Breastfeeding has been an incredible experience, both extraordinarily difficult and beautifully rewarding. To begin with, it was the hardest combination of things I have ever had to push through. I have had more difficult times with emotional struggles or physical strain but never both so much as breastfeeding was in the beginning. I cried so much, I fought for the “good latch” (even if her latch was perfect it still hurt a LOT in the beginning). Pain, emotions, tears and lack of sleep.
Pretty much what you sign up for when you are a new parent, but this was overwhelming. It was why I quit breastfeeding Mairead early on. I couldn’t handle the pain, I didn’t know at the time why it hurt, and wasn’t patient enough to wait it out in hopes it would go away. I gave up pumping too with her because it took such a long time to get anything (I had a manual hand-pump that was for one side at a time). I couldn’t keep up with her needs with that dinky pump, and it took up literally all of my time.
With Eili I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I was determined. That was all it took. It was just as hard (but for some different reasons, as well as the pain and time-consumingness). Eili fed all the time (and my reaction to her was simply “if she cries, whip out a boob”. It worked. It hurt for a few weeks, and I persevered through it. Supply and demand is correct. You just have to really commit to it, actually basically sitting around for a few weeks (or months) feeding your baby non stop. At first I hated this. I hated having to never be able to set her down, to have to be truly constantly on call for her. I hated how no one else could feed her, how I was her basic resource for everything. Eventually I began to look at it like this: she will only be small for a little while, she will only need me like this temporarily, and every time she needs me gives me a break from life. Who doens’t need a break now of days? It is a blessing to breastfeed, even though you could also look at it as a burden. Now that we are almost 6 months into it, it is amazingly easier than bottle feeding ever was. I carry her food with me, I don’t have to make her a bottle in the middle of the night, and she is getting the very best nutrition. If you can breastfeed why wouldn’t you? I do not judge a woman who actually cannot breastfeed, but it honestly confuses me why you wouldn’t if you were able.
I judge myself very critically now that I look back at my giving up with Mairead. I was weak, but she was my first and I feel like you crumble much easier with the first child than subsequent children. My backbone is now iron compared to when I first had Mairead. Now you couldn’t hope to change my mind unless your research was bulletproof. It was damn hard to breastfeed Eili, but I am a dang Super Mom for doing it all. I work full-time, I am a mom all the time, I clean my house, I cook meals, and I breastfeed and/or pump while juggling all of this! If I can do it you sure as heck can!
The closeness and love I share with Eili is unlike anything I have ever had with anyone, and sadly that includes Mairead. I love them both, but the bond was instant with Eili and has grown exponentially deeper quicker than my love for Mairead grew. I am so disappointed in myself for ruining that potential with Mairead. It breaks my heart for mommas who choose to not breastfeed at all when they could. The bond is unexplainable and it is richer and more rewarding than anything I’ve found so far in life. It makes me personally a better mother and wife as well as citizen because my empathy has skyrocketed.
I now don't know when I'll ever want to stop! I was so tempted to "get my body back" as in, not be needed constantly, at first. But now, I love it. I figure, if it is great for my baby then it would be selfish to stop (ever?) so.... when will I? I guess who knows, but eventually probably ;)