If Everyone Would Stop Insisting That Breastfeeding Was ‘Natural’ And ‘Easy’ More Women Would Probably Stick To It


Breastfeeding is hard as hell, and this is coming from someone who has done it successfully with two kids. It’s one thing I always try to tell women who have a desire to do it; it sucks. It hurts. Nothing comes out in the beginning. It’s not easy for anyone.

Well, I’m not sure if it’s really hard for everyone, but in my very scientific observation of all my friends, every one I’ve had who has ever done it had a really hard time. This was also confirmed by an article in Slate I read yesterday titled, Women Have Struggled To Breastfeed Since Ancient Times. It’s hard. It’s always been hard.

The women I know who gave up from sheer frustration (not for medical issues) thought that is was so hard that they must be failing. Here’s what I think; we’ve all been brainwashed into believing that just because our bodies can lactate, milk should be able to flow from our boobs like some kind of abundant fountain after we give birth. No. Not so much.

With all the talk about how great it is for you, there’s really a lack of real support to help you succeed. If breastfeeding is so damn great, why was I sent home from the hospital with several goody bags full of formula? It would have been much more helpful to have a list of lactation consultants in my area, and maybe a way to get free home visits if needed, no? There is the poster in the doctor’s office, the prenatal question about whether you plan on doing it- and then you are pretty much on your own. Here are some details I can tell you about my personal experience that may help you if you think you are failing miserably at this whole breastfeeding thing.

1. Your milk doesn’t come in right away.

Guess what? It can take a few days for your milk to come in. This generally wouldn’t be a problem, if you didn’t have a nurse breathing down your neck every hour, shoving a feeding log in your face and asking you to record how much your baby is eating. If you labor in a hospital – this is what will probably happen. Here is my very informed, medical advice for you; grab the log and just write a bunch of nonsense numbers on it. That way – the nurses will back off and you will be less stressed.

For some reason, the fact that babies are born essentially “waterlogged“ and don’t need much in terms of nutrition for their first day out of the womb eludes most nurses on maternity wards. The majority of them will act like you are starving your baby if milk doesn’t start shooting out of your boobs immediately. No one wants to starve their brand new baby. Don’t worry – you aren’t.

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  • Bethany Ramos

    I only did it for 7-9 months total for both kids, and I wasn’t a fan. I was a very milky lady, so it was easy for me to pump, but still. Mixing up a bottle of formula has never felt so good!

  • Erin Murphy

    Amen! When it’s going well it is so great and I love the mushy feelings towards my baby but when it’s not going well it is AWFUL.

  • staferny

    My mom told me that back in her breeding days the only advice she got was to scrub her nipples with a loofah/back brush for the last month of her pregnancy to ‘toughen them up’, do people actually do this or was it just a sadistic doctor?

    • keelhaulrose

      I just crossed my arms over my chest thinking about it.
      Then again, letting your husband be a bit rough with them might help.

    • Aimee Beff

      My nipples retracted all the way to my shoulderblades when I read this.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      My nipples did this.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      …i just spat coffee on my laptop screen…

    • desi

      I just woke my husband up from a sound sleep because I laughed so hard! Funniest comment ever!

    • Bethany Ramos

      My mom told me this, and I did it!!

    • Alexandra

      Did it help?? I’m doing a form of this now…

    • Bethany Ramos

      I think so! I ended up using a nipple shield as well.

    • Alexandra

      Good tip, thank you!! :)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Nipple shields are the BEST!!! My personal endorsement. :)

    • staferny

      You’re brave! I think I just stared at her all cringey faced while covering my nippular area with my hands. Good to know it does help and she wasn’t full of shit though. Thanks!

    • Alexandra

      TBH I’ve been doing this with a rough wash cloth for a couple weeks now and it’s helping with my sensitivity…after shower I slather them in organic coconut oil – it’s been not that bad, or I probably wouldn’t do it, but have heard about cracked and bleeding nips from friends and would rather scrub now!!!

    • Alexandra

      Oh, I’m 6 mos preggo btw.

    • Véronique Houde

      I hope it works for you but all the “experts” I’ve spoken to say that it doesn’t help…

    • kay

      mine were sensitive before breastfeeding… they’re fine without roughing them up (no cracks, no bleeding), and I think nipple stimulation is one of the things that is always listed as being a way to help naturally induce labor, so I wouldn’t mess around with it personally

    • personal

      Honestly, I don’t think this is a good idea. I always had super sensitive nipples but had little trouble with breastfeeding (it is not always easy. Supply can exceed demand, too.) But I have heard, and truly believe, that you can injure your nipples if you do this. Please consult a doctor.

    • Courtney Lynn

      Oh, HELL naw!

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Really? I don’t know about this. I mean, my child has basically been sucking, gnawing and pulling at them for 7 months and I don’t even think they’ve “toughened up” yet!

    • Véronique Houde

      Yeah, both my mom and step mom were advised the same thing, and it’s utter bullshit

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s been recommended all the way back to when doctors thought hand-washing was demeaning, and sepsis in pregnant women was caused by backed up milk. There is no scientific reason to do it, and there are no indications that it is worthwhile.

    • MoD

      I think I read somewhere (could be wrong, I was reading all this stuff a year ago) that it could actually trigger early labor to do all that roughhousing with your nipples.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      My hairstylist told me her doctor said that! My nipples cried.

  • Snarktopus

    This was nice. I wish it had been around when I was pumping for Baby Girl and the NICU nurses would look at me and go “Is this it?”.
    It was HIGHLY discouraging.

    • Shannon

      That’s seriously messed up. If a patient of mine told me a nurse spoke to her that way, I’d tell her to report it. Way to be helpful!

    • koolchicken

      Can I second Sharon here? When my son was in the NICU my nurses cheered if I got more than 3ml TOTAL, per pumping session. Hell, they were just happy I was game to bf/pump at all. They said anything I produced was more than enough, he was also getting something at every feed, and when they’re that little their tiny tummies can’t take much more than that anyways. Anyone who puts you down over what you’re able to pump (which is sooo outside your control) should be fired.

    • Amanda Jay Dee

      Same thing happened with me. My breastfeeding relationship was ruined with my First, because of NICU staff. They started my daughter on formula (inorganic, of course!), without even askng me! They made me feel like I was starving her, because I was not ‘pouring out the milk’, and apparently LOTS of mothers with 34-weekers ARE. Certain family members were no help, either. was formula-feeding;breastfeeding; pumping for four-five months straight. Every three hours, with a total of two hours from start to finish. This was what I was taught to do by NICU nurses. So, by the end I was so sleep deprived and depressed with the whole thing, I just stopped breastfeeding altogether. I wish I had been under the care of a Midwife, honestly. Someone who actually had the time (the NICU was very understaffed) to educate me and support me with doing-away with formula feeding. If only I had known how small an infant’s stomach was at the time, or how it DOES take time for MOST mother’s milk to ‘come in’, I would have said “no” to formula and just EBF like there was no going back! My First-born is healthy, beautiful and VERY strong. I am glad I tried for her, but the sadness of not trying *harder* remains to this day, over five years later…I have done my best to let go of guilt, as it serves neither my daughter nor I, any good whatsoever.
      My 2nd and 3rd were/are EBF, and they were also (somewhat) early) by 1 and 2 weeks.
      Sorry for the long post, but yours triggered me to vent BIG TIME.

  • Aimee Beff

    I was soooo lucky to have my babies at the hospital I did; the nurses were both really encouraging and really reassuring that, yes, it’s OK that you only pumped two milliliters just now, that is totes normal, and you will be able to nurse your twins (if that is what you want to do). We also had a LC visit each day we were in the hospital, and sometimes more than one a day, each of whom had a new tip or trick to help make my children less idiotic about doing the thing they have to do to stay alive, and they were honest about the fact if it REALLY hurt, the baby needed to come off and re-latch, but that, yeah, my boobs were going to be sore for a while and here is some lanolin. And they brought me formula when both kiddos dropped too far below birth weight and needed supplementing, and when I was the one bawling over it reassured me that I was doing the right thing for my babies. Now I’m a very happy milk fountain myself (but I still give formula at the late night feeding so the twins sleep for an extra hour, bahaha.) but there is NO way I could have powered through the nipple-gnawed rock-hard-boobage of the first two weeks without all the Real Talk (and Real Boob Manhandling) from those ladies. I’m not religious but BLESS YOU, nurses of St. Mary’s. Every post-delivery ward in the world could benefit from more honest lactation help and less formula judgy-pantsing.

    • rrlo

      I had this cheat sheet the hospital gave me. And in it said that it may take 20 attempts or more to successfully latch a baby. That was so comforting.
      Also, I hate it when the experts say that if it hurts it’s because the latch is wrong. It hurts because a hungry baby is constantly sucking on a very sensitive part of the body. It hurts EVEN more if the latch is wrong…

    • Aimee Beff

      “Here is a body part that has previously only been used for sexy funtimes. Now a baby is going to chew on it like it is a stick of gum for an hour straight and–what?! It hurts? You must be doing something wrong, you idiot!”

    • Emil

      Wish I had read this a few years ago. Would have saved me sooo much frustration. I got the: if it hurts you’re doing it wrong. All it did was make me feel inadequate on top of being in pain.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      This. I remember the DAY my nips didn’t release a wave of FFFUUUUUUU when she latched. 17 days old.

  • My2bits

    One of the most encouraging articles I have read in a long time. I want to send a link to all my pregnant friends. :-)

  • keelhaulrose

    I have never felt like a failure quite like those who insisted BFing was ‘easy’ and those who can’t do it are evil wenches.
    When my second daughter was born she was in the NICU for a while. She had to be fed through a tube. I tried pumping. Every two hours I’d spend 45 minutes with those things on my breasts, and I’d get maybe a tenth of an ounce. I can’t tell you how dejected I felt after coming in one morning with a half ounce and hearing the nurse say “that’s it?” The lactation consultant didn’t help, her advice was “once baby gets out of the NICU and can feed on her own it’ll come.”
    It didn’t. And I had enough humiliation I didn’t want to go back and ask for help. I would have rather felt like a failure at home than in public.
    I wish someone had told me some of these things. I might have felt more comfortable asking for help and sticking to it.

    • Aimee Beff

      “It’ll just happen! Boobs and babies are magical, as we all know.” I hope insurance paid well for that spectacular “consultation” work. I also want to slap your terrible nurse. :/ Anyone who thinks breastfeeding is easy needs the experience of waking their SO up to shove a screaming infant at him while bawling “MY BABY IS HUNGRY AND I CAN’T FEED HIM, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME”. It’s SO special and natural. Just like cholera.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Ugh. I get so angry when I hear stories like this. Like you weren’t dealing with enough stress with a baby in NICU. I’m sorry.

  • rrlo

    I am going to ask a couple of controversial breastfeeding questions. And I am NOT a lactivist – nor do I care how one feeds their babies. Let me know what you ladies think:
    1. At a baby class I spoke to several ladies who were REALLY into organic food and hand blending organic food.
    Yet, all of them either had or planning to stop nursing due to a variety of reasons (like baby is getting teeth). I didn’t say anything because it would be horribly rude and none of my business – but I found it contradictory that those who are SO into organic food would be so casual about early weaning – since breast milk is much more “organic” than formula. Any thoughts?
    2. This is much more common and happened with many friends (whom I adore and love). These friends prior to having a baby were very interested in breastfeeding – they bought the expensive pumps and boppies – what have you. But they learned next to nothing about breast feeding itself – such as how to latch, how much food the baby needs etc. Do you think this is because of what Maria is saying that women are deluded into thinking breastfeeding would come naturally and would be easy? And when it isn’t, and you are tired and anxious – many just give up EVEN though they really wanted to breastfeed in the first place?

    • Bethany Ramos

      For #2, I would say probably so. I would have never looked up a single thing about breastfeeding, besides the supplies, if my midwife hadn’t forced to me watch BFing YouTube videos as homework. I was also way, way more nervous to breastfeed than even give birth because I still didn’t get it.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      I don’t think a love of organic food indicates a love for pain. Babies bite! Your nipples. It hurts like hell!

    • Courtney Lynn

      Hells yeah, they do! Even without teeth. My son was a nipple-biter.

    • rrlo

      Ouch! I didn’t have a nipple biter – so never had to face that.

    • AnastasiaMcNally

      Oh my god I have a nipple biter right now and it is so awful!

    • Bric-a-Brac

      Mine was vicious. She had nipple confusion after they had me give her a bottle the first night in the hospital because she was a bit jaundiced. She also, to this day, has a wicked temper. She would actually rear her head back and lunge forward and *CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP* ON MY F**KING NIPPLE! I learned quickly that she would get a certain look on her face when she was about to do it and quickly get my finger in her mouth before she could bite me. That put an end to that really quickly :)

    • Sophie

      For #2 I would say that when I was pregnant, I was much more focused on the birth and delivery than on the breastfeeding. Until I started doing it, I hadn’t read much about it at all. After I started though, I read so much that I felt like an expert on it. I nursed my oldest for almost 3 years and my 2nd for 2 years.

  • phoenix81

    Great article, and definitely required reading for new moms. I loved breastfeeding, but it was always a struggle for me. I had a “friend” tell me all about her 2000oz stash of breast milk in the freezer one day when we talking about my struggle maintaining supply (and not in a helpful way…). The best thing I did was have a lactation consultant come out to my house. She was amazingly supportive and informative.

    • Iwill Findu

      For me it was le leche league. One tearful phone call at midnight and this woman I had never met before was on the phone with me until 1am talking me though the whole thing and then she was at my door the next morning and spent two hours with me working on latching on and telling me all the ways I could increase my supply, but not go so over board that I would end up engorged. The lactation consultant didn’t help me at all, she just kept telling me I was doing great and it would be fine, no lady my nipples are bleeding this is not great.

    • MoD

      My “lactation consultants” were the same. I read reviews for the top-rated lactation consultants in the area and made an appointment with them soon after we took baby home. While they were initially helpful those first couple weeks when I could come in for appointments, once I was back at work and struggling with supply while pumping, I couldn’t in touch with them! I’d leave messages and hear back days later. And they told me to pump more often. That’s all. Pump more often. Pump every two hours at work (because I totally have time to pump 4-5 times a day at work!) The way they said it was almost condescending, like it’s no big deal. Maybe if you’re a lactation consultant they’re more understanding about someone taking a twenty minute break every two hours, but in the real world….

    • Natasha B

      I was good at BF-after I got the hang of it. But pumping? Ugh. 15-20 min and a little half ounce. So discouraging.

  • Hutch

    I would have loved this when I was breastfeeding – I was sure I was an idiot or broken. Then my SIL told me about a friend who took 2 months to get the hang of it. It almost took me that long too – and I mostly enjoyed it, when it clicked. But I was a mess those first few weeks.

  • Stacey

    I learned two things in the brief time I breastfed:
    1. Not all women can do it.
    2. Nipples grow back.

  • Courtney Lynn

    I LOVE this! You are so right on and so honest. I breastfed my son until he was 5 months (went back to work, supply severely suffered after that). I thought it was going to be SO easy with my daughter because she was our second kid and I had BTDT. Nope. She had to learn how to do it (yes, they actually have to LEARN it) and I had to re-learn. We had the same 2-3 hour sessions that I had with my son in the beginning. She’s almost 5 months and exclusively breastfed (because it’s FREE and I hate washing bottles). She’s a pro now, but it wasn’t any easier with the second kid.

    And ditto on making shit up on the chart. I wised up to it when my son was born because I knew that’s what they wanted. With my daughter, my nurse was so awesome and had BFed her babies, too so she knew firsthand what it was like.

    • Natasha B

      That was one of my main reasons for BF. Not having to stumble to the kitchen, wash a bottle, mix, and heat it. So much easier to just whip a boob out and doze back off.

    • Courtney Lynn

      LOL…in their first few weeks, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep WHILE doing it.

  • Coby

    Breastfeeding in any way, shape or form is tough. I’m fortunate in that I had really great support from our hospital, lactation consultants and pediatrician. DD latched relatively well and easily, and if not, it was easy to correct. You know what almost did me in? Pumping. No one prepared me for that shit. On top of that, pumping AND working. I took a breastfeeding class, and I felt like that covered the basics of nursing a newborn. Where it fell woefully short, however, was pumping. I had to ask my day nurse at the hospital about a pump, and she seemed a little lost by the question.

    Once I returned to work, I had to take breaks every 2-3 hours at work to pump, and my self-esteem and self-worth were *SO* attached to being able to pump enough milk for my daughter. A co-worker of mine pumped after her maternity leave, and I don’t think she realized how tough it would be. I believe she stopped nursing at around 8-9 months, whereas I, glutton for punishment, kept pumping through to at least 15 months.

    I almost cried the day I stopped pumping because it was such a joyous occasion for me.

    • MoD

      I also had a learning curve with that pump. They basically tossed it at me at the hospital as we were leaving. I remember asking for a larger breast shield, having done a bit of research beforehand, and the nurse telling me the one they gave me was fine (totally not true, I actually needed two sizes bigger, and most people need bigger than the ones it comes with). So clearly the nurse who helped me, a “lactation consultant”, had no clue what she was talking about. She didn’t even see my breasts, so how in the world would she know what size I would need?

      I started pumping baby was three days old. The pump was easier on my nipples than the baby at first and I almost became a dedicated pumper, but we figured it out eventually and mostly stuck to nursing, but I still pumped in the mornings because my boobs were so full (and that became his evening bottle when he was impatient with my slow flow at night).

      I returned to work when he was four months, and okay with pumping at first. By eight months, I was so over it. My supply had dwindled and I’d pump maybe six ounces over a nine-hour day, and that was basically his afternoon snack. He was over my boobies because they were too slow and not as filling as a nice big ol’ bottle of formula. So we moved on to formula full time and while I miss breastfeeding he doesn’t seem to mind at all. I probably mentioned to a few too many coworkers my excitement of retiring that damn pump.

    • Kat

      Oh man, are we the same person?! I pumped exclusively for the first month and it SUCKED, but I did it. One day I was pumping and the baby started crying and I thought, “well, I’ve already got the boobs out, let’s give this another go.” And the rest was history. He didn’t come out really understanding how to get food out of the boob, it took him being a little older before we had a good nursing relationship.

    • Iwill Findu

      I found music to be helpful well pumping I don’t know why but I somehow would end up with an extra ounce or two during each pump session. I am cow by arrogant worms became my pumping theme song.

  • kay

    I feel like when you read about breastfeeding it’s either all magical lactation fairies and rainbows made of milk or it’s “your nipples will bleed and it is the worst ever”. To me it’s on par with like, taking up a new workout. It’s hard at first, it makes your body hurt in weird ways, and it’s not totally comfortable. But it gets better.

    I think it would be helpful to have more of the “it’s hard but it gets better (and there’s no shame if it doesn’t work out for you and your baby)” as our rhetoric on breastfeeding. It’s not perfect and easy, but it’s not terrible forever, even if it starts out difficult. (and babies learn to eat faster! I so wish someone had told me that earlier on-I wasn’t sure how on EARTH I would keep it up until I started going to a moms group at 6 weeks and the facilitator pointed out to all of us with tiny ones how the older babies didn’t eat for 45 minutes straight. And didn’t demand to eat every single hour.)

  • July

    Don’t forget about babies who take forever to learn how to latch. My one year old still can’t hold my boob in his mouth without me jamming it in there and holding it in place. I still need a special chair, two arms, and to be practically naked from the top up to get all to work.

  • Natasha B

    By the time baby 3 rolled around, I was totally cheating on that sheet. I mean, come on. They even wanted to know which side, and for how long, blah blah blah. And then I was given extra sheets to fill out at home and take to the follow up appt. yeahhhh….
    La leche League and my mom really helped me through BF my first-I still sobbed in pain very time she latched on for the first two weeks. But, it gets better. It does. I think more education is needed in hospitals to really help women/infants get the hang of it. And that whole constant checking on you in the middle of the night??? With baby2, had just gotten him to sleep after ‘trying’ to nurse for 2 solid f-ing hours, lab nurse comes in and wanted a blood sample. At 3 am. I. Lost. My. Shit.
    They came back in the morning.

  • Brittany Anne

    Breastfeeding my now eight-month-old has been easy for me from the start, and I completely chalk that up to how great my hospital was. I had the opportunity to nurse my son within ten minutes of him being delivered. The hospital insisted on him rooming in with me (which I loved). Before I left the hospital, I was visited by *two* separate lactation consultants, both of whom gave me fantastic advice. And the hospital has free weekly group meetings with lactation consultants. I never wound up going, but I’m sure they’re wonderful.

    Seriously, I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I’m glad I did.

    • Natasha B

      That is awesome!!!! All hospitals should implement that. With my first, a nurse tried to give her sugar water. So not helpful.

    • Brittany Anne

      I really was amazed by how pro-breastfeeding they were, and I honestly think that just having that support from the very beginning makes all the difference in the world.

    • Natasha B

      I agree 100%. I hope more hospitals/birthing centers pick this up. Helpful/informative without being pushy.

    • Erin

      My hospital was like that, too. Rooming in, great lactation consultant, but no feeding logs. There was one night nurse that responded to my tearful plea for help by having me pump colostrum, which is not quite the thing to do, but overall I had a good experience.

      I was so nervous taking the babe home, since at the hospital it was hard to get him to latch without assistance, but we figured it out. It was so comforting to know that I had my lactation consultant’s card if the going got tough, and Kellymom.com was also a good resource that I stumbled on.

      Still breastfeeding/pumping at 8 months, but now instead of “that’s so great!”, people have started asking when I’m planning to stop! Wtf, people.

  • ChickenKira

    The worst thing for me was being a member of a facebook group where there was a self-titled ‘breastfeeding guru’ who had a real nasty streak in her.
    I remember sitting in the hospital bed after a failed attempt at latching and posting that I was struggling with it, her reply was “Did you even TRY to put baby to breast? It isn’t actually hard you know”.
    At the time it really upset me, but in hindsight, I’m thinking that she’s full of shit.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      She’s definitely full of shit.

    • http://lawleramericanadventure.wordpress.com/ Nicole

      And a grade-A cunt.

  • aCongaLine

    Low Milk => Stressville => Screaming Baby => Thoughts of Inadequacy => (PPD symptoms in some, DEFINITELY in me) => Lower Milk => Loss of Sanity

    On Repeat.

    So hard. I wish I had read this when I was in tears trying to BF with my first… It would have at least made me feel better.

  • AnastasiaMcNally

    The hospital I gave birth in had a very thorough, informative class on breastfeeding and without it I would have failed so hard! I had no idea about most of it as I’ve never been around any breastfeeding mothers. I had a lot of support in the hospital and after at home a nurse visited to see how we were going. I had quite an easy time because of all of this. I have a friend who is pregnant and I recommended the class to her (she’s going to the same hospital) and she said “oh, I’m not going to do anything like that. Breastfeeding is natural and you shouldn’t need help.” Ohhhhhh dear.

  • Kati

    It always hurts the first couple of weeks. Anyone who says differently must have dead nerves. Unless you’re breastfeeding your toddler when your baby is born, your boobs have probably had some downtime between kids. When a new kid comes along, your boobs have to adjust. I don’t know how much latch has to do with it in my case. The first time was definitely rougher because of latch, but the times following, I had a pretty good idea how to get the baby latched on right. It still freaking hurts. I have three kids and there have only been about 15 months in the past five years when I haven’t been nursing. Guess what. When my (now two month old) came along, it still hurt at first. My niece just had a baby a few days ago and she wants to breastfeed and I wanted her to know what to expect. I told her that just because I know how to hold and use a shovel, my hands will still blister if I shovel all day after not using a shovel for six months. If I shovel every day after that for the next two weeks, I’ll build up some callouses and my hands will be fine. Breastfeeding is the same minus the blisters (hopefully). Unless you regularly have your nipple in someone’s mouth six hours a day, your breast tissue will rebel at first. And then it gets better. And then it gets easy. And then you become one of those women who are to blame for everyone thinking it’s supposed to be easy because you’re nursing your six week old while eating a sandwich and pushing your older kids on the swings at the park and everyone hates you. The end.

    • http://lawleramericanadventure.wordpress.com/ Nicole

      I love that shovel analogy.

  • Rachel Sea

    Maybe it was natural and easy before pseudoscientists decided that breatmilk was harmful, and two generations were told not to/prevented from doing it, but there are health professionals out there who still don’t know that the areola has a purpose, so we’re a ways from breastfeeding being something new mothers have a good foundation to do well.

  • Lynnie

    YES!!!!!!!!!! I agree. When my son was born, I had a really bad time getting my son to latch and to stay latched and I had a low supply to boot. To top it off, I had a certain relative who had a super easy time (or so she said) breastfeeding telling me that I probably couldn’t breastfeed, a lot of women in my family couldn’t breastfeed, and I should just switch to formula. It was NEVER even suggested by anyone that it would be OK to combo feed my son breast milk and formula or that my struggles were rather common. I might have stuck with it if I were receiving more positive messages. I hope I am not blame shifting too much, but I received no help from the OB nurses whatsoever. Their “help” was shoving my boob in my son’s mouth and hoping for the best. By the time we got home, I was totally stressed out and mentally exhausted about breastfeeding. The idea of breastfeeding actually began to become repulsive and ANYTHING BUT a beautiful and bonding experience. I wish I had tried harder, but I can’t beat myself up over giving up instead of persevering. I have a great son and he is a true blessing.

    • darras

      There’s no blame to be handed here at all, nothing wrong with formula feeding. A happy mum makes for a happy baby and you stressing out over unsupported BFing would just have upset your son. Don’t feel bad! You did the best for your son and I have no doubt that he loves you regardless of your feeding decisions ;)

  • darras

    THIS! One thousand times this! Thank you for writing this Maria.

    My son chewed a massive hole in my nipple in his first two weeks. So huge that the specialist took a look, blanched slightly as said “Well that’s bad isn’t it.” I am still breastfeeding him (at six months), but it certainly hasn’t been easy. There have been a whole host of problems, if it wasn’t one thing it was another. I think that I have had maybe about a month of ‘easy times’ with it in total. I have an oversupply problem, which is far preferable to an undersupply problem – but still far, FAR from awesome. I wake up each morning with two rocks on my chest, it hurts like a bitch.

    But, I stuck with it because I had great support from friends and family who told me the truth from the beginning and helped me out and have been there to cry with me when things were bad. I’m really glad I did. But there is absolutely no shame at all in not breastfeeding! It’s far from easy, I’m so sick of the Breastfeeding Mafia out there, they made my sister in law feel like hell when she couldn’t BF due to her son’s allergy to her milk. It just isn’t necessary.

    A bit of support, some decent literature, and the baby-feeding world would be a lot happier.

  • Katherine Handcock

    Hooray for this! I had a relatively easy nursing experience with both kids, but that doesn’t mean it was EASY easy. I decided on this analogy: it’s “natural” for babies to learn to walk and talk, too, but no one expects them to do it perfectly the first time!

    By the way, my home province of Nova Scotia ran a great campaign called The First Six Weeks focused on educating people about the fact that it usually takes about that long to be fully established breastfeeding. Their tagline was “Breastfeeding. Learning makes it natural.” Their website is http://www.first6weeks.ca/.

    They also had some excellent TV commercials, which sadly I can’t find, that compared breastfeeding to learning a new language or a new sport.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Thanks for the link!

  • guest

    The first few weeks of breastfeeding is hard, I’ll give you that. But once you both get the hang of it it’s the ultimate in lazy parenting. Just pop that baby on the boob and in seconds you’re back to sleeping, or watching TV, or Facebook, heck you can even breastfeed hands free in a baby carrier. But yeah. The first part of it is a huge, painful, stressful learning curve.

  • Joye77

    I wish I read this 10 years ago. When I had my first son I was going to do everything properly and correctly, including the breastfeeding that I thought would be the best. Well, Add some latch problems + very painful boobs+ some nasty PPD = misery! I hated it. I cried every time it was time for him to eat, from the fear of the pain. I didn’t want to feed him because it hurt so damn bad. Lactation consultant simply told me that if it hurts I am not doing it correctly. Thanks lady. After three months of suffering and tears I was done, done, done. I didn’t even try to breastfeed the other two and my experience was simply a joy. Some people just aren’t made for it , I guess.

  • S

    I wish I’d read this before my son was born. The nurses were awful, told me he was starving and were generally unhelpful with breastfeeding. They’d shove him at me while manhandling my boobs and when he’d cry they’d throw up their hands and say he was an angry baby, then leave the room. It seemed like after a few times of this, he stopped trying so much and I don’t blame him. It was after we left the hospital and kept at it that he finally started getting it. I felt like such a failure for a while. The lactation consultant they sent was more helpful just because she watched, said I was doing everything right and that I just had to keep at it.

  • Jayamama

    I seriously had no pain with my second daughter. The only difficulty and frustration was teaching her how to suck, which I thought was instinctual, but apparently not. Once she learned what to do, we’ve had smooth sailing. Sure, my nipples were sore in the sense that they were not used to being messed with, but a week later, everything was dandy.

    This was only possible, however, because I went through two weeks of hell with my first daughter trying to get everything figured out. By the time I figured out that the pain I was feeling was not normal, it was too late. I had physical damage to the nipple (meaning parts of it was missing) and was bleeding. I couldn’t feed her without crying and I dreaded every session. It hurt so freaking much. It was a desperate midnight phone call with my midwife that made me realize that this wasn’t normal, and she helped me figure out a good latch. I’m glad I stuck with it, because neither of my daughters have ever had a drop of formula, but I totally understand why some mothers switch or supplement to preserve their sanity. It’s hard.

  • Alanna Jorgensen

    I was one that ended up quitting due to poor latch. I had so much trouble getting the whole areola in her mouth because she would clamp onto my nipple so fast. By the second day my nipples were so blistered I would cry out in pain every time we tried. I went to formula to let myself heal up a bit and tried pumping but got so little that I thought something was wrong with me. Later attempts to breastfeed didn’t go very well because she literally HATED one of my boobs and would cry and hit at it instead of eat. I felt like an abject failure and cried about it every time it came up for about 6 months. I wish there was more support and less derision and bragging from women to whom it came easily.

  • Shannon

    I hate the stories of breastfeeding that paint it all as sunshine and rainbows. It can be REALLY hard! I am training to be a lactation consultant, and I have to reassure moms all the time that even though it’s “natural”, it’s a skill you and your baby have to learn and practice. You don’t know how much damage control my coworkers and I have to do when OBs, pediatricians(!) and L&D nurses give new moms bad info. Anyone who gives it their best and tries to nurse gets a high-five from me, no matter what they end up doing.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    The only reason I kept breastfeeding when Mini Keatres was ripping my nips to shreds is I knew it would heal (although it took a LONG time and felt like it never would). My right nip had such a bad crack on it that I refused to nurse her. A breast pump saved my life because it didn’t hurt as much as her. It took three WEEKS before I could throw a tit in her face and not get overly anxious about how much it would hurt.

    And she had a perfect latch. I can’t imagine how painful it would have been otherwise. I might have exclusively pumped. Also, I’m one of those lucky cows who makes nursing like drinking from a fire hose so she spits up all the time too. It’s been a sucky (lol) road.

  • sandypanda

    Good points! With my first the lactation specialists at the hospital were totally crazy and stressing me out because I supposedly wasn’t making enough milk. They had me pumping constantly and the nurses even started sneak feeding my baby formula while I was sleeping even though I specifically asked them not to. He had a horrible latch that no one could fix. I had what were described as 3rd degree lacerations on my nipples. I cried every time he fed. This went on for months. Finally a woman from Le Leche League said “maybe your nipples are just too big for him. It’ll get better once he gets a little older”. And it did. After a horrible, stressful start my son just self weaned at 3 years old. So a successful nursing relationship can be had no matter how rocky of a start you get off to! Also, during the worst of it where I couldn’t even bear the pain of nursing him we supplemented with formula. I cried and cried when we started doing it but really it wasn’t the end of the world. He never got nipple confusion or refused my breast. He took formula occasionally for about a year. Now I’m pregnant with my second and much more flexible/ willing to lie to nurses, doctors, etc… to keep my sanity. I just hope this baby’s mouth is bigger than its brother’s!

  • Shannon

    Well, guess I really was an under producer like I thought I was. I quit after a month. My best 45 minute pumping session yielded about an ounce. I threw in the towel when near the end of the first month, it took me 2 days to pump about a tablespoon, and that was both boobs combined. Even with taking fenugreek and stinking like a spill at a maple syrup factory, lactation cookies, and beer ( I enjoyed that)

    But at least there were people in real life and on the internet equating successful mothering to breastfeeding. I ended up being treated for ppd a few months later, but man, I’ll tell ya. The entire pumping/ attempting to breastfeeding made me feel pretty damn suicidal.

  • Kelly

    I totally agree. I had the “fact” that I was a total failure as a mother thoroughly beaten into me by my MIL and an excessively bitchy lactation coach who both told me over and over again that it was the easiest thing in the world and I just wasn’t trying.

    Golly gee whiz, I wonder why I had PPD and my milk dried up completely when my son was two months old.

  • koolchicken

    My son was a “surprise c section”- that’s when you go to the midwife at 1pm and have your kid prematurely at 7pm. Nothing affects supply better than that crap. Yet everyone I came into contact was 100% certain that I could breastfeed, and that I wouldn’t have problems. And should one arise, it would be fixed. Everyone from my OB, to the pediatrician, the NICU staff, his heart specialist wanted to help. I did deal with supply problems for about 3-4 weeks, but I think the consistent attitude of breastfeeding is the norm and we’ll help you is what kept me from just giving my kid a bottle even when he lost scary amounts of weight. The second my milk came in it did so with a vengeance and my kid put on weight overnight (something he wasn’t doing with formula supplementation). So I think what women need is people to say, “yes this is the norm, it can be easy” and follow that up with “let me help you”. Riding a bike is easy too, but if you’ve never even seen one in action then you won’t even know how to approach it.

  • zach

    tits must be broke my wife needed bra pads before my kids were even born they were squirting that white gold didnt need formula for almost 8 months had that stuff on reserve in the freezer by the gallon and in terms of easy shiot my wife did that sleeping… pumped at work and home there was so much milk yes they did hurt when she didnt feed or pump but bust out that double pump and smooth sailing NOTE a automatic breast pump is a must and a double is a godsend just throw out that hand pump they give at the hospital

  • Lindy Wilson

    The first problem you mention is very much our way of birth in this country. It has such a huge effect on BF rates and yet ppl don’t get it! I would say that tribal women probably have much less pain bc they are around other nursing mothers their whole life and pick up on little tricks just from casual observation. The other women are probably much more versed in such tricks and can advise newer moms. However I love the third fact. I’ve heard of many moms who start supplementing bc they think they’re not making enough based on the pump- so sad!

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    my mam is half Indonesian and she swears by chewing ginger to bring milk in better.
    she also made a soup with pork, beans and chopped up ginger and cumin.
    smelled awful, tasted good and well, we all ended up VERY pudgy babies!

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