When I was pregnant I scoured the Internet and baby books for information on pregnancy, labor, and how to care for a newborn. I watched YouTube videos on how to swaddle (something I still can’t seem to figure out), researched the best infant car seats, and read all about how to handle colic. The one topic I didn’t delve into much, though, was breastfeeding. Somehow I brushed it off as something I’d pick up instinctively once the baby arrived. My (albeit naive) feeling was, our bodies are meant to do this, so things will just fall into place. Turned out I couldn’t have been more wrong. The reality? Breastfeeding can be hard. Like, really hard. And you’re not an abomination to motherhood if that’s the case for you.
I struggled with breastfeeding from the get go but didn’t think much of it in the hospital, where I had the luxury of nurses and lactation consultants to guide me through it. When I got home, it was a whole different story. It was really hard to get Jackson to latch, when he did latch, it was really uncomfortable, and I was constantly worried that he wasn’t getting enough milk. That anxiety coupled with the utter exhaustion that comes from having to feed a newborn around the clock can make any mom second guess her abilities. I think I made it 48 hours before breaking down in tears of frustration to my husband, crying about feeling like a failure.
In those early days and weeks I nearly threw in the towel on breastfeeding SO many times. I even had formula on hand and ready just in case. But I kept at it. Jackson was gaining weight “beautifully” according to the doctor, so that gave me confidence that I must be doing something right. Still, breastfeeding was uncomfortable for me for a while — at one point I had a cracked nipple on one side and a blistered nipple on the other one — but I managed to keep going. I tried all kinds of techniques to improve Jackson’s latch since all the experts say you’re doing something wrong if it’s painful. I even had a lactation consultant come to the house, but that didn’t help. I just took it one day at a time and clung to the hope that it would get better. And you know what? It DID get better. Right around three months things turned a corner. After trying everything under the sun to “fix” my breastfeeding issues, what worked in the end was TIME. Jackson was such a small baby, just 6 pounds 13 oz. at birth, and his little mouth just wasn’t big enough at first to latch on in the “correct” way, no matter what I tried. Once he got a bit bigger, things resolved on their own without any effort from me and, just like that, my breastfeeding struggles were over.
Jackson will be eight months old on Friday and, believe it or not, I’m still breastfeeding. I never would have guessed I’d last this long when I was in the thick of it early on, but I’m so glad I powered through. I hold no judgment towards women who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to. My hope in sharing my experience is to encourage women who DO want to breastfeed but are struggling like I was that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Take it from me, it gets easier. Don’t stress. You’ll get there.