Let me get straight to the point. Breast feeding is hard. It’s fucking hard. Nobody really tells you straight up how difficult it is going to be. IT IS DIFFICULT. There I have said it ! Infact, it is the mother of all parenting decisions that you will take right after undergoing the grossest experience ever –labor! Labor while grotesque and painful lasts for about 20-30 hours (thankfully!). Breastfeeding on the other hand is for the long haul. For me, five months of breastfeeding exclusively and then continuing to breastfeed my daughter till 9 months was the long haul.
Now let me be clear, I am a staunch advocate of “Breast is best”. However in the battle of breast vs. bottle, I find that we do not arm new mothers with adequate information that they need to decide what is best for them. Often the bottle triumphs because new moms weren’t aware that breastfeeding is hard. So hard!
So here is what they don’t tell you about breastfeeding –
1. Nursing is not AUTOMATIC
Contrary to common belief, breastfeeding is not naturally established immediately after birth. It isn’t a tap that can be just turned on! Your milk just doesn’t flow magically. Infact it does not flow at all! Latching comes with practice. It is an art that needs to be mastered and requires patience. Unfortunately dealing with a wailing infant right after an arduous labor and realizing that you aren’t really sprouting milk can make you an emotional wreck. Worse if you don’t ask for advise from your nurse or lactation consultant you can be totally flummoxed and most likely to give up on breastfeeding altogether.
2. It is Painful
Breastfeeding hurts. It hurts like hell. Be prepared to be sore, cracked and in pain for the first 3-4 weeks. You will actually cry every time your little one latches on. Lanolin helps though I swore by olive oil and ghee. Apply these generously and regularly. Once you have the latch figured the pain should go away. If it doesn’t then you haven’t nailed latching yet and might need the help of a lactation consultant.
3. It is a 24/7 Job
Your baby will practically want to feed round the clock. Its like being a doctor on duty. Feeding sessions can be an hour long and can happen frequently. Try and use these frequent feeding sessions to relax or even doze off with the baby. Feeding on demand helps your milk supply. However, beware that babies feed almost twice as much during growth spurts! Yeah motherhood is a b***h.
4. You will Leak
While nursing is not a tap that can be turned on right after birth, boobs do leak! Yes, its true. Just when you are done rejoicing on establishing a good milk supply you realize that you are soaking your t-shirts way too often. So stock up on those breast pads in advance. They are essential.
5. You will be Exposed
Forget about your modesty. Your breasts will become everyone’s business. Breastfeeding is a private experience but it evokes public curiosity. Be prepared to get random advise from all and sundry. Just keep calm and soldier on.
6. You will Sag, Droop and be Marked
Life does become topsy turvy after becoming a mom. Your boobs become bigger (sometimes 2-3 sizes bigger) and they sag. You will need to wear the right nursing bra to prevent sagging. Also if you do not nurse on both sides your breasts will tend to become lopsided. And of course you will have your very own tiger stripes aka stretchmarks. No amount of cocoa butter will make them disappear overnight. They are now a part of your anatomy girl so get used to it !
7. Pumping takes Practice
Pumping is an art. It takes practice and patience and some kick ass equipment. Choose your breast pump wisely especially if you want to continue breast feeding after joining work. I started pumping within 4 weeks of delivery and got into the groove fairly quickly. However it increased my supply a lot and so I needed to establish a pumping, and feeding schedule! Not to mention an elaborate action plan of how to use all the pumped milk 🙂
8. It makes you “Go Bananas”
All those raging hormones, sleepless nights, long and frequent feeding sessions can drive you nuts. You will be at your snappy best. As a working mother I found myself spending most of my free time feeding or pumping or being exhausted. Needless to say I was cranky and emotional and tad bit difficult 😉
9. Baby wont choose Bottle over Breast
Getting your baby accustomed to a bottle is a NECESSITY. I am surprised how this really tough task finds very little mention in most breastfeeding articles. The fact is that babies that are breastfed exclusively shun the bottle. They suffer from nipple confusion and will refuse breast milk from a bottle because they just are not accustomed to the rubber nipple. Here is a great reason for you to start pumping early so as to get your new born into the habit of feeding from a bottle. If you relish that coffee date with friends or a date night with your husband every once in a while then this has to be right up there on your to-do list.
10. Breastfeeding isn’t for Everyone
Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot breastfeed. It isn’t for everyone. If you choose not to breastfeed or are unable to breastfeed, it is OK. Formula fed kids do just fine. You might be married to one 😉 Anyway motherhood is a shit load of work and requires focus and commitment. So make peace and move on.
For the rest of you ladies who discover that Breastfeeding is hard but choose to breastfeed anyway let me tell you that it does get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is an unbreakable bond it will help you forge with your baby. So go on and put your best breast forward!