When I thought about being a mother while I was pregnant, I imagined effortlessly breastfeeding my baby until he was one. And I hate to admit this, but I secretly judged women who didn't. How could they not want the best for their baby? How hard could it be?
All of that changed the second I had my son. Because as it turns out, breastfeeding is really hard.
As soon as Marshall latched on that first time, I was in excruciating pain. I worked with a lactation consultant regularly, but the pain didn't go away for two weeks. (It is so hard to dread feeding your baby, the only thing that is keeping them alive!) I also had no idea how much time I was going to spend breastfeeding the first month. It was seriously 45 minutes on, 45 minutes off the first week, and then just 90 minute breaks for the weeks that followed. I ended up watching TV a lot, just to quell the boredom.
As Marshall got older, it got easier. I didn't need to be available around the clock, as he only ate every three hours, but then a new layer of frustration came up: pumping. Pumping is just the worst. Marshall would take 6 to 8 ounces in a bottle at just 3 months, and I would have to pump 2 to 3 times in order to get that amount. Different breast milk supplements helped with my supply, but after a while it would diminish again. I found myself in a constant panic about having enough milk to feed my baby, and I couldn't create enough extra pumped milk to leave Marshall for a day of play or work. By the fourth month of being a mother, I felt like I was trapped in breastfeeding jail.
I heard so many horror stories about formula that I started searching for alternative options, and I learned how to make my own formula out of the Nourishing Tradition Cookbook. Although making th formula took a lot of time and effort, I felt more in control, and the anxiety I felt about not being able to feed my baby quickly vanished. For the next few months, I pumped what I could and made bottles with a combination of half formula, half breast milk.
I continued to breastfeed in the morning, evening, night, and all weekend. But doing half and half was so liberating. I finally sunk into a rhythm and enjoyed breastfeeding. The connection, knowing my baby was getting the best possible nutrition, even if he wasn't being exclusively breastfed, made me feel so confident as a mother. The best part about introducing formula was that Marshall started sleeping for much longer stretches at night.
By 7 months, I stopped pumping (it was the best day of my life), and by 9 months I stopped breastfeeding all together. I stopped for a few reasons: because it felt like it was time for me to have my body to myself again, my libido was nowhere to be found, and Marshall was getting less and less interested.
When I have another baby, I don't know how I am going to feel. I will definitely want to breastfeed again, even though it wasn't a completely positive experience the first time. Being a parent means making sacrifices, but not too many so that you're miserable and it prevents you from being a good parent because of it. I think finding a balance between your baby's well-being and your own is what being a parent is all about.
I'd love to know: what do/did you love and hate about breastfeeding? Share with me!
Sarah Jenks struggled with her weight for years until she stopped "waiting on the weight," and finally did all the things that she had put on hold: going for her ideal job and flirting with her dream guy. Her happy lifestyle resulted in Live More Weigh Less, where she helps other women have engaging, meaningful lives full of great adventure. Follow her on Twitter @sarahejenks and Instagram. To find out more about how to embrace your pregnancy, check out Sarah's book, Live More Weigh More, A Short Guide to Pregnancy.
Image: Mom breastfeeding baby via Shutterstock