Galacta Goddess? Maybe Not. {When Breastfeeding Is Hard}

baby feet wordsYou’re preparing for your first baby. You’ve earmarked all the books, pinned all things nursery, stared at bottle nipples for hours trying to decide which one looks most like your breast. You’ve gotten an official restraining order on all pacifiers. A meticulously typed and laminated birth plan ends with the glorious moment when your tiny human roots around and latches on without assistance. Nursing is natural, beautiful, and bonding . . . until it’s not.

Breastfeeding is incredibly beneficial for both mother and baby. The Surgeon General states that breastfeeding can help protect baby against infections, illness, obesity, and even SIDS. Our bodies were made for this! If breast is really best, then why is nursing so hard?

My first child latched well on the first try . . . and then didn’t let go. We had marathon feedings lasting upwards of 1-2 hours. My milk came in fast and furious, taking me from a barely full B to a DD overnight. She would choke on my oversupply, pull away and immediately get sprayed by a fast let-down. Bleeding, raw, and overwhelmed, I would set my alarm and crawl into my bed, only to wake again in 45 minutes to start all over again. She latched and I gripped the arms of the rocker. I was determined to keep nursing until she gave up or a breast fell off (whichever came first.)

Unmet Expectations

The early weeks of breastfeeding, especially with your first, are some of the most harrowing. Visions of your body transformed into that of a maternal goddess suckling her chubby cherub are quickly quashed by mastitis, a painful latch, or over/poor supply. Woman after woman feels the sting of “failure” when feeding her baby becomes a battle. So, is it our failure as women or mothers, or are we putting an expectation on breastfeeding that is simply unrealistic?

Learning to Breastfeed

I claim no professional expertise, but as a mother who is currently breastfeeding my third child, I can say, with a good amount of confidence, that sometimes breastfeeding sucks! (See what I did there?) We come into motherhood believing that the pain and discomfort ends at childbirth, only to have a new wave of both crash down on us. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING has been latched onto that particular appendage for that length of time — and now someone’s life depends on it. You just might lose a nipple or two before this child is four weeks old! Not to mention the leaking. Oh, the leaking. As if you didn’t already feel like a spectacle with your chest bared every 1.5 hours, now, even when covered, those bad boys are letting the world know they exist.

You grip the arms of your glider, hold your breath, and push that baby toward your beaten breast — to say it’s hard is an understatement. However, THERE IS HOPE! Let’s start with a solid dose of truth: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! According to a recent NPR article, women around the world face the same difficulties in breastfeeding. Women who seem to make feeding their babies look so effortless, report having to learn through poor latches, supply problems, pain, and fear. The difference is there is no stigma attached to the struggle.

Did you see that? There is nothing unusual about struggling to breastfeed.

It is a learning process for both you and your baby, and I can tell you from my experience, it can be difficult with each new birth. But one day, one glorious morning, you will pull that baby toward you and realize the tension you felt has gone. He or she will latch with ease and you will think, “When did this happen?”

While I again have no professional expertise, I would offer this advice to those wanting to breastfeed through the pain:

  • Do what is very best for your baby, for you, and for your family. Everyone today has an opinion, but only you can be the mother your child needs. Your way to feed your baby might not align with the consensus of the Internet, your friends, or even your mother, but feed you must — so trust your gut.
  • Surround yourself with women who get it. Family and friends, who have breastfed and are willing to cheer you on and share their experience, are invaluable. If you don’t have this within your immediate circles, branch out. Tarrant county has a TON of great resources for breastfeeding moms. To name a few, check out La Leche League (monthly support meetings!), Breastfeeding Coalition, or a WIC peer counselor (for those who have used the service).
  • Offer yourself grace. Always. For everything. Especially all things motherhood.
  • Seek professional help. There are lactation consultants available through hospitals, pediatricians, or private practices (see this site for a list). There are also free avenues for breastfeeding mothers to speak with or email a lactation consultant 24 hours a day (Similac, LLL, and Medela to name a few). There is also a cool new app called “Pacify” that will connect you to lactation consultants, nurses, and pediatric nutritionists.
  • Reach out online. Fort Worth Moms Blog has a Facebook page as well as neighbor groups. One of the many moms there (including myself), I’m sure, would be happy to be a cheerleader for you!

What are some local resources you’ve found that support breastfeeding?

Beth
Beth and her husband, Joe, met in Oklahoma but were quickly transplanted to Texas in pursuit of full-time ministry. Mama to three perfectly unique and spunky girls, she spends her time adventuring in the day-to-day. She loves Jesus, all the plants, and sipping coffee while listening to other people’s stories. Read some of them, and her own thoughts on the joys and trials of faith and parenting at Psalm One Twenty Six. Or follow her on Instagram. Beth joined the team as the community sponsorship coordinator in March 2018, but now works as a co-host for the Momfessions Podcast.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article! Wanted to also mention that Texas WIC has a great website and 24/7 hotline answered by lactation consultants available to ALL moms, whether they are WIC participants or not.
    Website is http://www.breastmilkcounts.com
    The hotline will pop up when you go to the site, 855-550-6667

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