Sure, breastfeeding is liquid gold (but only if it’s right for you!) and if you do it you’ll lose weight faster (except not always), your kid will be better off emotionally, physically, and probably spiritually (but no pressure!) and you’ll be eco-friendly and set them up for a lifetime of success (again, no pressure, really!).
But, there is a dark side to breastfeeding that no one mentions:
The fact that my boobs are now my ultimate crutch.
Take today, for example. My youngest just turned 1 and despite the fact that all three of my other kids were weaned at this point, she has shown no signs of slowing down. She still wants to nurse 3-4 times a day, and I honestly have no problem with “extended” breastfeeding … in theory.
In reality, she is literally sucking the life out of me.
I’m down to nursing her from one side and not really making all that much milk, which makes those little “bonus” nursing sessions super duper painful. And today, she refused her morning nap after I nursed her, so when afternoon hit, I had nothing left to give her. And she was furious.
Furious to the point of doing that angry baby arched back thing where they fling themselves out of your arms and you wonder how something so little can be so freaking strong. I tried nursing her, I really did, until I realized I was actually crying and this is stupid and she’s 1 and she will be fine.
But she wasn’t having it. I changed her, I soothed her, heck, I even bathed her in an attempt to get her to sleep. I tried walking her, rocking her, pulling out all the mama tricks in the book. But it was clear what she wanted — which is what she has had her entire life anytime she has been tired/hungry/in pain/in distress/just wanting a little extra snuggle time — to nurse.
The plain and ugly truth is that breastfeeding owns me now. I’m too afraid to wean my daughter because I don’t know how to get her to sleep without it. I don’t know how to soothe her without it. I don’t know how to ask my husband to take a writhing, screaming one-year-old who still wakes up at 3:30 AM on the dot and does this insane half-awake, half-asleep scream until I nurse her. I can’t do this because we’ve tried it and have both secretly wondered if she was possessed.
Breastfeeding is great, you guys. Until it isn’t.
Until your baby has no other coping skills because you are the coping mechanism, which is all well and good until you can’t breastfeed anymore and then you feel defeated on every single level as a mother.
Oh sure, I know the “rules” about breastfeeding, like you’re not actually supposed to use it to get your baby to sleep and you should always, always put your baby down half-awake so they learn to put themselves to sleep, but I mean, really?
If you had a magical way to put your baby to sleep with practically zero effort on your part while you got to snuggle them and browse Instagram on your phone, wouldn’t you be reluctant to let it go?
Breastfeeding has been a huge part of my life for the past seven — seven! — years, and it’s been wonderful and horrible all at the same time, much like a lot of things in motherhood.
But I’ve reached the point now where I almost feel afraid of the power of my boobs. Who am I without them? How do I soothe and comfort and lull my baby to sleep without the magic of breastfeeding? How do I choose between breastfeeding and all of its benefits and this weird, scary place I’m in right now where I feel like I’m failing my child a little bit?
Do I keep plodding along because “breast is best,” even though I am starting to feel a little trapped by their allure? When I look at my daughter and start to feel a little bit of fear when nap time comes around and I wonder — is today the day I’ll be able to rock her? Or will I, once again, feel defeated when I have nothing left to give her as I sit outside her room, my own tears on my cheeks, and wonder when our breastfeeding journey seemed to have derailed?
I realize that I sound a tad dramatic. Regardless, this is the truth, for me, about breastfeeding — a truth I have kept to myself out of guilt — but I don’t continue to breastfeed my daughter because I love the special bond between us. Or because I’m so committed to making a choice that’s right for us. Or even because of some lofty eco-friendly purposes.
I do it because I really don’t know what else to do.More On