Another thing that pushed me to continue nursing was good old-fashioned guilt. As a nutritionist I know well all the benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of asthma, allergies, SIDS, obesity, colds, and infections. There are pluses for moms, too, including quicker weight loss and protection against cancer and osteoporosis.
Women hear so much about these benefits that they can become plagued with guilt and feelings of inadequacy if nursing doesn't work for them. But I've decided a little guilt isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can motivate you to take the rougher road because it's the right thing to do. Since it's my official responsibility as a dietitian to support breastfeeding, I would have felt horrible if I hadn't given it my all. And I'm glad I did, because the big payoff was just ahead.
After six weeks, my feelings of entrapment and anxiety eased. I had gotten Isabella to eat more efficiently -- it now took her only 30 minutes a feeding. A visit to the doctor confirmed that she was thriving. It also dawned on me that time on the sofa belly-to-belly with my baby wasn't so bad after all. Perhaps it was something I should savor.
By the time Isabella was 3 months old, I felt confident and comfortable nursing. She could go two hours between feedings and would nurse to satisfaction in about 15 minutes. I also started pumping again -- this time successfully -- so I could get a haircut or do some work while Thom or the nanny gave her a bottle.
But the best part is the cocoon-like closeness I feel when Isabella is on my breast. Since she is now eating solid food, I only nurse her a few times a day, but I look forward to each time when the rest of the world blurs and it's only us two.
It seems like there's a conspiracy to keep the struggles of breastfeeding a secret. Health professionals don't want to talk about it because they fear it will deter you from trying. But I think it's better to arm yourself with the truth. While more women are starting out breastfeeding (about 70 percent), fewer than a third are nursing at the six-month mark.
So, ladies, let me tell you how it really is: It is hard for most people in the beginning. But once you get past the initial challenges, breastfeeding is one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have. In a way, the struggle makes the reward even richer. Because when you emerge from the trenches with someone, you are forever deeply bonded to him or her. In this case that someone is your baby.
Ellie Krieger, RD, is a nutritional consultant and a writer in New York City.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.