will hurt a lot. And for days, weeks and potentially a few month. Your nipples are going to be subject to a barrage of pulling, sucking, tweaking and leaking. Multiple times a day, for the foreseeable future. Now, I don’t know about the rest of the ladies out there, but my nipples weren’t quite used to this type of attention. They hurt, they hurt a lot.
My daughter didn’t lose much, if any, birth weight – something the midwife remarked as rare for a breastfeeding infant. The reason being, my baby was never away from my nipples! I read articles, leaflets, posters, watched videos to perfect my latch, but nothing would ease the pain from my aching, raw, cracked nipples. Everything I read pointed out that if the baby was latched on correctly it shouldn’t hurt. Obviously, I could only presume I was doing something wrong, I wasn’t feeding my baby correctly. It shouldn’t hurt if I was doing it correctly. In a frantic, tear, exhaustion filled panic, I called breastfeeding helplines (I’m still waiting on the call back). I cried out in pain as she latched on, sobbing while she fed. Deeply wanting to provide for my daughter but quickly reaching my limit.
Her latch was perfect. My technique was perfect. No tongue tie. No wrong position of the head. Nothing, it was text book perfect.
The reality of breastfeeding is it will be painful to adjust to – for the vast majority of women. In hindsight, I was suffering with post natal depression – everything was exacerbated. Yet all I needed was for someone to reassure me I was doing my best and that pain and discomfort are all normal. All healthy parts of establishing breastfeeding, for someone to tell me it can extremely painful to establish – regardless of performing the world’s best latch. Which, as a side note – not all babies will do, yet can still continue to feed without harm to either mother or baby.
Let’s stop telling women breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt
There’s far too much pushing of ‘it won’t hurt if done correctly‘. My midwife telling me ‘a good latch won’t hurt’. It’s simply not true. Both mother and baby need to learn this skill. There’s going to be causalities in the titty crossfire. Skin will be sucked off, boobs can and will swell to ungodly sizes, filled with what I suspect is pure evil and glass – they are not for moving, let alone enjoy being touched. My nipples hurt so much that the SHOWER was too painful, dropping water actually hurt my body, and touching them with anything other than a lanolin soaked pad was strictly out of the question.
To add a little extra spice into the mix, conditions such as mastitis and thrush can occur in your boobs. Both can be detected and treated, but it’s not something to wish upon your enemy lightly. Blocked ducts, infections, low milk production, engorgement, inverted nipples and just bloody sore aching boobs are some of the ‘side effects’ of breast feeding. Sorry, that should be COMMON side effects of breast feeding. Each adding an extra level of pain and difficulty to an already taxing challenge.
Those are just the physical impact of breastfeeding. The mental aspect is different for each woman. However, sit in a room of swollen boobed woman and ask their opinion on breastfeeding and I’m sure you’ll hear how emotionally draining it can be.
Breastfeeding can contribute to post natal depression
As a first time mother, being a handed a baby is pretty terrifying. Being handed this baby that you intend to feed from your own body is very fucking terrifying. You can come armed with books, blogs, videos, advice from friends, think you know all you need to know about breast feeding. But when the teat comes to the tongue, all that shit is going to fly out the window and parenthood panic will take its place. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Worrying if the baby is getting enough milk, is there something wrong, if you can do this. It will take its toll on you, in one form or another.
The first night my daughter was home I thought about giving up breast feeding, she was crying, she had been fed. Maybe my milk wasn’t enough, maybe she’s hungry, maybe she needs formula. Just as I made her a bottle of formula, she settled in her dads arms. I often wonder if, right then and there, if I has switched to formula would the first year of parenthood been different.
You see, I’m of the opinion that breastfeeding contributed greatly to me developing post natal depression. The pressure, the stress, the worry, the physical toll on an already drained body after birth. Mixing it with the usual new parent culprits such as lack of sleep and fretting over every single thing related to your baby. Every new parent, gets a bit neurotic, checking to make sure their baby is still breathing, at least once an hour. Breast feeding, looking back, was an extra layer to the crazy shit show of parenthood that, maybe, both me and baby, could have done without.
I’ll never know the answer to, what if I didn’t breastfeed, what if we bottle fed, would it have been any different. Or did breast feeding actually lessen my PND? (which I highly doubt) I can never answer that. Still, I don’t have a negative view of breast feeding. I’d do it again, in a heartbeat.
Can we all just be honest about breastfeeding?
Would I encourage women to breastfeed? I’m unsure. Yes, it’s scientifically best for baby – antibodies, nutrients and all that other magic shit swirling about in the mothers milk. But, it can come at a cost, to both mother and baby (and anyone else in the vicinity). It’s not good enough to flog breastfeeding as ‘best for baby’ because it’s not true for a lot of parents. I don’t believe it creates a greater bond with baby or any other of that forceful ‘it’s the best’ for everyone if you whip a tit out jargon. I’m not arguing the science and release of bonding hormones. I’m arguing that, in an ideal world, breast feeding is perfect – it’s best. But very few of us live on that planet. And somehow my daughter has a great bond with her father, despite his lack of tittites.
For any expectant mother thinking of breast feeding, I would say give it a try. Possibly the hardest try you could ever give anything. It does get easier, it does get better, it does benefit you and baby. But don’t try so hard that it puts you in the shadow. Your physical and mental well being are more important than the baby – that baby needs a healthy parent to care for it.
If we lived in a cave, breastfeeding would be a breeze
Breast feeding isn’t designed to fit into modern day life, it’s faffy, nipples are out all over the place, we have work commitment that leaking tits don’t care about, we have a house to run, we have chores, we have other kids, we have ourselves to look after. Not many of us can take a 2 month holiday to be at one with baby and establish breast feeding. Fuck no. There’s other shit going on. If you can’t do it, don’t want to do it or feel pressured to do it. Don’t fucking do it. It’s not worth it, no matter what ‘best for baby’ leaflet you get given,. There’s plenty of healthy formula fed babies out there. And they still grow up into cheeky little shits like the breast fed babies.
If you do want to breast feed, then know that it’s going to be uncomfortable, at the very least. You’re going to face being out in public and the kid wants a nip. That alone can bring a wild amounts of anxiety. Until you get over it and whip a nip like you’ve always done it. You’ll be faced with judgement – although this is pretty standard in all aspects of parenting. You’ll be sore and exhausted. And you might be left wondering if it’s all been worth it.
It’s hard, I can’t stress that enough. But being that hard is just part of breast feeding, despite what the health professionals and baby books might say. It’s really fucking hard. And you should know that, it’s important for your well being. And ultimately, is really doesn’t matter how you feed your baby, as long as mum (dad) are healthy you’ll do just fine.