Breastfeeding- in like a lion, out like a lamb.

Truth be told, I hated breastfeeding with every fiber of my being for the first two months of Kendall’s life.  I dreaded it, cried about it, and fought back the urge to chuck my delicate and helpless infant son across the room every time he clamped down on my sore, cracked, bleeding, chunks of flesh missing nipples while shouting out strings of obscenities (I blame it on the same reflex that would cause you to punch a shark in the eye mid-attack).  Many times I would grab the nearest tube of lanolin or prescription steroid cream and, instead, pitch that across the room.

 It was not pretty. It was not enjoyable. I did not sit there, lovingly looking into my baby’s eyes while feeling a deeper connection with him and creating some sort of magical bond. I practiced deep breathing and counted down the seconds until he had his fill. Then I started to dread the next feeding, only two hours away.  In fact, sometimes I wonder if Kendall would have been less fussy if I was in less pain and willing to breastfeed more frequently. But, I NEEDED that two hour break to heal and recover.  

This isn’t painting a very good picture of breastfeeding, I know.  And, I know that all you breastfeeding enthusiasts out there are reading this thinking of what a bad image I’m sending and all the things that I was obviously doing wrong to justify the first 8 weeks of breastfeeding hell.  However, that was my honest reality.  It was terrible.

Now, with all that being said, can you believe that I actually stuck it out and made it over 1 year and 2 weeks exclusively breastfeeding?!  That’s right.  Not only did we survive the first two awful months, but we stuck it out and found our groove (and Kendall’s teeth found their groove in my numbed nipples).  My breasts turned into calloused bags of steel, and I was a regular old milk making machine. It is believed that I may have been a dairy cow in another life.

My best friend said to me not too long ago, “Can you believe you made it a year? I remember talking to you when you would say that there was no way in hell you were continuing much longer.” It brought to mind all those memories of the late nights, the pain, the cans of formula samples sitting in the kitchen, staring at me.  The temptation to just give up.  But, I didn’t.  With the amazing support of so many people, including some of you crazy bitches, I pushed through, and after 2 long months, it seemed to magically get better.  Much better. So I figured I had worked so hard to survive all that, I might as well stick with it for the long haul.

While it started out as one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life, it became one of the most natural and rewarding.  Not only did it get easy, but it was free! And I didn’t have to wash bottles! And I could do it while sleeping! Heck, I could do it anywhere at anytime, which was perfect since my son has about as much patience as I do. I did start to experience the bonding that people talk about around the time Kendall was two months old, and it sure did help melt away that baby weight (cuz, let me tell you, the lack of exercise and excessive Dr. Pepper consumption should have turned me into Jabba the Hutt).

I was blessed that I had no supply issues.  If anything, I had TOO MUCH milk, as I would often squirt anyone and anything in my path and spent the first ten months rarely without a bra and nursing pads on. (For those not familiar with my Blockbuster leakage story, click here.) I was also very lucky that I could breastfeed on demand since I spent all day, every day with Kendall.  I’m not so sure I would have been as successful if those two factors were different, especially since I detest pumping.  In fact, I’ve sworn it off altogether because it always leads to a case of mastitis (something I’ve dealt with three times).

As we approached Kendall’s first birthday, I began to think about weaning.  I was teetering on the fence, thinking of trying to push for two years, but my body was tired… I was tired.  As shallow and selfish as this may sound, a weekend at the river with the girls for a bachelorette party in June was what tipped me over the edge.  That was it.  I had to be done by the time he was 13 months.

Now, I make this decision sound all simple and final, and of course, it wasn’t.  It was colored with guilt and many shades of gray.  Maybe I could just keep up nursing at night? Maybe I could pump while I’m at the river? What if this is traumatizing for him?  He’s such a boob-aholic! I’m being selfish.. or am I? No.  You’ve done what you set out to do.  You’re done.  It’s okay to be done.  But is he done?

After many internal conversations, and a very sloooooow weaning process that started at 11 months, we are officially weaned. I began by introducing whole cow’s milk in the sippy once a day, gradually dropped daytime sessions by the time he was one, dropped morning sessions the week after, and quit night time nursing the beginning of this week.  Throughout it all, I stuck with the “don’t offer, but don’t refuse” method and it worked wonderfully.  Surprisingly, my big guy, who I thought would just fall apart without nursing before each nap and going to sleep at night, was just as content to rock for a few minutes in the chair while cuddling a soft new bamboo blanket his grandpa got him for his birthday.  As with many things on this crazy parenthood path, it seemed to be much harder on me than it was on him.

Toward the end, I found myself thinking, “Wow. You have become that mother.  That mother that will be sad when this is done.  How did this happen?  You are such a sucker.  It’s just a boob.  It’s just food.  He’s still your baby.  He still loves you.”  Of course, deep down, I know it’s more than food from a boob.  It was an awful, wonderful thing we survived and experienced.  It was a moment in time, and I’ll never get it back. But, the guilt is slowly fading, although, I wish I could say the same for the size of my engorged breasts.  While not super painful, it is a tad irritating and a little too pornstar-esque for my liking, but I’m assured they will start to deflate into the glorious fried eggs they should be in no time.

So there you have it, my tribute to breastfeeding.  Painful, uncomfortable, hard, turned beautiful, natural, easy, perfect breastfeeding. Cheers.

*Note- for a deeper look at my battle with breastfeeding, be sure to check out all the hyperlinks I’ve included.

Kendall is 1 year, 3 weeks and 1 day old

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  1. That’s so crazy – I basically wrote this same exact post a couple of weeks ago.

    I’m still going though – just barely. I’m not sure how much longer it will last because the son has almost totally weaned himself at this point. He still nurses a few times a day, but I doubt he’s getting that much.

    I never, ever thought I’d be sad about it either, but here I am.

  2. @TheFeministBreeder I *just* saw your post as I was taking a break from editing this one. Crazy similarities. I think I would have taken the same route as you, letting him just nurse on occasion, if I didn’t have this weekend trip coming up. Thought it would be best if he didn’t have to go cold turkey over the weekend. Best of luck to you. It is an odd kind of sad feeling.

  3. I’m glad to be done, but it sure would have been nice and easy to nurse her back to sleep this morning while I nursed my river induced hangover at 6am! Wish Grammy could have stayed to babysit for one more night!

  4. Nice post! I think no one honestly talks about how hard it is to breastfeed in the beginning – though I guess the flipside is that you don’t want to scare women off before they start…

  5. Congrats on making it a year! It is quite an accomplishment. And you are absolutely right, it is so much more than “food from a boob.” I am dreading just thinking about weaning. Although… it will be nice to not have to count how many drinks I have at all the bbqs this summer 🙂

  6. Oh reading this makes me so sad. We just made it to 6mos of breastfeeding and I can’t imagine it coming to an end. I am half-way to my goal of one year and I know that I am facing the same feelings that you shared. Just seeing it in writing makes it even more real. Kudos to you for sharing and for doing what is right for you and your family.

  7. Good job! I have wondered if I will make it a year. We are almost at 6 months right now. I’m impressed that you had the energy to write about your experiences at the beginning. At that time I was so discouraged, so exhausted, and crying so much there was no room for words. But things are so much better now. And I’m sure I too will miss it.
    Aren’t our children wonderful? Who knew we could love someone else so much?

  8. This came at the perfect time, I am a month into breastfeeding and have had one hell of a time, but I have followed your blog forever and this is quite encouraging. I struggle with each feeding just like you said I dread it, but I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, my problem is I am returning to work in 2+ weeks and will have to pump which I dread even more. Thank you for your honesty, It brings great hope to me!!

  9. I’m sure you’ve already thought about this, but since you still have milk to give have you thought about donating it to a bank?

  10. Julia, I would *love* to donate to a bank, but unfortunately, that would require me to pump and I just don’t seem to produce very much that way. It is the strangest damn thing. Plus, every time I pump for more than a day or so I end up with mastitis, which pretty much renders me useless.

  11. Your post was too sweet! I’m almost to 5 months breastfeeding my daughter and it was awful for me in the beginning too but I was determined to make it through and now I can’t imagine being done with it. My goal is a year too, maybe longer but we’ll see. Pumping doesn’t go too well for me either….I only get like an ounce or two and it’s such a pain. I’m just using what I’ve pumped to mix with rice cereal. What did you use to mix with it since you stopped pumping? I know you made your own foods, which I think is so great, I definitely want to try that 🙂 Thanks!!

  12. The weaning is difficult – eventhough the beginning is so hard I don’t think anyone warns you of the emtional toll when you’re weaning too! I was “forced” to wean my daughter at 9 months because I had the stomach flu twice in one month and my supply did not survive…the first few weeks were difficult (especially with engorgement and knowing their was milk there), but now I’m glad I did it because I feel like I have myself back and I’m not a 24 hour milk bar!

  13. I only planned to nurse Baby Sister until one but as the time gets closer I am seeing that our other child (the one we are adopting) will not be here yet. Since I want that baby to get breastmilk (hopefully they will nurse but we will see) I have to continue either nursing or pumping. I don’t know what I will do though. I may wean her and still pump. YUCK!!! If that baby would just hurry up and find his/her way to us I could end this debate. I love this post though. It is awesome!!! And I am so glad that I am not the only one who has leaked all over in a public place 🙂

  14. Oh my gosh, you sound just like me. I nursed both of my sons for 13 months and felt particularly torn about my 2nd because we’re not decided on whether or not we will have more children. I didn’t hate breastfeeding at any point like you did in the beginning, but I had the same feelings you did about weaning.

  15. We’re still going strong with 2 sessions a day (and sometimes 3). My son is a day older than Kendall. My husband and I are planning to go out of town for the weekend in 2 weeks and I am just going to ride it out and see what happens. I hope that my boobs don’t get too engorged and that DS will still nurse when we get back. I can let you know how it all works out for us if you’re interested.

  16. You should be so proud of yourself for making it to one year! I know I told everyone I saw when Ella turned one that I had made it a year exclusively breast feeding.

    Oh how, that pumping was a pain. Some days I swear I produced more tears than milk. The drop in output when you pump is so awful. Then you feel like you can’t feed your child and the vultures will be circling soon. And the washing and the rinsing and the steaming and assembling and dissasembling and reassembling. Ugh. The only reason I kept it up was so that I could still nurse her.

    Thank heaven I didn’t have trouble as long as you. I remember thinking, “Just make it to 4 weeks then she can have a bottle. Just make it to 4 weeks. Just make it to 4 weeks.” Then when my husband first gave her a bottle of my milk I sobbed and sobbed. That was MY job. I was supposed to feed her, no one else. That emotional pain was worse than the physical pain. I couldn’t hack that so I just really got determined to figure it out.

    We did and I’m glad we did. We’re still nursing morning and night and she’s getting cow’s milk during the day. Actually, just in the last few days I stopped adding any BM and it’s now straight cow’s milk. That feels weird, too, that I’m no longer contributing to her bottles. Weird, but better than the drudgery and frustration of pumping especially as my output got lower and lower.

    I can’t imagine weaning, yet. She’s still my baby! I don’t care if she walks and talks, nursing makes her my baby, still. 🙂 I’m glad I don’t have a trip that is bringing the issue to a head. Plus, I think there is a big difference when you are home with baby. I can see being ready for a break sooner that way. Nursing is our time to reconnect every day.

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  18. From a mommy who still has the weaning hurdle ahead of her, I want to know if your boobs turned into fried eggs. Please tell me no LOL!

    On a side note, beautiful post 🙂

  19. I struggled for the first 7 weeks before everything clicked. We’re still going at 15 months. We had many issues at the beginning — I had a long, hard labor, then discovered I had “flat-ish” nipples. My son was very sleepy and wouldn’t latch. The hospital didn’t have a pump for me to use, so I used nipple shields to get him to latch on. That hurt my supply, and I had to wean him off the shields at 10 days. I was so sore, and got bad advice to limit feeding time on both sides, which caused him to get too much foremilk and be gassy all the time. I had to pump to increase my supply, and I could never get him positioned right so I wasn’t in pain. Finally I ditched the Boppy (awful) and got a My Breast Friend – it really helped a lot!

    I wonder if some of your early issues came from not getting a latch-on immediately after birth? I read your birth story and you said the baby was taken to be weighed while you got stitched up. My hospital was very supportive of skin-to-skin for at least an hour after birth, but I was so tired and thought the stitching would only take a few minutes, so I let my son be weighed, then do skin-to-skin with my husband. Now I know that I should have gotten him to latch within the first 20 minutes, especially since my labor was so long and he was more likely to be worn out (as I was!) and have a shorter alert period after birth. I know your labor wasn’t that long/difficult, but that early latch-on is still really important for helping imprint baby to latch on correctly later. I would be interested in your thoughts on this — maybe something to consider for next time?

    • You know, it was all such a blur. I do remember breastfeeding him there in the delivery room, though you’re right, it wasn’t right away. Honestly, they were so busy pumping me full of pitocin, and beating the shit out of my uterus to try to get me to stop bleeding that I don’t think I could have concentrated on trying to feed him at that moment. While they were doing all that to me is when, I think, they were weighing him and checking him out. I’m fairly certain he did get to latch within 20-30 minutes after he was born, though.

      His latch on my right breast was always great. It was the left one that he was so mean to. I don’t know why. Every time I saw an LC, they said his latch was great, but for some reason he just really destroyed that one. But it’s definitely a good point you make. Sounds like your breastfeeding journey was pretty long and a lot of hard work! I’m so glad it worked out for you and that you’re still at it.

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  22. cant imagine it, that’s a COMPLETE STRANGER touching you.. no way…then you are like dating inside your marriage, waking up like, ugh waht’s your name again?? lolin all seriousness this was ok back in the day when ppl get married and you know the guy from your village and he’s gonna be gone for busienss traveling, caravans and stuff (obviously I’m talking waaaaaaaaay back in the day)… but now just marry someone you dont know on their credentials and move in tomorrow, not gonna happen…VA:F [1.9.20_1166]

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