Throughout the month of August, we’ll be writing a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding—both in print and online. There are two reasons for this: (1) It’s so, so good for you and your baby, and (2) August is National Breastfeeding Month and August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. We want to do our part here at P&N to encourage and support mothers while improving the health of babies.
Honestly, I think breastfeeding is the best. I nursed my own babies (albeit one more successfully than the other), and I genuinely enjoyed it. Plus, I think I learned a lot about parenting from my nursing misadventures. Because here’s the thing: It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable at first. It’s exhausting. And sometimes, you just want to call it quits. This is a pattern that will likely continue throughout your years as a mom.
After surviving the newborn stage, I felt this way again around the 11-month mark, when my babies were grabby and squirmy and into everything. If it went in their hands, it went in their mouths. It was hard and exhausting, and I wanted to hurry up and get to the next stage, which was … toddler fits. Talk about wanting to call it quits! You haven’t lived until you’ve peeled your limp, shrieking toddler off the filthy floor of Target with 20 people standing around giving you the stink-eye.
And then we hit the “no” stage. Which is followed by the “mine” stage. And it just kept going and going, each stage more challenging than the last. Parenting is always going to be hard. And often uncomfortable. And it’s certainly exhausting. Believe me, there will be many days that you’ll just want to put in your two weeks’ (or minutes) notice. I have called my husband at work before and said, “I give up. I can’t do this. You need to come home, so I can run away.” I felt the same way in those moments that I felt while breastfeeding—when my nipples were raw, the baby was hungry, and I was too tired to do it anymore—like maybe I’m not cut out for this.
My other half’s solution is always this: “Just hang in there. I’ll be home in a couple of hours.” And I think that’s the key to both nursing and parenting. Just make it through the next little bit. Survive the next few hours. When you’re new to nursing, it might seem like it’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done—and it could be. It can be rough those first few weeks, but just keep trying. I’m not talking about a 24-hour try, but a real, honest to goodness, at-least-a-week-so-you-get-over-the-hump try. (It’s free, so you don’t have anything to lose!)
When your week—or two weeks or month—of trying is up, you might realize that it’s just not for you. And that’s OK. Really, it is. Another important lesson of parenting is learning when to admit something isn’t working. If you go bottle, go big and proud. You are every bit as good of a mama as the lady breastfeeding beside you.
But chances are, once you’ve gotten through the hard part, you’ll find that nursing is easy and even enjoyable. That’s not to say you won’t hit bumps in the road or that it will always be joyous. Few good things in life are achieved without a little sweat and tears. If you stick it out, though, you’ll make it. And in the long run, you’ll be so happy you did. Happy August!
P.S. Breast and bottle mamas, unite! It’s easy to judge someone based on her parenting decisions, but do everyone a favor—and don’t. We’re all trying our best and deserve a little love and respect, regardless of how our babies are getting their meals.