No one tells you breastfeeding is hard. You’ll hear plenty of statements “it is the most natural thing in the world”, and it is. Or you might hear, “breast is best”, and breast milk is the perfect food for a baby, especially in their first six months of life. Yes, breastfeeding is hard, but it is also incredibly rewarding.
I nursed two babies during their first year of life. With my first, I almost quit so many times in that first week. It was hard, my breasts hurt, she had a terrible latch, my nipples were sore and bruised, feeding her took forever – she would nurse for an hour, sleep and then nurse again, I did not think I was ever going to move off of the couch. Through it all, I stuck with it, I am glad I did, and nursed her until she was 11 months old when she decided to wean.
By the time baby number two came along, it was much easier. He was more efficient at nursing, I was able to nurse him in recovery after he was born which established the breastfeeding relationship very quickly, and I think had a great impact on our overall success. His own nursing journey was not without its challenges, especially when we found he had a sensitivity to dairy proteins, and I had to begin an elimination diet. Ultimately, I nursed him for eight months when he too decided to wean.
I do not regret my decision to breastfeed my children. Once we figured out what we were doing, because there is a learning curve for both mother and baby we developed a great relationship as a result.
There were many benefits to breastfeeding both of my children:
I lost the pregnancy weight! I gained 60 pounds while pregnant for my daughter and 40 while pregnant for my son. With breastfeeding the weight melted off my body and within six weeks postpartum I was back in my skinny jeans.
I could nurse my babies where ever we were, and when I needed to without having to worry about having enough bottles or heating a bottle. It made packing a diaper bag so easy. I nursed while out and about, discreetly and easily.
My babies were healthy! Other than well child visits to the pediatrician we were never there. The year my son was born, the upper respiratory virus RSV was prevalent, he never caught it. No ear infections, very little diaper rash, just healthy, happy babies.
Affordability. Breastfeeding costs nothing! Okay, I might have eaten a bit more food, I found there were days I was insanely hungry, and I did buy a breast pump so I could express milk for my children to have bottles if I was going to be out of the house. Formula is expensive, and when you are out of work from having a baby and need to watch costs, breastfeeding makes great economic sense.
I do not know too many women who enjoy having their menstrual period. After my body recovered from the delivery of my children, my period did not return until after I quit breastfeeding.
The Not So Good
With the good, comes the ugly:
For some women they might feel this is a benefit, for me it was not. My relatively small bra size, a B cup exploded to a DD size. It was awkward, I felt top heavy. I had to buy a few new shirts that would fit my increased chest size properly. Once I stopped nursing, my breasts returned to their former size.
One word, mastitis. Mastitis is a painful infection of the milk ducts within the breast. It can be caused by not nursing enough, or if you have an oversupply which was my situation. You get sick really fast, I mean within hours. High fever, shaky body, extremely painful breasts. Fortunately, mastitis is a bacterial infection and about 24 hours after starting antibiotics you feel much better. I suffered from this once with my daughter, but three times with my son. Nothing will make you want to quit nursing faster than mastitis.
Nursing bras – they are so ugly. Seriously, someone could become a millionaire if they could design a nursing bra that looked pretty, yet was still durable. Think ugly, industrial bras that will leave you feeling like a dairy cow.
And not to get too personal, but when you are nursing your body maintains very low levels of estrogen. This hormone can interfere with milk production and the lack of it can lead to vaginal dryness making intercourse uncomfortable or even painful. There are a number of personal lubricants that can help remedy this situation and eliminate any discomfort.
Looking back, the benefits by far outweighed the negatives. I am proud I was willing and able to nurse my children. Beyond the nine months I was pregnant for them I continued to be their source of nourishment for several months in their early lives. Nursing your children gives them a great start at life and is good for mom too!