2014-THANKSgiving

Breastfeeding Is No Fairytale

185 Comments

breastfeeding-pain

Sometimes, life is just harder than we expect it to be. Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves? Maybe we buy in too early on romantic ideas about the future?

  • Prince Charming
  • Picket Fence
  • Glass Slippers

Nobody tells you the truth. Prince Charming? How many frogs are you willing to meet first, Cinderelly? Picket Fence? Why? So you can be HOA compliant? Screw that shit. Glass Slippers? Someone just try to pry these UGGs off of me with a goddamn crowbar.

Nevertheless, when I was ten, I started plotting and coursing out my future. I was easily influenced by song lyrics and so I turned to the masters like Whitney for inspiration.

Age ten was also when I fell in love for the first time. His name was Jon and his family lived close to mine, in a blue-collar suburb of New Jersey. He was out of my league and his hair was prettier than mine, but that didn’t matter when it came to matters of love.

Please excuse my check lists. They make me feel organized.

  • Have kids
  • Teach my kids well
  • Let my kids lead the way
  • Marry Jon Bon Jovi

Over time, I learned. My checklist needed some adjusting. But I still, you know, yearned. I imagined what a perfect wife I would be. I was going to have an amazing career. I was going to be the Indian Connie Chung. I dreamed about the perfect husband I would have. How I would look as I tossed my smiling children into the air, believing that the still developing Polaroid image matched what I envisioned. And so what if I took some poetic license? The future had a few great things in store for me.

Namely, “Pilates” and “Brazilian Blowouts.”

In my hazy Polaroid picture, I was always a very giving, selfless mother (with great posture (Thanks, Pilates!) and even better hair (Thanks, Keratin! You sure make me shine!)). I just didn’t realize how much more complicated my checklists would become.

  • Can cook meals to keep the whole family happy. And healthy.
  • Can still maintain killer gym workouts and a toned physique.
  • Can work hard for the bacon, fry it up in a pan while still keeping things sizzling in bed.
  • Raise balanced, well behaved and kind children without ever touching a remote control.

My checklists would even look perfect. I would make calligraphy check marks.

I guess, after a while, I just really didn’t understand how MANY checklists there would be.  Or how MANY new items I would add to that list myself. How many times I allowed someone to add new items to my checklists for me. Checklists which not only became unrealistic, but unachievable.

Look. I am not saying that marrying Jon Bon Jovi was ever achievable. But I was ten. As a grown woman, once I checked off the items, “Married,” “Strong career” and “Make children, per instructions from Whitney,” that list grew so fast, sometimes it was easier to just stay in bed and cry than try to tackle all of it. The boxes kept coming, and I could never keep up with my beat up Sharpie. Never mind calligraphy.

I don’t even know how to DO calligraphy.

I think I hit an all time low at one point in my life when I could not accomplish what comes so naturally for so many women.

Breastfeeding.

“Breast is best.” I knew this. I know this. And I planned to. I really did. But things didn’t quite work out how I expected. Rather than use this post to tell you why it didn’t work, or how much I tried or how many tears were shed and how much pain I felt, let me just cut to the chase.

It didn’t happen. It just…

It didn’t.

And I can’t always explain to everybody why it didn’t work. And I don’t have it in me to try to convince everyone how much I tried. And I will never be able to get over that feeling of initial judgment when someone asks not if I breastfed, but instead how long I did it for.

Note: I usually avoid having to answer by running away and saying, “Lo siento, no hablo Ingles,” but this doesn’t work well with friends and family, who know that the only Spanish thing about me is that my husband is the spitting image of Eric Estrada. And I like rice and beans. Que bueno!

I am proud of my friends who have successfully breastfed, appreciating it more because I knew how challenging it was. I hear my friends talk about their abundant milk supply and the feeling of bonding they shared with their children. As they talk and commiserate about things like chapped nipples, I applaud them. Trust me, I was so READY for chapped nipples.

Sometimes checklists have to be amended. I had to scratch off, “Handle chapped nipples.”

I recall one time being on Facebook and seeing a friend’s post about how one of the formula companies had sent her some Enfamil. I recall how ANGRY she was. She wanted everyone to know she was going to write them a scathing letter about sending that “poison” to her door. She got a LOT of likes.

I left a comment asking if she wouldn’t mind leaving it on her porch since I was driving that way anyway.

Ok. Ok. I didn’t. But the only reason was because my son was using a different formula. Otherwise, I would have been all up on that shit.

There are days where I still feel guilt about my lack of success with breastfeeding my children. And it bothers me. I sometimes wonder if it has impacted my children. There is always that nagging thought in the back of my head when my daughter gets an ear infection or my son gets a brutal cough. Or when my son thinks he’s a pink cat and crawls around the house purring, “MEOW.”

At times like that, I can’t help but think, “Is this because I didn’t breastfeed?”

I can play that game with myself, but it will just detract from all the things I am doing right as a parent. I have no idea why my son thinks he’s a cat or if their colds are because of me or the snotty kid they played “Ring Around the Rosie” with the other day.

For now, my checklists seem to have shifted.

  • Be happy
  • Smile
  • Remember that our children are the future and try not to mess them up too badly

For now, this checklist is fine with me.

Comments

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  1. 1

    Holly says

    I breasted both children and they both cough and get sick. I never understood all the fuss and pressure. Kids turn out great no matter how they’re fed. Kudos to you for being their wonderful mom who cares enough to do the right thing. You have.

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    • 2

      Teri says

      My oldest son is tongue-tied and couldn’t breastfeed. We switched to formula and he’s perfectly fine. My younger son was breastfed for almost 2 years, and guess what? He’s asthmatic, breaks out in a rash when he gets too hot, and takes Miralax every day for chronic constipation. Poor kid.

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      • 3

        Meg {Phase Three of Life} says

        I practically could have written this. I have my own reasons why BFing didn’t work past week 2, and I also don’t get into the details of it to very many people. Because I personally think ANY reason I might have had to stop BFing is legitimate and I don’t want to explain myself to anyone. My body, my child, my choice.

        Also, I absolutely fume at the notion that formula is “poison.” That “poison” keeps lots and lots of babies from starving each year. I think it’s pretty amazing stuff.

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    • 6

      DizzyMamaLizzy says

      Same here. My kids were all breast-fed and all have snotty noses all the time. My son prefers to be a frog over a cat though, that may be where the breast influenced him…

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  2. 8

    Sally says

    I honestly feel like someone took the story I could not articulate and wrote it for me. Thank you for sharing, because this is truly how it happened to me. I was devastated at the decision to stop after three days of trying. I realized I could be a better Mom, by not breastfeeding……imagine that.

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    • 9

      Heather says

      Agreed. I was in the same boat with my son and am now pregnant again and already feeling guilty about the possibility of not being successful this time around. Thanks for the reminder about what’s really important.

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      • 10

        Kiran says

        Dear Heather,

        I kind of “psyched” myself out, making it such a pressure filled situation for myself. You will make the right choices – congratulations! The most important thing is you stay healthy, continue to be a good mom to your son and do the best you can when the baby comes.

        xo,
        Kiran

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    • 11

      Andrea says

      Me too!! I’m expecting my second any day, and we’ll try breastfeeding again, but if it doesn’t work out, no biggie. I have no qualms about gettin’ out the bottles! No guilt this time either, and I’ll be a saner mother for my children because of it!

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    • 13

      Kiran says

      Thank you, Sally. Devastation sounds strong, but it’s exactly what I felt at the time. I am glad I learned to find what worked and cut myself some slack and just mother the best way I could.

      xo,
      Kiran

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    • 14

      jen says

      I totally agree, after numerous crying sessions and breakdowns at the Health Care Unit in town the nurse told me “If you are not ok than your baby is not ok, you have to be your priority”. I felt like I needed her permission to stop breast feeding and once she gave it to me it changed my world. And you’re right it doesn’t matter how long we did it for, it only matters that we tried. I never knew it would be so hard so it was a huge shock and I am so glad that I can pass on my experience to other struggling moms.

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  3. 15

    Stacy says

    I couldn’t have said this better myself… I didn’t breastfeed.. but I kind of don’t have that guilt?? maybe that’s wrong too. I did everything & still do every.single.day to make sure my kids are healthy & happy. But when people still say “how long did you nurse” i get a little annoyed.. I don’t ask that to other people??? I just don’t think to ask that of someone unless it’s a close friend/etc. Do others eat without dyes; processed foods; no gluten; no dairy; etc etc.. nope but I do… however I don’t tell everyone they suck b/c they don’t.. it works for us & really that’s what works for my kids so why does that matter to anyone else? same thing to me.

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    • 16

      Kiran says

      Stacy,

      I am glad you don’t have that guilt. You know how people “hoard”? Well, I hoard guilt and baggage like it’s going to pick up and abandon me. Which, ironically, it never does. I am glad you guys found your groove – it’s important to do what’s right for your own family.

      xo,
      Kiran

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  4. 17

    Karen says

    yes! I totally get this post–both the inability to breast feed (I was eventually told that I likely have “insufficent breast tissue” or something like that that means I can’t store quantities of milk, hence no supply, hence screaming child who’s not getting enough to eat and losing weight, hence formula) and the love of to do lists. Thanks for sharing!

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    • 18

      Kiran says

      Hi Karen,

      That must have been hard to go through. Not knowing. With my second, I could have sworn something was wrong with me because I just didn’t understand why nothing came out.

      My to do-lists are still not complete, but I am aiming a little lower now and think I’ll catch up.

      Eventually ;-)
      Kiran

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  5. 19

    Mandi says

    I tried breast feeding my oldest. I nearly starved her to death. That is not an exaggeration. She was in the 3rd percentile for weight and almost categorized as a “failure to thrive.” Sometimes breast isn’t best.

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    • 20

      Kiran says

      Mandi,

      Oh no! So glad that you made the switch and she put on the weight. Motherhood is disorganized and messy and no matter what we expect, envision or plan for – we just have to roll with what it serves us, no?

      xo,
      Kiran

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    • 21

      TheHeadacheslayer says

      (((Hugs)))) Mandi. My son had problems that we still, to this day, can’t fully explain but YES he was in the 2nd percentile at his 1st bday. It turned out I had microscopic retained placenta, so our only theory is that it affected my hormones which reduced my milk content/production. He had other issues but I do feel your pain. Scary times. Now at 11, you’d never know!

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  6. 22

    Lisa says

    I breastfed one child until she weaned herself at 9 months. She’s allergic to nuts and treenuts. I tried and tried with the other for about a month until we had to switch to formula – and guess what – no allergies. Go figure. As a mom, do the best you can and stop judging each other.

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  7. 24

    Kerry Rego says

    I did breastfeed. But I didn’t like it. I also wasn’t able to do it for very long. I felt like a bad person because I didn’t enjoy someone else’s near constant attachment to my body.

    Though our experience is different, I think we may be feeling some of the same emotions. Every mom I know says that motherhood was the best thing to ever happen to them. Not me, my life was good before, still is, but I don’t glow extra hard because I had children. I didn’t instantly become happier or a better person.

    I just wanted to let you know that sometimes it sucks to be the outsider mom. Even if you had breastfed, you still would’ve had nagging doubts, they’d just be in a different category. “Is it because I used disposable diapers? Or because I didn’t make my own baby food?” I think we lie to ourselves and other moms to make ourselves seem like more perfect mothers. We’re not.

    I lost my mom at 6. So I think you win because you’re there and you love your kids. Period.

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    • 25

      Kiran says

      Dear Kerry,

      I was reading your response and was jarred when I saw this:

      “I lost my mom at 6. So I think you win because you’re there and you love your kids. Period.”

      You are so right. I am so sorry that you suffered that loss as a child. Your perspective provides clarity and also a lesson in humility for me. Not just about breastfeeding, but just about how so many things in life don’t go as planned.

      So rather than stay mired in our doubts, we should appreciate the gift of being there for our kids and them being there for us.

      Thank you.
      xo,
      Kiran

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    • 26

      Lisa says

      I can relate to your comments – sometimes i felt like (and still do at times) that my oldest would suck every last drop out of me if i let her – and i would just disappear. that was really hard to deal with – the feeling that i would literally no longer exist as Lisa – just mom. I used to struggle with this but then accepted that i just needed to set boundaries and i would just be one of “those” moms :)

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    • 27

      Mo says

      I totally identify with what you’re saying. Just yesterday a younger cousin asked “so do you love being a mom?” I try to be as honest as possible when asked but always feel the judgment from the rest of the room when I respond with “I love my son.”

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  8. 28

    Skyler says

    I feel your pain! I, too was unable to breastfeed for a multitude of reasons. Back in the 70’s (like today) one was made to feel like a selfish, evil mommy if one wasn’t able to breastfeed. Yup, in the motherhood food chain, my inablility put me on the lowest rung of the ladder. But all these years later and my kids are both grown up and fabulous. Breast may be best, but loving, cuddling and nurturing your baby essential and don’t always have to be combined with nursing.

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    • 29

      Kiran says

      Oh Skyler,

      I was not even on the ladder rung for a while. I was the clump of dirt underneath the ladder, way below the first rung.

      But we mothers always lift each other up and pull us back up the ladder.

      Thank you :-)
      Kiran

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  9. 30

    Kirsten says

    My story too – although I wanted Eric Estrada and not Bon Jovi. I tried so hard to breastfeed. Both kids. And even after drugs, being hooked up to what I can assume is the same machine used to milk cows, changes in diets, adding / subracting whatever I could to make this “natural” process work, the tears got the best of me. So very lucky to have had the right midwife and GP and said that the kids would survive with love and formula vs. frustration and exhaustion. Happy to say that my very healthy 10 and 7.5 year old have no problem keeping up with all their breastfed buddies. Thank you for writing this, I hope more woman understand that it just doesn’t happen for everyone like they planned in their story.

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    • 31

      Kiran says

      Ah Kirsten,

      You should see my husband when he dresses up as Ponch for Halloween. It’s quite the sight!

      “I hope more woman understand that it just doesn’t happen for everyone like they planned in their story.”

      Exactly.
      xo,
      Kiran

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  10. 32

    Jamia says

    Hurray to you for telling this story! I made it a miserable two months on the breastfeeding scene. It just never worked for me. No milk. Period. And it’s OKAY! My kid is fed. And loved. Does anything else really matter?

    We all need to pay it forward with honesty like this so future mothers can feel more secure in whatever scenarios they face.

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  11. 36

    Toni says

    Thank you for your honesty..I too struggled with the breastfeeding thing….that I didn’t have enough perseverance. That I was less than because I didn’t. Despite that, my boys still bonded with me…and my husband also had the chance to feed and spend that time with them,so it was all worth it in the end.

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  12. 38

    Jennie says

    I didn’t BF. Even more shocking I didn’t even try, I just didnt want to. I am sure militant lactivists are recoiling in horror but I don’t give a monkeys. Quite frankly what you feed your kids doesn’t start and end with breast milk.
    If you can BF well done. If you can’t or don’t want to and you use formula then well done too. Bottom line what’s most important is happy mum = happy baby. Lets ditch the guilt :)

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    • 39

      Kiran says

      Jennie,

      One of my friends who is a midwife made me feel better by saying my kids were just going to negate the benefits of breastfeeding by hitting McDonald’s and boozing it up when they are 18.

      Realizing that they are my kids and she is probably right, I felt much better after that ;-)

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      • 41

        Jennifer says

        I have five children. My oldest is 22, and my youngest is 14. I breastfed my oldest for about two weeks until I could not stand the cracked and bleeding nipples anymore. After him, I never tried again with any of my others. All five of them are healthy, happy, and well-adjusted…well, except my 14 year old, because she’s 14. :) Healthy, yes. Happy and well-adjusted? Not so much at the moment.

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  13. 42

    The Atomic Mom says

    THANK YOU! I love this post so much.

    First, the checklists … how I’ve been thinking about that in my own life lately.

    Second, the breastfeeding … I always felt that breastfeeding was not the right choice for me, but after Ihad my frist child the pressure was there, so I tried and tried and failed and failed. I didn’t make any milk…not just, “not enough” but NOTHING! Expecting that, I didn’t even bother with my second and it’s been the right choice for us. I still get the looks, the sneers and so on, but I am happy that my kids are taken care of, and that I can hand them off to DH if I need to.

    I love that my friends can and do nurse their babies, I wish that I were afforded that same courtesty by other women as well.

    Thanks again for this great post!

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  14. 44

    Sara says

    I love this post even though I breastfed!! I hate when women who breastfeed feel superior to those who can’t/didn’t/no desire to, etc. Kudos to all moms for loving and caring for their children and doing what’s best for them!

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  15. 46

    MarySunshine says

    No one should feel guilty for doing what is best for *their* children and family. It’s their business and NO ONE ELSE’S.

    I always have to wonder, all those moms (and dads) that have to loudly profess their parenting beliefs and goings on…are they really that confident in their decisions and beliefs? I don’t need to go on FB and post a length status about my decisions to only feed my kids purple potatoes and yellow cauliflower. If that’s what I feel is right, I do it. I don’t need the pats on my back, and you certainly won’t find me criticizing someone because they choose to feed their kids Russet potatoes and purple cauliflower.

    All the BS we see and hear (especially on some other Mommy sites I’ll leave unnamed), the Mommy Wars if you will, I really believe just boil down to moms looking for some sign that what they are doing is right. Unfortunately, those pots have over boiled and have turned into scathing battles for supremacy. Over what? Chapped nipples and tub of baby formula. It’s stupid.

    We all struggle to do right by our kids. That should be all that matters. Not who breastfeeds or formula feeds and on and on, ad nauseum.

    Kiran, you’ve got it right. And make sure you leave a little * at the bottom of your list to remind yourself to, “Fuck anyone else’ opinions!”

    :-)

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  16. 52

    Rebecca says

    Before anyone is too hard on themselves for the manner in which they feed their baby, recall what will happen if you do not feed your baby.
    I breastfed all three of my kids for over one year. My middle son was born with congenital glaucoma and had 7 surgeries in his first 18 months of life. He was underweight and cried constantly. It did not matter what I fed him. He had (and continues to have) a problem beyond the scope of feeding.
    Human beings are very adaptable organisms. As long as we are being fed and loved, all things are possible.

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  17. 53

    Renae says

    For a variety of medical reasons, I was unable to have children. The things my husband and I went through to have a family were expensive and heartbreaking. Its a shame that this society of parenting newborns puts this burden on your shoulders.
    This is such a great and exciting time for new Mom’s and Dad’s. Its funny and not so funny what others
    preconceived notions of what you’re “suppose” to do can weigh so heavily on your mind and create such bad feelings.
    Enjoy those little one’s, on the breast or off they will be just fine.
    Peace

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  18. 55

    ekoehn says

    Thank you for writing this!! I tried so hard to bf my son. I hated it. I hated the feeling, and it just wasn’t a bonding experience for me at all. I was in grad school at the time too, so I was pumping a lot for him so he could eat while I was gone, and I could just never get enough. We had to buy formula so he would not starve while I was gone. Eventually he started to self wean around 6 months. No one believed me that HE was the one who didn’t want it anymore. I had (sometimes still have) SO much guilt over him being completely weaned at 7 months, especially since my friend’s babies that are his age are still bf-ing. My friends don’t purposely make me feel bad, but they don’t realize how hard it was for me…the pain, frustration, the many tears we both cried, when he was hungry and I had nothing to give him. Hes a pretty happy kid now, and I’m pregnant with #2. Going to try to bf, and if things go a similar way, I’m going to try and not feel guilty. I’m doing my best, and raising happy children, and that’s what counts!

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    • 56

      Kiran says

      E,

      “I’m doing my best, and raising happy children, and that’s what counts!”

      You are so right. You just took what I wrote in that long post and condensed it down to that and it’s spot on.

      Congratulations on #2. Here’s to a wonderful pregnancy and a happy, healthy baby! (and mommy).

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