Breastfeeding for me has been like this random carnival ride I took in Vancouver with family friends years ago; a swing carousel.
I saw the massive ride, with individual hanging swings. I thought “Hey! This one looks cute!” Then I saw how the entire contraption extended upwards to the sky, swings hanging and flying through the sky. “That looks like fun!” So I lined up patiently. Nothing but excitement and anticipation.
Then when those gates opened, I ran for a swing. I ended up sitting next to a stranger due to uneven numbers but I was still excited.
Then the ride started. “Whoa! Actually these swings are a little flimsy. Also, this is going pretty fast.” Then it did its extension towards the sky and well, the excitement dissipated and I started freaking the fuck out. “Holy shit. We are higher than fireworks. This is actually the worst and scariest thing ever…” followed by actual hyperventilation and the poor stranger next to me asking if I was okay. I was not okay. I was actually freaking the fuck out. I had the worst time. The longest 2 minutes.
And then the ride landed and I hugged my friend with the biggest hug followed by “I’m so sorry. This was a terrible idea”
That was a really long analogy. But hear me out. This swing carousel is like breastfeeding. Yes. But if I were on the ride for a year and I eventually learned to love it.
Breastfeeding seemed easy to me. It was natural right? Like those birthing videos we all watch where babies crawl to a mothers boob within minutes of being born. How hard could it possibly be?
- Latch (shallow, poor)
- Tongue tie
- Sore nipples
- Cluster feeding
- Milk coming in
- Painful let down
- Blocked ducts
- Just…nipple everything
- Sugar cravings
- “Where the hell is my weight loss” anger
- Overfull breast pain
- Engorged breasts
- I’m sure I am missing so many more.
I had literally never heard of any of these terms or associated issues. Not a single one.
Waiting 4 days for my milk to come in. I didn’t know that was a thing.
The fact that babies cluster feed. Not a thing in my book.
The struggles, pep talks before painful letdowns, pain and tears were not what I was expecting from a baby who apparently knew where the goods were as soon as she was placed on my chest.
Those first 6 weeks were hard. I was hard on myself. I was angry it wasn’t coming easier to me. I also expected my days old daughter to know how to breast feed. But we powered through. I was lucky too. I didn’t get mastitis. I had okay supply. As hard as it was, it was easier for me than others.
Fast forward a couple months and I was an unapologetic breastfeeder. I didn’t hide out in public places anymore. If I needed to feed Raffaela I just did it. My brothers got way too familiar with my boob just hanging out (I forgot it was out, okay??)
And for those people who are against women feeding their children in public, let me tell you – we have worked DAMN HARD to be able to feed our bubs. Blood, sweat and tears hard. So you can kindly fuck off.
You get to chow into your chocolate muffin in public and you didn’t have to learn how to eat it and go through pain, and wear a funny bra for literally a year. So no. I will tell you right where to go if you so much as glare at me as I fumble to feed my bub under my layers of sweaters and t-shirts that damn it, I shouldn’t have worn because they are not breast feeding friendly.
Now I have learned to love breastfeeding. I love it. Love the bond I have with my daughter and the quiet moments feeding her or when she is upset and seeing her calm down as I feed her.
She is approaching her first birthday and I am ready to wean.
I recently weaned off day time feeds and now have to battle night times. This makes me sad. It is a mourning process, knowing this time of bonding is coming to an end.
And another word I didn’t know was a part of breast feeding: HORMONES.
My happy pregnancy demeanour turned into a slightly more teary, but still happy breastfeeding person. And now? Hormones are EVERYWHERE. They are up. Down. Pms-y, over the moon happy. Sad outweighs the happy. You feel so out of sorts and out of control.
But it is normal. It’s another charming by-product of motherhood.
A quick google and one sad sentence explains it all: Oxytocin, the hormone that is required for milk ejection (let-down), is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone.” It makes sense that a sudden decrease in these hormones could have an effect on a weaning mother’s emotions.”
So it all makes sense. Evil, evil hormones. I want more of that oxy and yet here I am with less.
It’s these conversations, stories and questions we need to openly talk about and have more awareness for. If we knew what we were getting into, maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge others on their decisions and be kinder to ourselves in ours.
Whatever unknown breastfeeding word you are battling (mine is hormones. Obviously.), give yourself a break. Really. Don’t talk down your struggle. Don’t pedal backwards to try to justify what you don’t think you’re doing 100%. Own it. Deal with it.
But give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while for doing what you think is best for your little one and for yourself.