Breastfeeding a baby has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, a true love-hate relationship, one that is understatedly complex and often drenched with emotions.
The truth is, every mother is different. Not all nursing mothers feel the urge to forgo covering up when feeding in public. Some may not regularly find themselves atop a soapbox fighting over the best way to nourish a baby. Some, like me, have even found it a bit odd.
In some ways, breastfeeding is a means to an end. At the most basic level, it’s how I’ve chosen to feed my babies. But the relationship for me is deeper than that.
In the quiet, still night, I’ve gazed down at my nursing baby in amazement. I alone had the power to nourish and comfort my baby back to sleep. It’s in those raw and honest times that I realize how uniquely special the process is.
I would be remiss not to share, however, that I, too, find the physical process of breastfeeding fascinating and even a little strange at times. Maybe no more strange than giving birth to a tiny being, however, but still. Even my husband, who has witnessed me nurse two children, sometimes stares.
Do You Actually Like Breastfeeding?
Someone once asked me, “Do you actually like breastfeeding?” with a tone of genuine curiosity and a hint of judgment. I laughed, because what else can you do when faced with that question, and then explained that I had a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. I listened to myself both defend and depreciate the process: “Of course it’s a bit odd.” I aligned my experience, in part, with common misconceptions.
I’ve found, through experience, that a lot of people don’t understand breastfeeding. I think this stems from the grossly understated demands and pain associated with nursing – the “natural” process can be incredibly difficult for some.
I struggled mightily to nurse my first baby and even struggled with my second for a number of weeks. It’s a genuine disservice to promote breastfeeding as easy when it simply isn’t for the majority of new moms.
I have come a long way from the around-the-clock feedings and have reached the 8-month mark of breastfeeding my second child. As selfish as it may seem, after nine long months of carrying a baby and the subsequent months of nursing, I just want my body back – I want to drink a latte at 3 in the afternoon and not have to worry about screwing up everyone’s night sleep.
I know it’s silly, but it’s the honest truth– the demands of breastfeeding are exhausting. While the quiet moments are wonderful to share, it’s overwhelming to bear the sole responsibility of feeding a baby.
The relationship is complex; it’s lovely and sweet, but hard. Despite the variety of my emotions on any given day, I wouldn’t change the experience – it’s a part of our story together and how I learned the most about myself in becoming a mom.
My journey with breastfeeding is winding to a close, it’s another milestone to cross. And I will look back fondly and remember the feeling I had during those quiet nighttime feedings with a smile.