“You’re so lucky to be able to breastfeed.”
Breastfeeding has nothing to do with luck! Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been told by three different people on three different occasions, how “lucky” I am to still be able to breastfeed my 8-month-old daughter. By the third time I wanted to run over, tackle them to the floor and squeeze the life out of them with my bare hands.
Okay, I know that sounds a bit like over reacting, and perhaps a tad psychotic. In my defense, at that point I had not been sleeping for 3 days; was suffering from severe sinusitis; taking care of a sick baby along with two older children and handling my third crisis of the day at work and the clock had not even struck 09:00 yet. In short, it was a bad day for a comment that would silently still tick me off on a good day.
Can everyone breastfeed?
Sadly, some women will never experience it to breastfeed, because of a medical reason. Her body is simply not producing any milk at all. Please note that my post is not at all directed at these moms. (or anyone specific for that matter) In most cases however, many women miss out on the opportunity to breastfeed, because of misinformation by peers or parents and a committed lactation consultant can easily help with this. Have a look on the La Lech League International site for more information on this.
For us “lucky” ones who are able to breastfeed it is roller coaster ride that only another breastfeeding mom can understand. Although the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age and even longer if possible, society really doesn’t share the same view. I’ve often found that the non-breastfeeding mothers view us in two different ways:
- The first envy the fact that you’re able to breastfeed when they weren’t. This is often the group that empathize with you and are hungry for information about your journey, because they wish they could’ve been on that same journey with their children.
- The second group judge you for breastfeeding and think it is an unnecessary cry for attention and are glad they don’t have to deal with “that” on top of every other aspect of parenting. This is usually the group that chose not to breastfeed from the start, by choice.
They have no idea…
- What they don’t see is the exhaustion from sharing all your body’s nutrients with another human being and struggling to keep up. Medela shares the best advice from a dietitian on a breastfeeding diet that ensures mom also gets the necessary nutrients, because as we know baby get’s all the nutrients first. Honestly though, if you find time to eat anything at all during a day, I would consider that a win.
- They don’t see the cracked or bleeding nipples, because you’re struggling to get your baby to latch correctly and often just let them suck, no matter how much pain you’re in, just to know that at least they got something in that tiny little stomach. This is also a major reason moms give upon breastfeeding. It hurts! The truth is that it isn’t supposed to hurt if your baby latches correctly. Here is a great video for a pain-free latch. Unfortunately my daughter had such a tiny little mouth when she was born that it took us a very long time before she could properly latch.
- They don’t feel the flush of emotion overload that hits you like a tsunami just a moment before a let-down (when the milk comes into the breast before a feeding) read about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex; or the excruciating pain in your breasts that comes with every let down. Some more info on painful let-down. This often happens up to 12 times in 24 hours, depending on the age of your baby.
- They don’t know the pain of an engorged breast on the verge of turning into Mastitis, that hurts so much that the near thought of something or someone touching it makes you want to pee your pants. Yet the only way to get relieve is to get the milk out of there! Oh and of course it is too engorged for baby to latch properly, which brings us right back to the cracked or bleeding nipples (while slowly peeing your pants).
- They do not realize the thought that went into choosing your outfit for that night out with family or friends. Baby will need to drink soon, and you don’t want to pull your dress up from your ankles to feed her. Read here on dealing with public breastfeeding.
Sure, bottle feeding baby expressed milk for the night might sound like a great solution to that little problem. Just as long as you time your pump session for right before you go out and don’t plan to stay out for longer than your 3-4 hour window before you’ll need to pump or feed again. If you do stay out longer, you might be wearing the wrong colour top and everyone can now see your milk stains, because you leaked right through your very expensive adhesive breast pads that you can never seem to stick in the right place in your bra to make it look natural.
Also, expressed milk would need to be kept in a cooler that you would have to carry with your already overfilled diaper bag, then it needs to be heated (not in a microwave) to the correct temperature before feeding it to baby. All while the crying, hungry baby is bringing on an early let-down which won’t be used, just to add your normal let-down an hour or so later and BOOM! You’ve got painfully engorged and leaking breasts for the rest of that evening.
- They have no clue about the mental commitment you make when your supply starts to drop and you so desperately want to increase it, because you’re not ready to give your precious baby the second best option of nutrition. This leads to eating and drinking all sorts of potions and remedies in hopes that something will make you wake up with an engorged breast and give you hope. Just so you can deal with that again. This also means pumping every few hours, even when you only get a drop or two out and it hurts like hell, because you know that every bit of stimulation can help increase your supply.
- Then of course we have the night feeds. Here you have a few options, if you bed share, you might be able to put baby on the breast and continue with a good night’s sleep. However, if your baby is anything like my children, trying to mountain climb over everything that’s supposed to be preventing their fall and then diving head first into a stone-and-concrete floor, that option might not get you much sleep. Instead you’re always half-awake and never really getting any rest.
- Ah and don’t we all love a good growth spurt, cluster feeding, teething, sick babies, the list continues.
It’s not all bad.
I have been close to giving my daughter formula as supplementation, so many times out of desperation for sleep and sanity. “Luckily” the only time I went so far as to buy a can and prepare a bottle, she refused to take a single sip. She was spoilt. Hahaha! She knew she had access to the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love our breastfeeding journey and will be heartbroken the day she decides to wean. I love the fact that the time we spent nursing, is a bonding experience she will never have with anyone else.
Is it hard work? Hell yeah!
Is it worth it? Absolutely!
It’s worth a thousand more cracked nipples and sleepless nights, because that is what I chose for us.
The point I am trying to make with this post is that I am most definitely not “lucky” to still be breastfeeding my 8-month-old daughter. I worked my butt off to get this far. I have cried, yelled, cursed and given up out of frustration, desperation and a sense of failure. Then I got right back up and said, “There will be a day when I will no longer breastfeed her, but that day, is not today.”
Think before you speak.
If you feel the need to comment on a mother’s breastfeeding journey and in all honesty, we prefer you don’t, refrain from using the word “lucky”.
It diminishes everything she’s worked so hard for to achieve and I have yet to come across a mother whose journey was just smooth sailing. Rather commend her for staying committed as long as she has, for putting in the time, the energy, the love into giving her baby the best she possibly can. You never know if yours are the words that get her to push through another day or to give up completely.