Dear Breastfeeding Moms (Who Feel Like Giving Up)…

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Dear Breastfeeding Moms About to Give Up,

So, you’re starting to feel like a cow, eh?  All that baby weight is still sticking to you, your nipples are cracked and bleeding and every time your baby latches on, you silently scream and tears roll down your face.  You look at the clock in dread and as the next feeding approaches, your stress levels shoot through the roof and you begin to anticipate the agony.  Just when you have a moment to yourself, it’s time to feed the baby again.  Just when you’ve begun to relax, the baby starts crying and your husband says “Can’t you just stick him on your boob?”

Yeah.  Love that one.

On top of this, your breasts feel like someone filled them with lead and they’re gonna pop.  “What’s this lump?” “Why do I have a fever?” “Oh, great, it’s just another bout of Mastitis.  Awesome.”  And maybe you’re one, like me, whose lump didn’t go away and needed surgery to have it removed (healing from which you had to nurse through to keep the milk out of the wound) because the milk crystalized and now we are boob-scar-sisters.  That’s called a Galactocele, by the way.   Sounds like a fruit from Jupiter, but it most definitely is not.

And then there’s breastfeeding in public… gotta make sure you’ve got that enormous sheet to cover yourself as your baby flails her arms trying to figure out why the hell she’s eating dinner under a blanket.  Or maybe your babe is the focused kind who refuses to eat without complete silence.  And forget sleeping through the night.  If you don’t wake up every three hours to nurse, your sheets will be covered in milk, which sometimes soaks through to the mattress and then your whole bed just smells sour…

Ahh, the pleasures of breastfeeding.  Sounds more like a nightmare, doesn’t it?  And for those of you who are at the end of your rope and feel like giving up, I have a message for you…

You are AMAZING.  You are a beautiful, strong, warrior woman and you are sacrificing yourself over and over and over for the sake of your child… for your child’s nourishment, bonding, emotional security and peace.

I know it’s hard.  I know it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done.  I know you burst into tears on days because you just don’t think you can take it anymore.  But you are stronger than you know.  You will be SO SO SO grateful six and seven months down the line when you look back at your accomplishment of giving your baby the best possible nourishment she can receive.  The bonding time you will have with him is unique and important.  You are establishing a safety in your arms that will be the foundation for her growth.

And it DOES get easier.  Your breasts eventually stop swelling and feeling like melons!  Your hormones even out, the milk cysts disappear, you can eventually sleep for 6 hours at night or more without nursing or pumping, your baby’s latch gets better and you stop bleeding.  What you’re left with is an EASY way to feed your little one and an emotional connection that goes beyond anything you can imagine.

This message is not intended to make mothers of formula-fed or pumped milk-fed babies feel guilty or less-than.  There are unique bonding experiences available to every mother and her child.  I am speaking specifically to women who want to continue to breastfeed but feel worn out, tired and hopeless.

I promise there is a light at the end of this tunnel.  Keep going!  You can do it!  Talk to your partner and ask them to encourage you.  You NEED people cheering you on!  Pick up The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from the bookstore – it will make you feel sane!  Make sure you use the time between feedings wisely… this includes letting your partner take the baby for a while and you getting out of the house, even just to run to Starbucks.  Take care of yourself, encourage yourself, and remember that you are not alone.  Women have been doing this for thousands of years and spurring one another on.  Just take it one day at a time… you can do this.  You can do this.

I promise, you can do this…

  • Beth Wisch

    Thank you for posting this! My baby had horrible reflux, was colicky, refused to sleep, and I had to go back to work when she was 8 weeks old. No one (except my husband, thank God) understood why I “insisted”on continuing breast feeding through all this. It made me sad when people pushed me to give up so easily. I pushed through and breast fed her until she was 14 months old and she is now a happy, healthy almost 2 year old with no digestive problems. One of my proudest achievements as a mother.

  • Sarah McFadden

    I wish I had read something like this when I was battling thrush and an abscess that also had to be surgically drained, leaving a hole that always leaked until I stopped nursing. We made it 10 weeks, which I am proud of, but I wish we’d made it longer and a message like this might have been the encouragement I’d been seeking. I hope this helps other frustrated mamas out there. Thanks Joy.

  • Jennifer Odom

    Awesome post Joy! As a woman wanting to breastfeed in the future this was encouraging and I can’t wait to share with my friend who’s having her fifth child soon, and has only nursed the 4th! It was a tough road for her but she stuck with it for about 10 months and did great!!! Do this last one will hopefully be great too! Thanks so much!

  • Amy Donnell Gillham

    Thank you for posting this! I have been going for 5 months and work full time and think about quitting often, just so I can sleep and get a little “me” time. It feels good to know that others out there feel the same way I do. Maybe I can power through a little longer!

  • Marem Massoud

    I love everything about photography, photographs and black and white! And when I saw the picture you chose for the Hello Giggles, I was hysterical! It is Dorothea Lange, who took incredibly nice pictures!

    God bless you Joy, you’re a special person somehow…

  • Ashton Shae Crain

    I love this! I’m a midwife and so I really understand the importance of breastfeeding. I know it’s difficult. While I myself have yet to have a baby or breastfeed, I deal with many women, almost every day who are struggling with breastfeeding. I really appreciate it when people take the time to encourage women to breastfeed instead of simply bottle or formula feed. Thank you so much for supporting women and their babies!

  • Trish Khoo

    Thank you so much for this! And yes it does get easier. I wish I had believed my mum when she told me that :)

  • Emilynne Capelli

    Hey you can get some positive help information and support fro the La Leche League in the US and the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) ABA does overseas subscriptions, just go to the website. Check out Mothers Direct link for excellent literature with the most up to date breastfeeding facts and tips for getting and keeping a happy lactation.

  • Sarah Sandoval

    I had a rough time with my first baby. A horrible latch, bleeding nipples which of course, led to three bouts of mastitis. I cried everytime he nursed, it hurt so badly. We got through it! I am currently nursing his younger brother. It was much easier the second time around. Although, I had to laugh at your reference to 6 hours of sleep. My nursling is 18 months and still nurses like an infant at night. Thanks for the great post!

  • Barbara Kelley

    One thing that I hear VERY few people talking about is the state of being “touched out”. Of literally carrying one’s baby for nine months and having one’s body co-opted/borrowed/shared the entire time, and then on to labor and birth wherein one is poked and prodded and measured in one’s most secret, delicate, personal parts pretty much “at will” by anyone who feels they need to have a go, and then onto sometimes years of STILL sharing one’s body, one’s breasts sometimes with someone who bites, who “works out” their daily cares on one’s nipples and soft places. It’s a REALLY hard job, this being “taken over” by another small, sometimes quite DEMANDING being. I think most people, unless they’ve done the job themselves, have simply no idea what this feels like and how utterly intense it can be. I nursed my two for a combined total of nine years, and sometimes, a) I’m NOT sure how I was able to do that and b) I’m NOT sure I could do it again. Hormones are extremely powerful things. So is unshakable commitment/belief that one is doing the “right thing” for one’s children. So is support from other moms. So is love…but NONE of it is always easy.

  • Debbie Murphy

    Thankyou for posting this,I don’t think there are enough messages to breastfeeding mummies which are both positive and realistic!My baby is 14 months and just self weaned having been at one bed time feed for a few months,she only started sleeping through 3 weeks ago and breastfeeding was very tough to start- I had mastitis and an abscess removed. BUT I would do it all over again to have the bond we have now and I will do it all over again for any future children we have as it is the most amazing experience excepting childbirth itself that I have ever had.
    I loved your post so much that I actually got a lump in my throat reading it well done you!

  • Lynn Girdlestone

    I nursed my oldest for 14 months, and am currently nursing my 7 month old. There are many instances where I just want to stop and switch to formula. Where I just want to hand him over to my husband at the end of the day and just walk away so I can have my body (and my bed) to myself for an hour. Last month I was in the hospital for 5 days with pneumonia, and wasn’t allowed to nurse. It was strictly pump-and-dump. By the 3rd day my milk supply was almost non-existent, and I started freaking out. It took two weeks of a combination of pumping, nursing, and supplementing formula for my supply to come back, and every time I had to use formula it made me upset.

    Nursing isn’t just about keeping yourself healthier, or the child’s nutrition, or even the bond between mother and child… its nature’s most basic process. How amazing it is to be able to sustain your children just from yourself. I’m not putting down anyone that cannot breastfeed because of certain medications they have to be on (like thyroid), or has a bad milk supply, or anything like that. I know how hard it is to establish a good latch on, and routine, which is one of the main reasons people stop breastfeeding earlier than they’d prefer. I love the fact that you at least tried, even if it doesn’t work out. I do have a slight issue with women who decide not to breastfeed as soon as they find out they are pregnant because they think it willl damage them cosmetically in the future (everyone sags eventually, its called gravity!). Or the mother that doesn’t want to breastfeed because she wants to go back to drinking alcohol like she did before she was pregnant. (Both of these instances have been reasons from people I know…) It takes a lot of commitment, time, and sometimes agony. It’s one of the most selfless things you can do in life. We face embarrassment, misunderstanding, jealousy, frustration, and an overwhelming lack of personal space. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, despite all the cons. So to all those mommas nursing, trying, and wanting to… ROCK ON!

  • Kimberly Bryant

    Thank you for posting this! It was recently posted to my Mother’s due date group. We all have babies that were due in October and are going thru the first few months of breastfeeding. This is perfect!

  • Victoria Tiedemann

    I think it took me 2 months before it didn’t hurt anymore to breastfeed my first son. The problem is he would eat for 90 minutes every 30 minutes it seemed (he was born 9 pounds 14 oz and just required loads of milk). The whole engorged breasts hurt a lot! I just hate that after you are done nursing for a year, your breasts are so jiggly and saggy. :( I mean, I am normally an A cup as it is, but I got to DD cup while nursing and now that I’m back to “normal” after nursing my firstborn for 15 months and second born for 12 months, I just feel so . . old. I’m only 28. I don’t want to feel that way. haha. Anyway I think nursing is wonderful and I have known LOADS of women who stopped nursing after two weeks or a couple months. It didn’t hurt one bit with the second child for me, by the way. First child though. . ouch. I think your nipples adjust and toughen up well that it doesn’t hurt any longer afterwards.

  • Amee Cochran Gibson

    love this!! Breastfeeding is sometimes not pretty or easy, but its sooooo worth it. And you get to party like its 1999 when you wean. (just did last week after 14 mos!!)

  • Jenny Wei-Li

    That first paragraph sums up everything that I’ve been feeling for the past three weeks so perfectly – I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like this!! That is comforting. My little guy and I are sticking with it and I’m looking forward to it getting easier sometime down the track! :)

  • meg

    Thank you, i definitely needed this!

  • meg

    Thank you, i definitely needed this!

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