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