Yes, Breastfeeding IS hard

My buddy KLZ posted about her journey with breastfeeding last week, and as promised, here is my story, too.

I took the breastfeeding class around 24 weeks pregnant, along with 3 other couples. Three. We used fake baby dolls to practice positions with our shirts on. Because there were so few people in the class, we all got a baby doll to practice with, even the men. (I have nipples. Can you milk me?) (Meet the Parents…Anybody?)

The lactation consultant meant well. Bless her heart, she really did. She told us that the only people who needed fancy electric pumps were busy lawyer-type workin’ women who needed to pump quickly so she could go back to her important business, confirming that this particular consultant was rooted firmly in the 1950s. She told us there was nothing so easy, so natural as breast feeding. She said we should just pull our babies up on our chest the second they popped out and let them latch. Easy peasy. So easy a cavewoman could do it.

And I wanted to do it. I wanted it so much. Not for any doctor, any family member, any friend. I wanted to do it for me and for my baby. Also? A little bit for my bank account. But mostly for the benefits it could provide for the both of us.

When my friend had her baby in early October and then had difficulties breast feeding, I told my husband that she must not have knew how to do it. She would have benefited so much from a class. I mean, nothing prepares you for a real, live baby latching on like a fiberfill baby with a plastic head. She should have read books, I said. She should have tried harder. She gave up too soon.

KLZ brought it up casually in an email exchange and when I told her I was planning on breastfeeding, she opened up and told me her story: her little one wouldn’t latch, but she toughed it out and pumped and fed and he got it.

I had a friend at work who was big time pro-breast feeding. She was very encouraging and offered to give me “tough love” if I needed it. She told me that if I wanted to give up, she would either give me a pep talk or she would tell me that I gave it the ol college try but it’s not for everyone. I told her I wanted the pep talk and wanted her to hold me accountable for my decision, even if it was hard.

And honestly, I didn’t think it would be hard for me. I mean, I got good grades in school. I taught myself all manner of things, like Adobe Photoshop and HTML. I have a Master’s Degree. How could something this natural be difficult for me?

Let me tell you right now, neither Mother Nature nor babies care about your Master’s Degree.

So Baby Blogworthy came barrelling out and they put him up on my chest, just like the class suggested, and he acted like my chest was McDonalds and he was expecting a steak dinner. In other words? Not interested. Later on, some doctors came in and asked if he had latched on yet. I said no and the doctor said, “Oh, it’s easy, just shove it in his mouth.” IT’S EASY. IT’S EASY.

One hundred bucks says she’s never had a child to experience breastfeeding.

I had trouble all day, all night, all morning. Lots of nurses rushed in and out of my room and they all had advice. Pry his mouth open. Hold him like a football. Put a pillow under your arm. Put a pillow under your back. Rub his feet. Strip off his clothes.

Nothing worked.

We asked for the lactation consultant several times and finally she stopped in. She spent two hours with us trying lots of thing, then referred us to another lactation specialist  who could provide support outside the hospital. Two days later, we had our first appointment with her and found out Baby Blogworthy lost more than a pound and she wasn’t comfortable with that. She told us that he had a weak suck — a “sissy suck” — which sometimes shows up in babies who are premature (although, clearly, he wasn’t premature). She told me to try to latch every time, but if he refused, pump and feed him from a bottle. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a stop-gap measure until he figured things out. We scheduled an appointment for Monday.

She also gave me her phone number and told me to call her if I needed her — it would probably be a long weekend for me.

Breast feeding was hard for Baby Blogworthy. He didn’t get it. It was hard for him. I mean, a week earlier he was happily swimming around having food pumped directly into his stomach. No sucking, no clothes, no coldness.

He screamed. Oh, did he ever scream. Like baby murder screams. I was tired and only really was holding my son while he was screaming, so naturally I thought he hated me.  I couldn’t figure it out — clearly, he was hungry. Clearly, I had plenty to feed him. He was hungry and didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. It was frustrating for him and for me.

That weekend was hard for me. The feeding after the appointment, he absolutely refused to latch. There was no having it. I called the lactation consultant in tears and told her what was going on, so she suggested just pumping and feeding him from a bottle until we could get into the office again. So I pumped and fed him from a bottle, sometimes at the same time. I tried to get him to nurse each and every time and he never wanted to. We went from screaming because he wouldn’t latch to screaming because we couldn’t get the bottle ready fast enough. We couldn’t win for losing.

It was then, sitting in the nursery with a hungry child while I pumped, that I thought of KLZ and her little guy and had so much hope.

I had my next LC appointment and she gave me some other tools and tips to help him. I approached breastfeeding with a renewed spirit. We continued a nursing attempt, pumping and bottle feeding for another week.

One morning in desperation I turned to Twitter with my problem. I found the most amazing group of resources: Liz , KLZ, Nichole , Angie, and a host of others who had lots of advice. It’s when the #burgerme hashtag was born (and I still think about that every time I have to hold my boob in the shape of a burger.) They even offered to Skype with me during a nursing session so I could see them feeding their own children. Their kindness brought tears to my eyes, but this time they were tears of joy.

A couple weeks later Luke looked me right in the eyes and gave me a look that said, “Ok, Mom, I’m ready.”

We’ve been nursing like a pros ever since.

Breastfeeding was hard. Super hard. It was also more rewarding for me than I could ever have dreamed. The time I spend feeding and snuggling my son, even in the car when we’re out running errands, even at 3 am while I’m laying in bed, I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world.

It’s not for everyone. It’s hard, it’s exhausting. You’ll doubt yourself even when it’s going well. There’s no way to measure the ounces. You’ll obsess over how many wet diapers your baby has. You’ll weigh him on your cheapy scale every day. And if you decide you can’t do it, that’s OK too. Your baby is still going to thrive, be healthy and  go on to do amazing things.

But if you stick with it, at the end of the day, you’ll look into his eyes, feel his little hands on your skin and his body pulled tightly against yours, and you’ll fall in love over and over again.

And if you need help, your friends on Twitter will be there for you.

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25 comments to Yes, Breastfeeding IS hard

  • seriouslytake2

    This made me teary because that is AMAZING support. Seriously, I don't have words to say how heartwarming it is to see women supporting one another like that across the Internet.

  • Snuggle Wasteland

    I'm glad your Burger Buddies were able to help you out! You should link this up with MamaKat today. One of her prompts is "How has social media changed you?"

  • JMJE

    Breastfeeding sounds really hard. I mean even Pam had a hard time on the Office so I know it's for real. I'm glad it has worked out for you though.

  • Rachel

    Great post! We had the OPPOSITE problem. The very first time I held Connor he latched on and ate like he'd been doing it for years. That lasted for about 2 days and BAM…he was done! Wanted NOTHING to do with any of that. I wasn't dead set on breast-feeding so we started on formula. I probably should have pumped, but I don't remember the first week or so of his life because my body had such a hard time with my c-section. I don't mean that as an excuse, just a fact. Anyway, glad it worked out for you!! :)

  • Bloggin in PA

    This is such a great post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Venassa

    I still don't know if I want to take the breastfeeding route or not so I really enjoyed reading this.

  • Brooke

    I just love this post about your boobs :) So awesome, Amanda! I'm so glad you and Luke got to where we are. And I'm just so touched by the support you got from friends on the Twitter. Your tweets the first few weeks carried frustration, and I'm so happy that you've gotten past that and now enjoy those moments with Luke.

  • Natalie

    I love how all of the experts make you feel like breastfeeding should just come second-nature to you.. and by love, I really mean hate with a raging passion.

    You're hormonal, overtired & watching your body change into some sort of new mom shape. The last thing we need is to feel incompetent.
    I love how everyone supported you & offered their help. We've all been there dear. And if I can ever do anything for you, don't hesitate to ask. Although, if I offer to show you my boobs it won't be very beneficial since I'm not nursing at the moment.

  • Mommy A.

    Amen. It's the hardest thing I've done, and the hardest to give up as well. And sometimes, no matter what you do, it just does not work. And you spend $2K on a hospital grade pump and become an exclusive pumper. Just to give the baby your milk. And you pump 10 times every fricken day….Just sayin.

  • KLZ

    And I'm crying again.

    I cannot tell you how RELIEVED I was when you asked for help on Twitter. I hate the thought that anyone has to go through that and face that crap judgment from doctors alone. But asking for help is so, so hard to do. I was so eager to help and didn't want to push.

    You're great. You're so great.


  • foxy

    I'm really scared of breastfeeding – because I've heard over and over again how hard it is – but I am determined to just keep trying and trying and trying until we make it work. I will likely need support and know that I can at least lean on you and KLZ when I get there.

    SO glad that you found the support from friends on twitter and that you're finally in a good place with it. It was worth it, huh?

  • The Random Blogette

    This hits so close to home with me and almost made me cry. My experience was so horrible! I wish I had your support system when I had Peanut. I was one of those pro-breastfeeding and anyone who doesn't do it is crazy. And, granted I know that you are not like that AT ALL, but there are those people out there. I wasn't able to breastfeed Peanut (I did pump and bottle feed) after about 3 weeks due to her health issues but while I did it was amazing.

    Here is my story. And please excuse my tone in it. I was a little angry when I wrote it. All that I was hearing about at the time was how you were a bad mom if you didn't breastfeed.

  • Cecelia Winesap

    I wish I had been on the blogs during this time when you asked for help. My son and I went through this exact same thing! We wound up having to supplement him with formula for a bit until we got used to it. It's NOT easy and anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot. Glad you guys got the hang of it!

  • Erin

    I'm not pregnant and don't have kids but it's good to know that if/when that happens there is a support group out there. I can only imagine how difficult and frustrating something like this would be.

  • Liz

    YAY for burgerme! And yay for twitter friends. Though the biggest YAY is for you and Luke!

  • Nichole

    I am so happy that my husband pointed me toward your tweet that night. He knows that I would have gotten in the car and driven to you if you needed me to! I'll Skype my breasts for you anytime. ;)

    Breastfeeding is hard. It just is.

    There is truly nothing better than that "Ok, Mom, I'm ready" moment. I'm so happy for you and Luke.

    Yay for #burgerme and for twitter friendships!

  • SurferWife

    You rock!!

    And I can't begin to tell you how much easier it is the second time around. Which clearly tells me that confidence, patience and persistance play a major role in learning to breastfeed.

    I'm proud of you, Mama!

  • Athena

    Great story, I'm glad to read things turned out good in the end, so that you get to enjoy it fully now! I don't have children yet, but I can imagine it's a special feeling, but I heard from cousins it's really tiring and takes up a lot of time, but it's all for the greater good I suppose :D. Wish you a lot of luck with it!

  • Hutch

    My heart hurts for you friend, that you had to go through that! BUT, I am so glad it all worked out for you.

  • Jenny

    You commented on my WIWW post and asked about my husband's coaching. Really weird because I was already a follower of yours–through Daydream Believer. However, when I started blogging, Husband coached football and baseball. He is now the Head Varsity Softball coach. His season starts in a few weeks–Thank God! :)

    I breastfed both of my babies for 4 months. It was way hard–but, of course, worth it. I will go ahead and say "good luck" during the weaning phase. :)

  • Crazy Shenanigans-JMO

    That's great that it all worked out for you in the end!!

  • notquiteawake

    I've never tried to breastfeed, mostly because I don't have kids(mostly?), but I have a lot of friends who have tried and from their experiences, and from reading about other women's experiences, I don't understand why some people, especially those in the medical profession, continue to say, "Oh, it's easy". Not only is that clearly not true for everyone, but it sets unrealistic expectations for new mothers and makes them feel like failures when they can't do it. And, not that I know from experience, but I imagine being a new mom by itself, without having to worry about being perfect at breastfeeding, is a pretty challenging task. Good for you persevering and achieving your goal, but also good for you for telling the truth and not making it into some magical gift that every mother should have. Great post as usual!

  • [...] My Old Foe, the Pump I’ve been nursing my baby for over five months now. This is a big deal for me considering we almost didn’t make it five days. [...]

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