obsessed with on the subject of breastfeeding, I might as well break the silence and speak a truth that’s been closely guarded for years by legions of La Leche League Leaders.
Let me explain:
Breastfeeding feels like you’re getting a five-color tattoo on your nipple.
Breasfeeding will make you literally swear your infant’s tongue is made of sandpaper.
Breastfeeding feels like your boobs might just explode, really actually explode if you don’t feed your newborn every two hours on the dot.
Breastfeeding causes such excruciating tenderness that your nipples ache every time you inhale. Or blink your eyes. Or move.
If I could choose whether to go through labor and delivery again or the first two weeks of breastfeeding, I’d choose labor and delivery. In fact, I’d choose two weeks of labor and delivery- a baby a day- over breastfeeding. Seriously.
The good news is that all of these symptoms generally only occur within the first ten days. After that, it gets much easier.
The bad news is that no one tells new moms that they have ten days of hell to endure before life can go on as normal. In fact, if you read breastfeeding literature, it all states very clearly that if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Period. End of discussion. It’s like there’s some kind of cult of breastfeeding supervisors dedicated to keeping the truth about nursing under wraps.
Ladies, we’ve suffered in silence for too long. I propose a campaign devoted to spreading the truth about nursing. We could call it Breastfeeding Sucks. (for ten days).
After I endured my Ten Days of Torture with Punky, I asked every nursing mom I knew if I was the only one who’d experienced excruciating, breakdown-inducing pain during the first few days of breastfeeding. The answer? Hell to the no.
“It hurt so bad that I’d do anything to keep my nipples from getting hard,” one mom told me.
“It hurt so bad that I cried through every feeding,” another mom said.
For me, it hurt so bad that I immediately sent Hubs out to buy a manual pump when we got home from the hospital. When that didn’t work, I made him drive across town and rent a thousand-dollar hospital grade pump just to get some relief. And I teared up every night before bed thinking about the late night
torture sessions feedings I had to look forward to.
I had hoped that the second time around would be easier- My own mother (who didn’t breastfeed) seemed to think so. “Your nipples are now like leather,” she assured me, pulling yet another rich nugget of wisdom from her vast store of knowledge gleaned, I can only assume, from Oprah’s 20th Anniversary DVD Collection. Or possibly Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. No such luck. I did have a breast pump ready to go and several sets of Soothies, which made things a tad bit better, but as my obstetrician said sympathetically when visiting me the morning after I’d given birth, “Nothing really helps, does it?”
I wonder if breastfeeding activists worry that by telling the truth about the pain, fewer women will choose to nurse. That’s my theory- although I personally would have appreciated knowing ahead of time that if I could get through the first two weeks, I could almost guarantee smooth sailing afterward.
With that in mind, I now tell every pregnant first time mom I know about the ten day rule, mostly because I hear far too many stories about women who gave up trying to nurse after a week and a half and I’m pretty sure that many of them were simply in too much pain to continue- and had no hope that it would go away if they could just hold out a little bit longer.
Feel free to leave your own breastfeeding torture stories in the comments- And for those of you who are now terrified of breastfeeding yourselves, let me tell you that your day will come- both when you spend the next year or so not having to spend any money on formula or any time sanitizing or preparing bottles, and especially when your baby doesn’t catch 95% of the illnesses circulating among your friends’ bottlefed kids. That alone is worth its weight in gold. Nothing can kill your buzz like a sick baby.
*Edited to add that I just reread the last paragraph and it does sound very patronizing toward the bottlefed, doesn’t it? Sorry- I didn’t mean to come off that way. You all have been very nice about it. I’ve just read so much about the natural antibodies in breastmilk and noticed that Punky didn’t get sick at all until she stopped breastfeedng- so I’ve always attributed it to that.