The Ugly Truth About Breastfeeding

ugly truth about bfing

As I sit here in the early morning, working on my laptop and pumping milk from my body like a cow, I can’t help but think about how far I have come on this journey. It seems like yesterday, I brought this helpless, hungry little new baby home and had to figure out how to keep her alive. We’re told that it’s all instinct, but that isn’t always the case. For those of you wondering what this experience is really going to be like, I have a few shots of reality to share.

Breastfeeding a baby is not for the faint of heart. If you doubt your body’s ability to feed your newborn, you are not alone. And, you are in for a wild ride! I honestly didn’t expect to make it this far, and I thought about giving up a thousand times, maybe more.

I have been wanting to touch on this topic for awhile, but I didn’t feel quite like a seasoned pro until my daughter got a little closer to her first birthday. I have exclusively breastfed her since the day she was born, but I still feel like I’m learning something new about breastfeeding all the time. Along with exclusive feeding directly from the breast, I pump milk to store in the freezer for days that other people care for my baby, and to share with other moms who are unable to breastfeed. There are so many things that I have learned through trial and error, and I look back and wonder, why didn’t someone tell me this?! Maybe they did, and I was just too tired to hear them or remember what they said.

Let me start by saying that I do not really consider myself a breastfeeding advocate. In my opinion, great things speak for themselves and people can make their own choices about what works for their family. I know plenty of formula-feeding moms with happy, healthy babies, so my opinion will always be that you should do what works for you and your baby. That being said, I do think that breast milk is a wonderful thing, it’s healthy, and it’s free! So why not give it a shot? That was my thinking when this journey began and that is what has gotten me this far.

I tried to prepare for breastfeeding for weeks before my baby arrived. I read articles, and watched (frightening) videos, and talked to experienced family and friends…but honestly, no amount of preparation can actually prepare you for breastfeeding your baby. The experience is different for everyone, so you just have to wait and see for yourself. That being said, there are a few basic truths that can help you to feel a little less alone and a little less overwhelmed.

Ugly Truth # 1: Breastfeeding Might Not Come Natural to Your Baby

It kind of sucks to admit that you and your baby can’t quite figure out this very normal and natural thing. You might feel like a complete failure, and you might not, but you will probably wonder at some point or another why your baby just can’t figure out how to latch on and suck properly! Try to stay calm. Most of the time, these babies do figure it out with a little help. They are new and inexperienced, so they need some practice and guidance, just like you do. My baby was not a natural at this; she struggled and she screamed and we both cried, a lot. Don’t feel bad if this just doesn’t come naturally to you and your newborn. You will get the hang of it with some practice and patience.

Ugly Truth # 2: It Really, Really Hurts

Now, people did tell me that it was going to hurt. They told me this a lot actually. Every mom I spoke to wanted to sear into my brain the fact that breastfeeding is going to hurt more than anything I have felt before. It was super annoying to listen to…but, it does hurt, probably more than you will expect it to. You will have a baby sucking on your nipples for all hours of the day and night, so they are going to be sore, and dry, and probably cracking and bleeding. Use coconut oil. It isn’t going to magically make the pain go away, but it is going to help the area stay moist and keep your nipples from cracking and bleeding. I used Lanolin a few times and I didn’t care for it, so I switched to coconut oil and never looked back.

Maybe the pain isn’t so bad for some moms, but even with the assistance of several lactation consultants and nurses, there is no escaping the fact that this very sensitive part of your body will be sucked completely raw. The pain lasted about two solid weeks, to be honest, but it was endurable pain. And once the pain was over, it was really over, and it was all worth it.

Ugly Truth # 3: It Will Take Two Hands

I was always seeing photos of a glamorous mom with a baby attached to her breast and her free hand tending to something else. I wondered what was wrong with me and my baby, and why it took two hands to keep her latched on. I had to hold her little body with one hand and squeeze/flatten my breast with the other hand to get her centered and keep her latched. After many emotional convos with a lactation consultant, we finally learned that we were normal. My baby was just inexperienced and practically had to be force fed at first; she did not want to nurse unless it was super easy for her. If she had to work at all, she would refuse the breast. So yes, it took me two hands and a lot of struggling to help her learn her way.

After about 3 months, she got the hang of latching on without so much help, and it got easier. Now, she can latch on with no problems and I can nurse her while doing just about anything.

Okay, we’re halfway through the ugly truth about breastfeeding! Are you discouraged yet? Well, don’t be. You should be looking at this objectively and be able to see the good in your decision to breastfeed, regardless of the struggle. I wanted this article to be an honest look at the side of breastfeeding that you don’t see on social media, the raw side…but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful, or magical, or healthy. It just makes your expectations a little more realistic.

image

How I feel feeding my baby…

Ugly Truth # 4: You Will Always Have a Baby Hooked to Your Breast…Always

My nurses and consultants helped me through 3 days in the hospital, but then I was on my own. My milk didn’t come in until day 4…so if you can imagine a tired, emotional, half-suicidal, doubtful wreck of a new mom with bleeding nipples and a hysterical crying newborn, then you’re right there where I was that first night home!

The nurses advised me to let my baby eat whenever she wanted, for as long as she wanted, to keep my milk supply up. They also explained that breastfed babies will eat at least 10-12 times within a 24-hour period. So if it feels like your baby is eating every hour on the hour, they probably are! My baby nursed about 12 times in a 24-hour day, for at least an hour each session. That leaves very little time for anything else. I literally had a baby hooked to my breast all day and night, for about 5 months. My body ached; it was difficult to exercise because I was constantly being interrupted by a hungry baby rooting, then cooing, then crying in agony over her momentary lapse of fullness.

Just when I wanted to give up, it got easier. My baby learned to suck more efficiently, our feeding sessions got shorter, and I could squeeze in some exercise without interruption. And now at 9 months, she nurses 6-8 times in a 24-hour day. Some moms set a stricter schedule for feeding intervals and length, but as a new mom that worried about my supply dropping, I insisted on feeding on demand. I don’t regret it, because I had enough milk to nourish my own baby, and donate to other babies in need.

On another bright note, I learned how to work, exercise, grocery shop, write, and do household chores with a baby hooked to me…Talk about multi-tasking!

Ugly Truth # 5: Your Baby Will Always Be Hungry

Another fun fact no one told me ahead of time: breast milk digests faster than formula, so your baby will be hungry more frequently. When I would hear my friends talking about their formula-fed babies sleeping through the night, I would feel a tiny bit jealous, but mostly just because I thought in my mind that something was wrong with my milk. Nothing is wrong with your milk, it just digests quickly and leaves your little one wanting more. It’s normal, so just try to enjoy those frequent encounters where your sweet baby relies solely on you, for special nourishment and comfort.

Ugly Truth # 6: You Will Face Judgement

Motherhood comes along with judgement; in fact, sometimes I think they are synonymous terms. You might face judgment for exposing your breast to feed your baby, for supplementing with formula, for quitting breastfeeding too soon, or for carrying it on too long. No matter what you decide to do, someone out there is going to have something to say about it. So just do the best you can, focus on the health of your baby, and ignore all the rest.

If you made it to the end of this article, you probably picked up on the fact that I don’t think this breastfeeding stuff is for sissies. It’s difficult at first, and it can be emotionally and physically draining. But I can honestly say that it has been worth enduring every challenge that came my way. I am thankful that I have been able to nourish my baby with perfectly balanced milk that came from my own body. All of those chunky rolls are due to our perseverance as a team, me and her. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything.

If you are determined to give breastfeeding a go, and you’ve prepared yourself for the not-so-glamorous parts that I’ve mentioned here, you just might find this to be one of the best experiences of motherhood.

You can follow our journey on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and here on the BLOG.

Article by: Cate Rosales
6.30.2016

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73 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Breastfeeding

  1. theclutterboxblog says:

    I don’t have kids and won’t be having kids. So I can’t relate. But the last one you cover is the one I struggle with the most, because I don’t feel you should be judge for something that is one hundred percent natural and needed. And it’s sad that American Society has brought something that should be normal into something shameful. I have watched my friends and family go through the motions you have mention and I can’t even imagine. I do my best to be the support they need at those times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      That is wonderful that you are so supportive of your loved ones. My local area is pretty laid back and accepting of whatever parenting style, so I havent felt personal persecution, but I feel for those that do. We do have to be prepared for judgement, and also prepare to rise above it. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

      Like

  2. Jaime says:

    Loved this post! I breastfed my daughter exclusively for 6 months, but due to a low supply, had to start supplementing with formula. We put so much pressure on ourselves as mom’s to do what we think is best for our baby and sacrifice so much! I remember wanting to give up so many times too….as my daughter slept, husband slept, and I was up several times at night pumping so I could stock up on milk! Everything you said in your article is so true!! You’re a great Mom!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Thank you so much! I do feel that there is enough real pressure on us, we dont need to add unnecessary pressure. We should just do the best we can and try to encourage each other. This is hard stuff! Hang in there mama, and thank you for commenting.

      Like

  3. seethebeauty19 says:

    This is so very true-every bit. And I have learned, after having three, that each one is so very different. My first never quite got the hang of it, the other two did great, for different lengths of time. I guess sometimes the “experts” downplay some of the truths out of fear that many wouldn’t try which I guess is kind of sad. But then again, would you try if you knew you would literally bleed those first weeks? Well written, honest, and relatable, I loved it! But now with my youngest being 2, I miss having a baby…oh dear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! Wow, 3 successfully breastfed babies…I’m intimidated having you read my work. I do think all babies are different, and absolutely think it is worth the struggle. But man, I did a lot of prep and was nowhere near ready for what it really took! So my only hope is that people will read my article and see that is it doable, it’s just a challenge during the learning curve, for mom and baby. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  4. Leah says:

    These are really important tips for new moms to know. I will say though that my breastfeeding experience is completely different with my 8 month old son than it was with my daughter. My daughter was latched on constantly and it did hurt to feed her. My baby boy has been an efficient eater from day one, and I haven’t had the same issues with soreness. I can’t say if it’s the child or having more experience now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Awesome, I’m so glad that your baby boy is a good eater, and that both of your babies managed! Some of my LCs said that every baby is different, that some catch on right away and others take a little longer. We’ll see how it goes if I end up having a second one some day. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  5. Shann Eva says:

    Yes! Breastfeeding is definitely hard. I breastfed my first, and I remember the cracked nipples, the plugged ducts, and the constant feedings. With my twins, they were in the NICU so long, that they got used to bottles. I exclusively pumped for them for a year. That is even harder!!!

    Like

  6. thetravelpockets says:

    I haven’t had any children, but my friends have told me plenty about breastfeeding! Had no idea that it was difficult until they were telling me their stories. Congrats for being a seasoned pro πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robin Masshole Mommy says:

    I formula fed from day one. I knew long before I ever got pregnant that breastfeeding was not for me. It’s definitely not for every mom πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Its not for every mom. I never intended to breastfeed, my 3 sisters and I were not breastfed and I found it so weird. But my mind sort of changed during pregnancy, and I’m happy it worked out for me and my baby. Thanks for sharing your honest decision and being proud of it! πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ

      Like

  8. Amberly says:

    I loved this post! I wasn’t able to nurse my first, but I’m really hoping to nurse my second and I’m nervous because I know that it will be such a different experience than bottle/formula feeding my first little one

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Just dont be afraid to ask for help from your husband, a nurse, lactation comsultant etc. It will be different, and will probably be difficult, but having help and support makes it so much easier. Best wishes to you!!

      Like

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Haha, I love this Greta. Good of you to be ready to stand up for your friends so they can feed their baby in peace! I honestly wasnt a good friend to my breastfeeding mom friends before, but only because I really didnt understand the struggle! I’m much more conscious now!

      Like

  9. Cynthia Landrie says:

    I breast fed my daughter and was happy when she latched on right away. A couple days later, she didn’t want to! I thought I had failed. Then she got hungry enough and we on our way for over a year. I loved knowing that I could do something for her that no one else could. You are right, they are always hungry and it does hurt. It was worth it though.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Terri Steffes says:

    I loved this post. I breastfeed my daughter for six months, then she all but said, I quit! She wanted to be fed by someone else (dad) and screamed when she was brought to me. Really. So I pumped for a time and then we decided formula was going to be fine. Everyone was happy and she let me feed her from a bottle. She’s still very independent!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. onceuponadollhouse says:

    Thank You for sharing. If we ever get the opportunity to become parents we will remember this post for sure. Glad Coconut Oil helps you out, its a great product with so many uses.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. thelavenderladies says:

    This is a great REAL life depiction of the struggles a BF mom can go through….great job! I am on month 5 of BF my daughter and i am lucky to have had no real troubles doing it. I envy you that you are able to pump enough to have stores in the freezer! That’s something I’ve struggled with. Keep up the good work, momma!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. tiarasandtantrums says:

    Yep yep and yep!! My MIL used to get so mad at me for breast feeding. She told me I deprived her of feeding and holding the baby. All of my babies exclusively breast feed and I never pumped – so yes, I had a baby at my side for about 8 years straight! ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Krista Dial says:

    We don’t have kids yet, so I don’t have experience this, but my mom breastfed me and I’m hardly ever sick…so I definitely plan to breastfeed when we start a family. I really appreciate you sharing your perspective and experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. lalainemanalo says:

    I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby (and by baby I mean a now-grown 25 year old) and I feel like a missed the best experience of motherhood. For some reason, she preferred the bottle.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Blythe Alpern says:

    I think the hardest part for every mom is how judgemental people are, and I don’t get it. Why is it suddenly okay to mom shame? We all do the best we can, and it really isn’t anyone’s business to judge.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Amanda says:

    I’m at the end of my breastfeeding journey with my fourth and last baby. She’s 3 and not showing many signs that she’s giving up her nighttime and early morning cuddle and feeding sessions. Now that I look back on the years I did breastfeed, there were so many ugly parts, but the one’s I remember are the beautiful ones. Time does an amazing thing for the memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. lucethecreator says:

    I nursed my first born sun for 6 months. The last two months were a mixture or soy and my milk. I found it very difficult because I started a new job and I didn’t dedicate enough time to pumping. I’m due to have my new sun in five weeks and I hope I can breastfeeding for 12 months at least. That’s the goal: -)

    Like

  19. Yvonne Sowell says:

    Amen! I know I felt like a total cow when I had to feed my son, but I know it was for his best so I trucked on. 9 months later I missed it. Now my son is 1 and I’m thankful because he hasn’t had any illnesses so far. So I’m definitely thankful I did go through it, which I cannot be sure but I assume that’s where he got his antibodies.

    Like

  20. teachworkoutlove says:

    ugh it did not come naturally to me and i had a really hard time doing it and it caused me to be super depressed because of all the nurses and people that push it and say ur baby is going to not be so connected to you and all that crap… ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. RenΓ©e β™₯ says:

    I breastfed five babies, and we were very blessed – it came pretty naturally to all of us. (I’m kind of a crunchy Oregonian, so maybe it’s in our genes.) I did have one brief episode with a breast infection with baby #2 that I thought was going to kill me, but other than that, it was a breeze. Everything you mention though is so true. It takes time, and you do have to ride it through those first few days, but it usually does get better. As for the judging and shaming – how is that still even a thing? Whatever you do, people need to get over it and be glad that you are trying your best to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted human beings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate (@sweetsimplecate) says:

      Great job breastfeeding five babies, hats off to ya mama! I used to live in Oregon, such a beautiful place. I’ve never personally been mommy shamed, but I just hear such stories from friends…I wouldn’t care if someone did judge me, I’m too busy living my life and enjoying my baby to worry what they think. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  22. Terryn Winfield says:

    Oh my sweet friend…I just read this and found myself laughing and nodding, and in tears at the same time. I am currently nursing my 6th baby and I completely know what you mean and more. Yes, yes, and more yes. It is so much work and SO worth it. The time goes by far too quickly and you will NEVER regret those special moments together. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  23. In The Lyons Den says:

    Great article for anyone who is going to breastfeed. It is hard work but also very rewarding. It is sad that society judges women so much on this because it is very difficult for some and very easy for others. This is a lovely article.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Ana De Jesus says:

    It annoys me when people judge something so natural as breastfeeding, how the hell do they think they were fed? It was milk in some shape or form. Sorry to hear that it hurts and it must take some getting used to but I have heard it creates a good bond between mother and child x

    Liked by 1 person

  25. toughcookiemommy says:

    I was able to breastfeed for a couple of weeks with our youngest son and it definitely was not easy. I think that mothers should have the freedom to make any decision they need to make for the nutrition of their babies.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. runrunmomma says:

    Wow, kind of wish I read this before my first! I’m breastfeeding baby number three and it did get much easier, but wow. That first breastfeeding experience is an eye opener! ( and holy cow, did it hurt!!!) Thanks for sharing! So true.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. thecoffeemom0617 says:

    I loved this article. I nursed my daughter until she was two and she’s 4 now, and I’m currently nursing my 3 month old little boy. It is definitely not glamorous or for sissies but it works for us and I love it.

    Like

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