I hate breastfeeding.
But I didn’t always hate it. When I found out I was pregnant, it was something I was planning to do. There was no question about it.
I started hating it when I was admitted to the hospital for medical bed rest. When the nurses asked me how I planned to feed my daughter, they would exhale dramatically and smile when I told them I was going to breastfeed. I got the impression that, in their eyes, breastfeeding was the only acceptable answer to that question.
So many nurses asked me about this very personal choice that by the time my doctor asked me, I was a little on edge. Her response was very different.
“Just know that it might not happen for you,” she said.
She told me that because I was delivering six weeks early, my body might not be ready to produce milk. Having a baby at 40 weeks and full term, was not only ideal for the baby but also for my body as well.
I never realized that this could be a side effect of having a preemie. I told her that I still wanted to give breastfeeding a try.
Within hours of leaving the operating room, a lactation nurse was knocking at my door. I hadn’t even held my daughter for the first time, and already this woman was explaining the pumping equipment she brought with her. After she was done, she asked, “When are you going to start pumping?”
“Maybe tomorrow?” I said, still trying to wiggle my toes from the effects of the spinal tap.
She shook her head and scowled. “No, you need to start now. If you don’t, you will never get your body to produce milk.”
I watched awkwardly as she rubbed and squeezed her own breasts to demonstrate how to “warm up my body” before I used the pump.
There was nothing sexual about this. The nurse was merely showing me, clinically, how to get my body to start producing, but I was so uncomfortable. That discomfort continued as she stayed to watch my first pumping experience.
She instructed me to pump every two to three hours, even at night.
That was never going to happen.
Some women would relish the opportunity to do this, but not me. I had just been cut open, my daughter was in the NICU, and I had just spent two months in the hospital where nurses were continually waking me up. I felt like I earned a few nights of uninterrupted sleep.
She was not pleased to hear that when she checked in with me the next morning. She was a pleasant woman, but she was acting like I was personally insulting her because I didn’t roll myself out of bed after abdominal surgery to pump every couple of hours. The nurses in the NICU were just as intense about my breastfeeding.
People no longer asked me what my decision was, it was expected of me. They would make me pump in front of them and then frown at the amount I was producing. They grilled me on how many times a day I was pumping. The whole thing became so unpleasant that I shut down every time the subject came up.
I was breastfeeding my daughter, and it was going well, but I did not feel like other mothers who describe the whole thing as an incredible bonding experience.
For us, the whole thing was tense, uncomfortable and frustrating. To top it off, my hormones were raging out of control. I was crying all the time and felt like everyone was judging me as a mother. I started getting caught up in how much I was producing and putting pressure on myself to provide more each time.
Maybe it was just my hormones, but I felt so unhappy feeding her and even felt that way during pumping. I felt like a cow that was chained to a post and forced to be milked eight times a day. I found myself making excuses for why I couldn’t pump or breastfeed her. Instead, I used the formula the hospital sent us home with.
At the first pediatric appointment, I tested the waters again with this new doctor. I told her that I didn’t love breastfeeding, but was doing it for my daughter since she needed it.
“If you don’t like it, then stop.” She told me. “I can’t tell the difference between a breastfed child and a formula child, but I can tell the difference in the kids that have a healthy, happy mom.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. It was everything I needed to hear to officially make the switch. That afternoon I started to wean myself off pumping.
Not only am I much happier, but my daughter continues to thrive. At her latest doctor’s appointment, she continues to gain weight, and her doctor is amazed at how well she is doing.
Breastfeeding is a very personal choice, and it’s one that a lot of mothers and babies love, but I’m one of the mothers who hated it. Whenever I think I’ve made a mistake and I should have just “sucked it up,” I think back to what my doctor said.
Give your kid the greatest gift of all. Be a happy mom.