Why I Don't Enjoy Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding came easy to me, yet I don’t like it.
When I was pregnant, I had a loose plan for feeding my baby. I’d try to breastfeed for as long as I could, up to one year. I’d been warned by friends and strangers alike that breastfeeding is painful or, sometimes, simply infeasible due to undersupply or a baby who won’t latch. I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.
Admittedly, the first few days were awkward and mildly uncomfortable as I learned to feed my son.
“Use the nipple cream before you think you need it,” one said. “Your boobs will thank you later!”
“Drink a dark beer at the hospital,” said another. “It will help to bring in your milk!”
But I didn’t use the nipple cream at all, nor did I struggle to establish or maintain my milk supply, as many women do. My milk came in right on schedule and my son learned to latch quickly. Foolishly, I thought to myself, this is easy.
By the time my son was three weeks old, however, our breastfeeding relationship changed dramatically. I didn’t yet know it at the time, but he’d developed painful reflux. Each time he ate at the breast, he would feed for a short time, then unlatch screaming, arching his back in pain. I’d burp him and repeat the vicious cycle until he’d had a full feed. By this time I was usually crying along with him.
To make matters worse, reflux is relentless since it continues to cause pain between feeds. I spent the majority of my son’s early days walking him around the house, shushing him, dreading his next feed, praying that his little digestive system would mature sooner rather than later so that I could escape the frustration that breastfeeding was causing both of us. I love my son more than words can adequately express, and I’m grateful that my body is able to provide for him. But, no, I do not enjoy breastfeeding.
Still, I powered through, taking one day at a time. Thankfully, my son’s reflux improved as he grew older. I’m still breastfeeding him at 6 months old, but there were certainly days I was sure I wouldn’t make it this far. I carried on because it felt like “the right thing to do.” Looking back, I’m not sure it was worth all the added stress.
So, to all the new moms out there beating themselves up about whether and how long to breastfeed, who may be crying along with your babies as you struggle to make breastfeeding work, I’m here to tell you that I know it’s hard. It’s OK to not enjoy breastfeeding. And, if you believe that switching to an alternate feeding arrangement is the right decision for you and your baby, that’s OK too. Being a new mom is hard enough without adding a stressful breastfeeding relationship to the mix.
Brittany Van Den Brink is a PhD Candidate and freelance writer living in small-town Ontario with her husband, baby son, and their Golden Retriever, Chevy. She founded Motherhood Her Way to collaborate with other moms as they go through the ups and downs of motherhood. Say hi on Instagram @brittanyvandenbrink.