Saturday, March 26, 2011

What to Do When You Hate to Breastfeed

I wrote in my previous post my experience with nursing aversion.  It hit me out of the blue, because I was so deeply committed to child-led weaning.  It was so, so hard, both physically and emotionally.  We got through it, though, and I found that there were some specific things that helped.

Water.  I don't think I ever guzzled that much water in my life.  If I wasn't fully hydrated, nursing was excruciating.  I learned to drink all the time, even if I didn't feel thirsty.  It is easy to get so caught up in taking care of everything and everyone that you neglect yourself.  Don't.  My kidlets actually got into the habit of bringing my a glass of water when they asked to nurse.  :)

Rest.  Yeah, I know. It is the impossible dream, and you don't even sleep long enough to have a dream.  But seriously, make this a priority.  Your hormones, milk production and emotional ability to regulate yourself are all tied into this, so do what you have to do to make it happen.

Eliminate the worst nursing session.  I was so afraid of weaning when my milk supply was already next-to-non-existent that I didn't want to set limits.  However, I could see a pattern.  During the morning, I didn't really mind nursing.  Even night-wakings weren't bad.  It was the evening times when I was already drained (in every sense of the word) that were hardest.  So I let my husband take over.  It kept my sanity and willingness to nurse at other times, and helped my children and husband become closer than ever.

Buy new bras.  If my bras were loose at all, it made it much worse.  I took to wearing exercise bras 24/7.  Not a fan of the uniboob look, but it was so much more comfortable.

Let go of the guilt.  I felt like a terrible mother.  There was so much shame.  I loved my baby so much and wanted so sincerely to continue breastfeeding, yet my feelings and thoughts were so horrible.  In subsequent pregnancies, I refused to take on that burden of guilt.  Instead, I congratulated myself for being a loving mom, and for doing what I thought was best.  I also looked objectively at weaning, without berating myself or accusing myself of being false to my ideals.  I never did wean, but it was on the table as an option.

Watch hormones.  I found that the culprit behind my nursing aversion was estrogen.  Any time my estrogen levels would spike, so would the aversion to nursing.  Understanding that was a huge key for me.  I also found that when I eat soy or absorb too much lavender, my estrogen levels go up.  Completely eliminating soy from my diet and giving up my favorite lavender oil bath soak helped a lot.  If you are on hormonal birth control or other things are going on in your menstrual cycle, that can definitely trigger aversion.  Even knowing when it was the result of hormonal shifts instead of something else made it easier to bear and to see an end point to the aversion.

Talk to another tandeming mom.  Hearing that I was not the only mom to experience this helped so much.  Reading how common this was in Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower was good, too.  You are not alone, and this does not make you a bad mom.

Set limits if needed.  It is OK to cut short a nursing session if you need to, even if they cry.  Shower love, understanding and empathy, but feel free to maintain your limits.  Think of it this way: do you want to teach your children to ignore uncomfortable feelings in their body to please someone else?  On the other hand, if you have decided freely that this is something you believe is worth doing, then go ahead.  Some days, I cut back; other times, I want ahead and let them nurse as much as they wanted.  Most days were a bit of both.

Self-talk.  Tell yourself all the things you like about breastfeeding.  Remind yourself of the benefits.  Remind yourself how precious your nursling is.  Distract yourself during nursing sessions with a good book or some surfing.  Tell yourself all the reasons why you have a choice and this is right for you.  And if you stop believing it, then consider cutting back more.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

This too, shall pass.  It lasted about a year for me the first time.  It seemed like a long time, and I was worried that it would color all of my memories of nursing.  That was probably part of the reason I persisted--I hoped to someday get back to our previous enjoyment of nursing.  We did.  And once I figured out my triggers, it was much, much milder in subsequent pregnancies, and only lasted a few weeks.

At this point, I have been breastfeeding for more than seven years, and I figure I probably have at least three more to go.  Who knows?  I am not a martyr mom.  I know that breastfeeding can be tough, but I also know that it is so very, very worth it.  I am really, really glad that I persevered through the rough times and that the joy came back.  But I also know that there are many ways to show love to our children, and that weaning does not mean the end of our special bond.  It is just a new season of trust and sharing and love and joy.  Wherever you are on your breastfeeding journey, know that you have already given your child a tremendous gift. 

13 comments:

Pearl said...

Very useful tips!

Chantilly Patiño said...

Lol! Uniboob is the only way to go when nursing! ;) Other bras are only for dress up...lol. Seriously though, you have EXCELLENT tips here!!! Great post!

dulce de leche said...

Thanks so much! :)

Virginia Is For Mothers said...

Definitely going to keep this post in mind when I have my next baby. Thanks for the suggestions!

dulce de leche said...

I hope that it is easier for you next time! Hugs to you. <3

arwen_tiw said...

Thankyou for this so much, very very helpful suggestions and an important thing to address. At times I felt so alone with those strong feelings, this is definitely a post I need to save for next time!

dulce de leche said...

Thanks and hugs to you!

radar_5 said...

Great tips! I didn't enjoy breastfeeding but practiced CLW with all of my kiddos.

dulce de leche said...

Thank you! Wow--that takes a lot of dedication! What a gift to your kiddos!

SalH said...

Thanks so much. I didn't know it had a name (though I knew vaguely that others felt similarly) and I too am going through this to some degree, for the third time. I know there's light at the end of the tunnel, literally my only reason for continuing save for the fact I just think my 18mo really needs nursing for longer, and I'd be heartbroken to take away from her the joy there'll be at the end of it for both of us... and the very special sibling relationship tandem nursing creates.

I too have to drink lots, for me it's a pyschological thing as much as anything before I feed her. Your tips are great, and it's also really helpful to hear someone proverbially shout "the emperor's got no clothes on"!! I do feel like it has to be kept secret a bit - to prevent "aha's" from those who think 18mo is too old for nursing, or putting those off who might be on the edge of the breastfeeding camp.

Thanks again!

dulce de leche said...

Hugs and congratulations, Sal. <3 Thank you so much for commenting. Praying for a healthy and happy pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. <3

April said...

Thanks for sharing this and the other post. I have found it difficult and so much of what you said hit home to me.

dulce de leche said...

((((April)))). Thank you so much. I am sorry you have had a difficult time, and hope that it gets easier!