Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Hated Breastfeeding

Yes, really.  I have been breastfeeding for more than seven years now, but for a year, I hated it.  Surprised?  Yeah, in all my posts about breastfeeding, I have never devoted one to nursing aversion.  Even when I blogged about nursing through pregnancy, tandem nursing and triandem nursing, it was just a passing mention.  It isn't a secret, really.  I think that like some of my fellow breastfeeding mamas, I just get caught up in the benefits or the nursing in public controversy, or even the early obstacles to breastfeeding, and had never bothered to address what happens when, after more than a year of happy breastfeeding, it becomes something you hate.

The first few weeks of breastfeeding are notorious for being difficult.  You and your baby are both learning how it works, how to latch, etc.  You are sleep deprived and hormonal.  It can be rough.  Then, it all falls into place, you and baby work out a rhythm and it becomes a wonderful, snuggle-filled, oxytocin-boosting way to meet your baby's needs.  If, like me, you become pregnant before your baby is ready to wean, you may decide to continue to breastfeed through the pregnancy and beyond.

I was aware of all the recommendations to breastfeed for a minimum of two years, so I had committed to myself to nurse that long.  I also knew that the American Academy of Pediatrics had deliberately chosen not to set an upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding, and that all the other organizations recommended continuing as long as the mother and baby wanted.  I believed that it was important to respect my child's readiness and not wean before she was finished.  I also knew that breastfeeding through pregnancy was safe, and might even help my toddler to avoid jealousy of the new baby.  Sounded good.

I also knew that many women experienced a drop in supply towards the end of the first trimester, and that some babies decide to wean because of changes in the milk, or the decrease in amount of milk.  I was really, really worried that my daughter would be one of those.  Like most moms that bring a sibling into the life of their baby, I was concerned about the transition, and wanted to do everything possible to reassure her and meet her needs.  Nursing was such a special, love-filled time for us.  She would laugh delightedly just before latching on, and I was so happy to be able to give her something she wanted and needed.  But it changed.

The changes were both physical and emotional.  My nipples were sore, regardless of her latch.  Then as the milk started to dry up, so did my emotional well. The creepy-crawlies hit.  I don't know how to describe it if you have never experienced it.  Maybe like a million ants on you.  I don't know.  I wanted to scream and shriek, "Get off me!"  It was awful.  I would grit my teeth, and try to concentrate on anything except the horrible sensations.  I was afraid that if I limited her too much, she would wean completely, so I endured it as much as I could.

People expect pregnant women to complain of backaches, tiredness, swollen ankles and things like that.  But I didn't feel like I could complain about this.  Most people thought I was crazy for doing it to begin with.  If I opened my mouth and let on how much it was bothering me, they would reasonably suggest I wean.  And I still didn't want to do that.  So I kept it to myself, and even with my husband I was reluctant to express just how loathsome it seemed.

And the guilt!  Oh, the guilt!  How could I feel this way about something that was so important to my daughter?  What if she sensed my feelings?  Would she feel rejected?  Would it actually be better to wean her than to continue doing something that felt so negative?

Those are important questions, and I would never presume to answer them for another nursing mom.  I agonized over them.  I prayed.  I thought.  I went back and forth.  Ultimately, I kept reaffirming that this was a choice that I was making, and that I was doing what I wanted to do because I believed it was worth it.

It got easier when the colostrum came in.  It got easier still once my son was born and there was an abundance of milk.  Seeing the joy on her face as she gulped leche is still one of my favorite memories.  But, the feelings persisted, although much less intensely than during the pregnancy.  There were times when I would turn my face as she latched on because I didn't want her to see the tension in my expression.  Then there were other times when I enjoyed it as much as before the pregnancy, where we smiled tenderly into each other's eyes.

Gradually, those times became more frequent and the icky feelings disappeared.  For the last year and a half that she nursed, I was able to welcome her nursing wholeheartedly without any reservations.  She eventually weaned in the last trimester of my third pregnancy, a few months after turning four.  I went on to nurse through two more pregnancies (nursing two kidlets while pregnant) and for the last nine months I have had three nurslings.

I was really worried that those feelings would come back in subsequent pregnancies, but although dry nursing was always uncomfortable, it was never as bad as the first time around.  In my last pregnancy it wasn't an issue at all, at least in part because of my coping strategies.  I share all the things that I learned to make it easier in this post.  :)

If you are nursing through a pregnancy, hugs to you.  If you are going through nursing aversion, please let go of any guilt so that you can objectively evaluate what is best for your family.  I can say in all honesty that I am very, very glad that I stuck it out.  Those feelings went away and breastfeeding was even better after having worked through that.  The benefits were totally worth it for us.  But if it is different for you, that is OK.  I know how hard it can be, and would never judge another mom for choosing differently.  Your experience is your own, not mine.

I know that it is hard to talk about, because it is hard to tell your fellow breastfeeding advocates that you hate to breastfeed, and you are probably already feeling judged by others for nursing while pregnant to begin with.  I want to give you an ear and a hug and no criticism.   If you decide to wean, that it OK.  I also want to give you hope and encouragement.  It does get better and it can eventually result in tremendous joy.

Note:  I decided to include this post in the Tandem Nursing Blog Hop, because I wish someone had shared it with me my first time through.  Here is the linky to more tandem posts:

26 comments:

Nicole said...

crying reading this.. have been going through this with my 4.5 year old tandem nursing son...

thank you for writing this!!

dulce de leche said...

(((Nicole))) Love and blessings to you and your kidlets.

Terri said...

Wow you've described so much of what I went through in pregnancy. I just wrote a post on tandem nursing as we have been at it for 18 months now. Yes it was a rough ride for a while but I am so glad I stuck it out too. I'm also glad to know that it was not so bad during subsequent pregnancies...not sure if we are going to have another but I hope it would be the same for me. Thanks for sharing.

dulce de leche said...

Thanks, Terri! I loved your post--in fact, reading it last night was what got me thinking about this and inspired me to write this post. :) <3

Anonymous said...

I am one of those mommas that weaned my son when pregnant. I so didn't want to but felt that I had to for my own health. I had already lost 10 pounds due to malabsorption with my Crohn's disease and morning sickness. I was feeling so weak. I didn't feel as thought I could sustain my son, my baby, and myself. So, I slowly weaned my son for 3 months until he was just about 18 months old. I am saddened that I had to end our nursing relationship. I was secretly hoping that he would want to nurse again after his sister was born. I tried and tried, but he just told me I was silly. To other mommas - it is okay if you need to wean. Do what it best for you.

Jen

dulce de leche said...

(((Jen))). Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like your little guy did just fine and that you were looking out for all of you, but I am sorry for the disappointment in not having weaning happen the way you had hoped.

Staci said...

Your writing is beautiful as always. I love how you describe that feeling. I remember it so well and could never quite put it into words. It was just an icky tingle that made me want to scream & cry & pull my hair out. I really wish I could have breastfed longer. With my youngest I was finally a stay at home mom and was so excited to go as long as possible and let her wean on her own and she was done at 15 months. :(

dulce de leche said...

(((Staci))). Much love to you, dear friend. Thank you. I am so sorry that your hopes were let down. You are a wonderful mom and your sweeties are so blessed to have you for their mom.

Chantilly Patiño said...

LOVE! I'm always enthralled by your posts and the grace you are able to write with even on difficult topics. I have never done tandem nursing...only one child. But, I do know what you mean about that feeling since I've had it a couple of times briefly. It definitely does make you think about how much longer can you continue, but so far I have gone 32 months and I'm pretty proud of that. I think you're right though, that every mother should do what is best for her and her family. If I nurse, or don't nurse...I sure wouldn't want people judging my decisions! Thanks for always being so thoughtful in your posts. <3

dulce de leche said...

Gracias, mamita. <3. I love *your* posts and the grace and compassion you show! <3

Virginia Is For Mothers said...

SO glad to hear other people hate breastfeeding too! I hate it, but I do it because I know it's the healthiest. I only breastfed my oldest for 7 1/2 months and quit when I found out I was pregnant with my second (too tired and the baby laying on my stomach made me nauseous during the first trimester). I just needed a break too before the next one came along 14 months after the first. And then I only nursed my second for 9 1/2 WEEKS...he screamed through every single feeding despite all the strategies I tried. When I hit the point where I could envision myself hurting him and I was actually angry at my newborn, I decided it was better to stop and bond with my baby then force the issue. But whenever my third comes along, I'll start breastfeeding and stick it out as long as I can stand it. Thanks for your honesty!

dulce de leche said...

Hugs to you! That sounds so hard. My son also screamed at first, but it turned out that he was allergic to dairy, and once I eliminated all dairy from my diet, he became happy. I can't imagine how difficult more than two months of screaming would be. I hope that the next time is much, much easier!

Young Mom said...

This is great! I got pregnant with my second while nursing my 5 month old, and nursed her even while puking several times a day, and she did great. She weaned herself at the end of my third trimester, (she was extremely active and refused to nurse unless I was going to crawl around on the floor following her). I got pregnant with my third when my second was 9 months old, and nursed through that prengnacy as well. Once again she weaned at the end of the third trimester. This time I got prengnant with our 4th when our third was a year old and she is still nursing now at 18 months old, I may be tandem nursing for the first time after the birth of this baby in 6 weeks.
In every pregnancy I've had that "creepy crawly" can't stand this any longer feeling, usually from conception on, this time I started feeling a bit better earlier, just in the last few weeks I don't dread it anymore.

dulce de leche said...

Hooray for it getting better! Hugs and a healthy and happy end of pregnancy and birth to you, and hopefully happy tandeming. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I so identify with this! I thought I was the only one in the world with those feelings! That awful irritation (the "creepy-crawlies") the turning away so little one won't see the tension on your face, the feeling that if you say anything ppl will suggest you stop. Wow, so glad I'm not the only one! My little nurslings are now 22 months and one month old and night-time tandeming is still uncomfortable for me, but getting better :) thanks for this post!!!
~J

Jaqui Paredes said...

Thank you for this article. This is what I am going through with my pregnancy and my 3yr old daughter. I nursed her up until I was about a month and a half preg and couldn't do it anymore because it felt so uncomfortable. I understand the creepy crawly feeling and I almost felt ashamed to wean her. I told her that she could have "booboo" again when the baby comes and she seems very understanding and likes to nuzzle my breasts at times and say mommy when the baby comes we can share booboo. I felt the worst when she got sick for the 1st time since she was born because it was about a month after I weaned her and sh got the stomach bug that went around this year. So I am giving her a colostrum supplement along with her multi vitamins. We are both excited and waiting for the baby to begin our tandem journey.

Thank you so much for honestly sharing your feelings with us!

dulce de leche said...

J and Jaqui, lots of hugs to both of you! <3

J, I am so glad that it is getting better. Night time was the hardest for me, too. Congratulations on your new baby!

Jaqui, I completely understand about the illness thing. My daughter weaned at four because she hated the taste of colostrum. She soon got pneumonia, a double ear infection and the flu! Thankfully, she recovered quickly. Later, she wanted to nurse again, but couldn't latch anymore. There is definitely a chance that your little one may not remember how to latch by the time that the baby is here. I say that only as a heads up, not to make you second guess your choices. (((hug))). It sounds like she is doing beautifully well. Congratulations and best wishes for a healthy and happy pregnancy, birth and tandeming! <3

Erin said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I think sometimes the best support comes from the scary stories. The ones no one tells you. Because knowing that someone has been through the really rough patches and made the tough decisions or fought through to the other side is so much more helpful. As someone who has struggled so much with breastfeeding it just feels so condescending to have someone tell you that it will get better in a few week and/or I am doing it wrong ar that I just plain don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I hope you'll continue joining in the hop each week- we've got a great group of bloggers linking up!

dulce de leche said...

Thank you so much, Erin! I am so glad to have found you guys! :)

Kerstin said...

Also bawling as I'm reading this. I have considered myself relatively well informed about all things nursing, but am just finding out this go round (pregnancy #4) that the aversion on both sides of the breast is common and can be overcome. I just chalked it up to my first two weaning themselves (at 18 and 15 months), and I mourned the loss of the breastfeeding relationships and of my chance to tandem nurse. This time it is happening again--my 17 month old is wiping her tongue in the middle of nursing sessions, and I'm extremely irritated and antsy during the whole process. someone at NIPPL told me to just make sure she latches at least once a day and that it should help when the milk comes back in. I'm 18 weeks now, so I have a long way to go, but your blog has helped reaffirm my commitment to making this happen. Even if she weans right after the baby is born, I want a chance to try this out!!

dulce de leche said...

(((Kersteb))). Hugs to you and congratulations on your pregnancy! I hope it gets easier very soon. <3

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! I'm so glad I found this. I'm going CRAZY with my 2 year old and 5 day old. (Ok, I'd probably be crazy anyway, but the nursing chaos is making me almost homicidal.) This at least helps me know I'm not the only one and there's hope. Thank you!!!

dulce de leche said...

Hugs and congratulations! Those first few weeks can be brutal--all of the exhaustion of a new baby us a voracious toddler who probably wants to nurse more often than the newborn! Rest and joy to you--it really does get better.

Young Mom said...

I'm glad I'm still subscribed to comments here. My new baby is 3 weks old now, and my toddler is nursing several times a day and in the middle of the night. For some reason, she seems to clamp on a bit after she's nursed for a few minutes, leaving little indentations around my nipple from her teeth. I don't mind nursing her too, but the chaos and the teeth are driving me crazy too!

Brianna Graber said...

Since we're going to start our tandem experience for the first time in around 5 weeks, I really appreciated all your tandem posts. Lots of good stuff! I feel like I want to work everything out, though, and have a mental picture of exactly how it'll work, and that just doesn't quite work. Too many possible scenarios for how tandem might look for us. ;-) It's good to hear from a wide range of people on the different possibilities so I'll have a variety of ideas for different situations/scenarios.

And, I really appreciated this post and the one with helpful ideas. It's always encouraging to know you're not the only one! Thanks for your honesty!

Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing your tips and personal experience. I had this horribly when my baby was still a newborn, to the point where I would break out in hives every time he would nurse. It eventually got better, but I'm glad to have these tips if there's ever a next time.