Dear Breastfeeding Moms (Who Feel Like Giving Up)…

picture courtesy of historicalvoices.org

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…

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