I had a baby! I’ve blogged previously about having an easy pregnancy, and I had an easy labor to go along with it. My water broke early in the morning, and she was born 21 hours later after only 40 minutes of pushing. I couldn’t even feel my contractions for the first seven hours, and my husband was able to put in some time at the office that morning and preserve another precious day of vacation time.
Now that she’s here, we’ve been experiencing all of those new parent things: The first introductions to the important people in our lives, the first smiles, the first explosive poop. I’ve mastered putting on onesies, laying her down without waking her up, and tying the needlessly complicated Moby wrap.
So with all of the things that have gone so smoothly, I figured I had some challenges coming. My big admission: I don’t like breastfeeding. Sometimes, I kind of hate breastfeeding.
We had trouble from Day One. I was in pain when baby latched, so I was given a nipple shield. The nipple shield, while a useful tool, can hinder the flow of milk to the baby as well as the stimulation necessary to promote adequate milk production.
My baby wasn’t gaining enough weight as a result, so we had to begin supplementing with formula. To avoid creating more problems with her latch, we give her formula through a tiny tube (called a Supplemental Nursing System) while she nurses. Another great tool, but a pain to use and clean and cart around.
Now that her weight gain is back on track, we’ve managed to wean her off of the nipple shield, but she still has some trouble with her latch, and my supply is still not enough to meet her needs. Sometimes it feels like I’m getting all the worst parts of breastfeeding (nipple pain, leaky boobs and no breaks from feeding the baby) combined with all of the worst parts of formula feeding (making and preparing formula, gassy baby and more dishes to wash).
If you buy into the narrative propagated by the cult of breastfeeding, there is something pathologically wrong with me for not enjoying this whole process, and I’ve already destroyed my baby’s “virgin gut” by giving her formula and gripewater. Puh-lease. But various lactation support communities have also taught me their mantra: Never quit on a bad day.
And we’ve had some bad days, like the day she accidentally latched underneath my nipple and left a deep, swollen bruise the size and shape of her mouth. Or last night when a stuffy nose kept her from sleeping or latching long enough.
Even so, I’m hanging in there. I genuinely believe breastmilk is the best food for my baby, and that breastfeeding is about a lot more than just feeding. On a good day, I can tell that this is all worth it. Studies have demonstrated that breastfed babies receive physical and emotional benefits, and recent studies even suggest that breastfeeding has intellectual benefits.
On a bad day, it’s just not an option to quit. I have my fingers crossed that some day I will be happy to be breastfeeding, but even if I never am, I will always be happy that I’ve tried.
Erin Bowling holds a master’s degree in Folklore, blogs casually and can bake a wicked batch of cookies.