I have never made a secret of my breastfeeding issues. My breastfeeding issues aren’t things like poor milk supply or latch problems. Instead, I have breastfeeding problems of the psychological variety. (Thanks, Mom.) I grew up with my mother insisting that breastfeeding was trashy, disgusting, dirty, etc. I had no positive breastfeeding images to counter that. For a long time, I was uncomfortable with other people breastfeeding around me… But before you decide to string me up or cite laws, I’ll also let you know that I never, ever suggested that a breastfeeding mom stop breastfeeding. I was never so arrogant as to presume that my discomfort trumped someone else’s right to feed her baby. I figured that there were plenty of other directions to look, so I just did that. My breastfeeding issues are my problem, not anyone else’s. I didn’t get over my discomfort with being around breastfeeding until I found a lot of mommy friends (mostly online, but a few in “meat space”) who breastfed. But that just meant that I was okay with being around my friends who were in the act, not that I was okay with it and found it normalized to the point that I was able to do so. And it was years after my mother’s death that I got to the point of even being okay around it. But the mere thought of me being the one to do the breastfeeding brings about unpleasant reactions, ranging from discomfort to nausea.
With my firstborn, I never tried to overcome those issues. I was still living at home with my parents, and it was just understood that I would feed my son formula. (He’s fourteen years old now, so breastfeeding was a lot less common then than now.)
With Norton, I did make some efforts to overcome my breastfeeding issues, or at least I tried to work around them. My husband was adamant that the only way that we would have children was if I would breastfeed, but I was equally adamant that it would not happen. Instead, we settled on a compromise. I tried to work around my issues with breastfeeding by exclusively pumping. We rented a hospital grade breast pump (an Ameda), which seriously hurt my nipples. After that, we bought a Medela Freestyle, which was, quite frankly, pure heaven to use in comparison. It’s small, lightweight, and is extremely portable with a built in battery, and the soft cups fit me better and didn’t hurt.
There were some hiccups with my exclusive pumping efforts, of course. Norton was slow to gain back his birth weight. My family doctor panicked me over how slowly Norton was gaining back (still within two weeks, but it took right at two weeks… and the whole time, she’s got me constantly bringing him in for weight checks and I’m worrying about failure to thrive and having my baby taken away because I must not have been feeding him right or something). I ended up keeping an extensive log about how much I pumped at each session, how much I ate or drank, how much Norton ate, and how many wet/poopy diapers Norton had. Once out of sheer desperation, I put him to breast and tried to get him to latch. I was relieved when he didn’t; I nearly vomited on my child. It took such a mental toll on me that by the time Norton was nearing a month old, my husband had told me that he didn’t want me to feel like I had to keep it up. My lactivist friends were encouraging me to quit. I was not well.
I did quit. And once I did, I realized that I did the best thing for us because I was not able to be a good mother. I was spending time attached to a pump instead of spending time attached to my baby. I was depressed and I was beginning to measure my self-worth by the amount of milk I’d managed to pump out that day. I wanted to spend more time bonding with my baby rather than bonding with my breast pump. Once I’d liberated myself from that (rather expensive but extremely effective) breast pump, I was able to do just that.
This time around, I thought about attempting exclusively pumping again… and then I realized that I will have a two year old running around in addition to a newborn. If I couldn’t manage exclusively pumping with only a newborn to care for, how on earth did I expect to keep up this time around? I couldn’t. It was absolutely not a realistic goal.
But I still am cognizant of the information that breast milk is better. That has me looking at ways to overcome my breastfeeding issues… if it’s possible.
Not too long ago, I went on an Amazon ordering spree. I bought the toddler speech book for helping Norton talk, books on natural child birthing techniques, and my digital scrapbooking book. I also ordered Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding.
I started reading it yesterday after we got back from the pumpkin patch, while Norton was safely and happily tucked away in bed. Some of it was familiar. A lot of the commentary on normalizing breastfeeding was familiar. My friend Heather at The Parenting Patch has been sharing similar views since I first read her blog over a year ago. But still, there were some things that I read that bothered me… and not because the book was written from a militantly lactivist point of view, either.
The most troubling for me was the process of describing a newborn first being introduced to the breast. There was a line about a newborn nuzzling or licking the nipple, and I nearly lost my lunch. I’m no lactivist (seeing as how I’ve never breastfed), but I do wholeheartedly support the rights of others to do so wherever, whenever. I just don’t understand how someone can just be happy with some little person licking the nipple. *shudders* Even now, I’m still uncomfortable with it. (And by “uncomfortable,” I don’t mean “slightly bothered.” I mean “Oh, goodness, I need a shower.”)
I’m trying to normalize breastfeeding enough where I can be okay with even the mere idea of doing it. I am aware of the benefits, and I’ve heard from breastfeeding mom friends that once you make it past the first two months, you’re pretty much in the good. I’m struggling with even the idea, though, so the concept of making it to two months is just… wow.
Did you struggle with your own psychological breastfeeding issues? Did you make it past them? (I know that I’m not the only one with these hang ups. I don’t know anyone who has gotten past them enough to actually breastfeed, though.) Does anyone have recommendations to help someone with such a powerful hang up get past it?