Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Joys and Frustrations of Breastfeeding

An invitation has gone out at 5 Minutes for Mom to share our breastfeeding experiences. I have four children, 8, 4, 2, and 5 months. I nursed the three oldest for right around a year and plan to do the same this time.

I am not sure exactly why I decided to breastfeed Kellen. At that time it was becoming the thing to do, not that I am necessarily a follow the crowd kind of person, but I did like the health aspects of it. Honestly, though, I would probably have to say that the financial aspect was the big seller (I am practical at my core!) I couldn't see buying formula when I could produce something better for free!

Why doesn't anyone tell you nursing is work? Women have been nursing babies for. . . well, forever. I just assumed you put the baby to the breast and they get fed. Easy right? Yeah right! Nursing is work especially in the beginning, and Kellen and I had a rough beginning. I don't want to tell the whole story now or this post will become a book, but the pertinent facts for this discussion are we were in different hospitals for three days and although I was given a pump I wasn't really told how I should be using it and did very little pumping. All this equals a horrible start.

When we came home I was clueless. None of the family had nursed. They didn't know how to help and I didn't have another mentor. We were figuring this out on our own. I had to go back to school and start my student teaching. I didn't want to supplement, so I was pumping too. There were other things going on in our lives that were difficult. It was awful. Looking back now I see it in a different light, but at the time I felt like all he did was nurse and cry. I was tired and completely frustrated physically and mentally.

Now, I wonder why I stuck with it. I guess people who know me would say I am just that hard headed. I prefer the term determined! It did get better. We did get the hang of it. I actually enjoyed it.

What is my favorite part? Ok well besides that it is free :) I think God designed us to breastfeed so that we would stop, rest, think, enjoy and bond. I am not saying you can't do that if you bottle feed, but with breastfeeding you have to. I know me. I am a doer. I like to get things done. I like to be busy. It is hard for me to sit and rest. If I was using bottles I probably would have propped that bottle or let the baby hold it so I could finish the dishes or cook dinner or do whatever I felt had to get done. I also love that I can bring the baby to bed with me and sleep while they eat. (Something I said I'd never do before I had kids!)

Weaning was only hard for the first one. It was hard because we had used nursing as his comfort to go to sleep at night. So, I was the only one who could put him down, and he took a long time to go to sleep. At a year we were only nursing at bed time, and I had had enough. We let him cry it out. We had three long nights, but then he learned to put himself to sleep.

The next three I would not allow to fall asleep while nursing (after the first few months) and we taught them to put themselves to sleep much earlier. It was much easier with a lot less screaming than the first time around. I actually planned to nurse Lydia and Nolan a bit longer
but they weaned themselves when they were a little more than a year old. We have yet to see what Vivian does! :)

I'd like to say everything was perfect with the next three, but that would be a bit of an exaggeration. But it was soooooo much easier! I knew what to expect. My milk supply was better. I asked for help when there was a problem. I wasn't so uptight. It was just all around better.

As for advice . . .
If you are just starting and have a hard time ask for help and stick with it. Set yourself a goal that you will try to nurse for X amount of time and then re-evaluate. The first months are hard work; it does get better.
For later, if you hit a rough spot ask for help. Most moms are more than happy to help!


  1. Thanks for sharing. My son was the nurse to sleep baby too, it was VERY hard to night wean him but we all survived. I'm pretty sure with our next kids I'll be trying not to let them do that!

  2. Way to go on sticking with it for your first baby. I can't imagine going through all of that without support.

    I also had a tough time getting started nursing Julia, but thankfully I had tons of support from family, nurses at the hospital and lactation consultants.

    Thank you so much for sharing in our celebration of nursing!

  3. Thanks for sharing your breastfeeding adventures! I agree that they need to flat out tell mothers who are just starting out how much work it really is! It may save some shock down the road!

    Great Advice!


    We too had many problems with nursing in the beginning and with my first I did not even KNOW you COULD get help, I beleived like you said, you put the baby to the breast, and WAHM they nurse! Boy was I wrong, I guess it works that way for some, but NOT for me...with either!

    I ended up pumping for a year with my first after giving up nursing...however with my 2nd I did not give up so easily! We are still nursing strong at 33 months old! :) YEAH!!! It does become amazing!

  5. That was a great post! Women are not helped by not being told how hard the first couple of weeks breastfeeding can be. A friend of mine was only told about how great it was and how much she'd love it - tried it a few times, didn't "love" it, and quit. If she'd read things like your post, she may have stuck with it.

  6. AMEN, lady!!!!

    I didn't REALLY enjoy nursing until Liam was 5 months. And as you've read in my post last week, as of late it's getting painful and frustrating again.

    I am glad we did teach him how to put himself to sleep. Anyone can lay him down and he'll go to sleep on his own. That is a nice. (the middle of the night wakings are another story - thank goodness for sleep/nursing)

    I think mothers are more liberal with telling other prospective moms that it's hard. I knew it would be, but it still doesn't prepare one for the HUGE task that it is. Just like the lack of sleep thing... I knew, but I didn't know how it would wear on me.

    Thanks for your suggestion on Liam holding something soft while he nurses... Smart mama! It worked...

  7. Congratulations on sticking it out without help! My son did not really get the hang of nursing until he was 6 months. However, I am so glad that I persisted. He nursed until 15 months, and it was enjoyable then.
    My sis-in-law was never told that it would be hard, and it was quite a shock to her. It's amazing what some doctors don't tell you. My midwife made me read a whole breastfeeding book all the way through before the birth, and boy was I glad I had done that when he was born and we were struggling.