If you had told me during my pregnancy that I would breastfeed my baby for twenty-six months, I would have laughed in your face. Loudly. While I had planned to breastfeed since the time I found out I was pregnant, it wasn't because I wanted to, by any means. Obviously, I knew it was the best thing for my baby but I also had known plenty of formula-fed babies that turned out just fine - many of them quite brilliant, in fact. So, no, "breast is best" was not my motivation for choosing to breastfeed. My motivation was: 1) I was broke and 2) I had zero interest in engaging my breastfeeding fanatic of a sister in any form of a debate.
I think that somewhere deep down in my heart, I believed one of two things would happen: my body would be incapable of nursing my infant or I would fall madly in love with the breastfeeding experience.
But, no, aside from the delivery and having to get a c-section, my body did everything it should to nourish my child - for twenty-six long months. In case you haven't guessed it yet, I also did not fall madly in love with the breastfeeding experience. I hated the breastfeeding experience - for twenty-six long months.
I know I'm not the only mom that has felt this way, so I want to write to you - the mom that hates breastfeeding - and give some advice.
Don't think for a second that you're a bad mom because you don't love breastfeeding.
To say that a mom that doesn't enjoy breastfeeding is not a good mom is like saying that if a mom doesn't love every part of motherhood, she's a bad mom. Which is just not true. Breastfeeding is extremely uncomfortable and it requires sacrifice. What human loves sacrificing their time (aka sleep), body and, in some cases, their favorite foods? I know that many moms truly do love breastfeeding and I think that's wonderful but if you don't love it that's ok and it in no way makes you a bad mom. It just makes you a human that doesn't enjoy a small person attached to her breast 24/7. And, yet, you persevere... which I think makes you a pretty awesome mom!
Set small goals for your breastfeeding journey.
When my son was about six weeks old, a friend of mine asked me how long I was going to nurse. I responded, "My goal is six months". She gasped. I knew exactly why... less than a year was "unacceptable". Little did she know, my original goal was one month! If I hadn't set small breastfeeding goals for myself, I don't think I would have made it past the first couple of weeks (which really are the worst unless you have some major breastfeeding challenges or complications). Telling myself that I "just" had to make it through the month, made it much more manageable for me. And then it was six months and then a year. Set small goals for yourself and once you reach that goal, set another.
Focus on what you are giving your baby.
It is no exaggeration when I say that I thought about quitting breastfeeding nearly every single day of the twenty-six months I breastfed my son. But the longer I nursed him, the more quickly my thoughts would move away from myself and my own discomfort and toward my son and what he was getting out of it. If you believe in giving your baby the benefits of breastfeeding, then just keep going - even if you don't enjoy it, just like you continue to do mounds of laundry, change baby blowouts, wash spit up out of your hair... I think you get the picture. There will always be parts of motherhood that are uncomfortable to us but we still do them.
Don't give up in the heat of emotion.
This very well may be why I lasted so long with breastfeeding. I didn't want to make an emotional decision, so I just kept sticking with it. Finally, I got to a point where I felt like I had more than exceeded my goals - my son had plenty of time to reap the benefits of our nursing relationship and so I decided to stop. Not out of frustration or annoyance but because I felt good about what we had accomplished.
Granted, I hated breastfeeding because it was uncomfortable and my son nursed on demand like a newborn all the way up to a year old and very frequently for another year; it was exhausting. However, I didn't have any real issues (besides a case of oral thrush in the early weeks) with breastfeeding. I say that because I know that other moms have real challenges and I don't want you to think that I'm ignoring that. Even if you are facing challenges, I think it's wise not to make a decision in the midst of emotion and frustration. Sleep on it and talk it over with someone you trust!
Trust that this season will not last forever.
Breastfeeding may feel never-ending right now but the truth is, your child most likely will not be breastfeeding at ten years old! It will eventually end... and you may actually miss it when it is. But even if you don't, I am certain you will feel good about your accomplishment!
I am really proud that I endured breastfeeding even though I hated it. I'm proud that I gave my son more than two years of "liquid gold" and I am grateful for the closeness that we shared, even if it was uncomfortable for me at the time because that is a season we will never get back and it is one that only he and I share.