Inside: Are you struggling with nursing or know another mom who has breastfeeding struggles? For some moms, it’s a natural, easy thing. For the rest of us, nursing just plain sucks. Literally. Read on to find out how I got the courage to finally stop breastfeeding.
My baby, my eldest is turning a decade old in a week.
As I was looking back at her newborn pictures, it took me back to when I was a first time, brand new mama.
After my husband went back to work, it was just me and her. All day, every day.
It was our time to bond. Time to get to know each other. Time to fall in love with each other.
And it was awful.
I had read all the parenting books. I had subscribed to parenting magazines years before I was a parent.
I knew what I was supposed to do.
What good moms were supposed to do.
I was supposed to breastfeed my newborn.
And I just sucked at it. Or she sucked at it. I never figured out which one.
I had financially committed to breastfeeding by buying an expensive Medela breast pump and accessories.
And I had just quit my job to stay home so we could not have afforded formula even if we wanted to.
But more importantly, I had emotionally committed to breastfeeding before I was even showing off my bump.
Breastfeeding was the plan
Of course I would breastfeed my newborn daughter.
‘Breast is best’ messages are everywhere.
And she’ll be smarter if I breastfeed.
She won’t get sick if I breastfeed.
She’ll get better nutrients if I breastfeed.
She’ll be closer to me emotionally if I breastfeed.
She’ll go to college if I breastfeed.
The list went on.
Because what brand new, self-diagnosed perfectionist mom would ever willingly admit that they were going to offer their baby formula instead of doing what they ‘should’ do?
And it was awful from night one on.
In the hospital, she was up all night screaming for milk. The breastfeeding guru nurse aggressively shoved her onto my boob as I just sat there crying alongside my baby.
There was nothing sweet about it.
At home, breastfeeding never got easy and I tried everything I could think of.
I used a boppy. I tried the football hold and the crossover hold and the cradle hold.
I asked friends and family for help.
They were, of course, supportive as they encouraged me to keep trying.
It just has to get better, they reassured me, because it was easy for them.
I pumped meticulously to get more milk. The pumped milk went into the freezer for storage.
But no way could we give it to her and cause nipple confusion from a bottle. Right?
I went to a La Leche meeting. But the La Leche moms just told me there was nothing wrong with her tongue and that she should naturally want to breastfeed. Until she was four and weaned herself.
I read more books. The books all said that if it was painful I was doing it wrong and that it was a natural, beautiful thing. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. Apparently.
Per someone else’s suggestion, I would sit in the sun with my nipples exposed, willing the sun’s rays to heal my bleeding nipples. While they sat inside and snuggled and bonded with my baby.
I refused to nurse my daughter without that $8 plastic thing.
But it was still so hard.
And so very painful.
Which according to the books is not how breastfeeding works.
It hurt so much I used to literally bang my head against the wall as she breastfed to feel something other than the intensity that I felt on my nipples.
This was anything but natural. This was anything but beautiful. And I started to resent my baby. Forget bonding with her. I dreaded the 3-hour mark when I’d have to nurse her again.
I was exhausted. I was emotionally spent. And I hated every part of feeding her.
But one day, it all changed.
The Words I Needed to Hear to Stop Breastfeeding
My good friend and neighbor came over while I was attempting to nurse my daughter and she brought another neighbor, Krista with her.
Krista saw me struggling.
She heard our mutual friend reassure me to keep going with the breastfeeding and to keep trying until it got better.
But on that day, Krista did something for me that I will forever be in her debt for. She laid her hand on me and very quietly said,
“You know you can quit, right?”
“You don’t have to breastfeed her. She will be absolutely amazing if you keep going, and she will be absolutely amazing if you stop breastfeeding her. It’s okay to quit.
Because ‘Fed is Best.‘”
I just stared at her. I was so shocked by her words.
She gave me permission to change my mind.
She let me off the hook of my promise to myself.
She let me know, mom to mom, woman to woman that it’s okay to stop doing something that’s clearly not working.
I quit breastfeeding that day.
I used up the formula samples the hospital had sent home and then we asked our parents for help to buy the formula we needed.
And from that moment on, I became a better mom.
My daughter and I finally bonded and fell in love. I could feed her and not cry through it. I no longer dreaded her against my skin.
My nipples healed and so did my soul.
I could be a great mama and not breastfeed. All it took was another mom to give me permission.
I have thanked Krista many, many times over the years for her quiet comments that day.
But I’m not sure if she truly ever understood how much confidence she gave me that day.
Confidence to follow my gut, confidence to change my mind, and confidence to quit something that was torturous for me.
All my friends and family had been so supportive with the “you can do it’s,” but it took another mom who struggled with breastfeeding herself to give me the support I really needed.
How moms can help other moms we see struggling
The only way I have ever really repaid her kindness is to pay it forward.
When I see a friend struggling, I quietly whisper permission to them in case that’s what they were waiting for but didn’t know it.
And so I’ll quietly whisper it to you if there’s something you’re struggling with as a mom.
You know, you don’t have to make the organic baby food every day if you don’t want to anymore. It’s okay if you let your twins watch a half-hour television show so you can shower. And you can quit breastfeeding if it’s not working for you.
And just as Krista promised me, I’ll promise you: your baby will be amazing if you keep going and they will be amazing if you quit.
You’ve got to do what’s right for you.
So now pay it forward and offer permission to other mom friends you see struggling.
They’ll thank you for it one day.
Do you have a friend who needs permission for something?
What do you wish someone whispered to you and gave you permission for as a first time mom?
If you’re still wanting to give breastfeeding the old college try, go for it! Breastfeeding can be awesome! Here’s some support if you need and want it.
Here’s some more support. Good Luck!