While watching me breastfeed my daughter, a friend once said, “Wow, you are all business when it comes to that,” and she was so right. I always breastfed very quickly and didn’t let my kids linger. When they were done breastfeeding, I was ready for them to be done. Still, her comment stung. Having someone bring to my attention that I sped through breastfeeding made me wonder if I was doing it wrong. So many mums I knew adored the time they sat feeding their child. But for me, there was nothing relaxing or enjoyable about it.
The first night I tried breastfeeding my firstborn it was a struggle, just like it is for so many new mums. Of course it got easier and I ended up breastfeeding all three of my children, but truth be told, I never fell in love with nursing. I was always waiting for the magical experience other mums described. These same women talked about being sad when the time came to wean their child, or even worse, their child didn’t want to breastfeed any longer and they were absolutely heartbroken.
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I kept thinking I would feel the magic at some point… but I never did and I was jealous of those mums who got to experience it. Not even after my nipples stopped cracking and bleeding, or after I was able to stop using copious amounts of nipple cream just to make feeding my children bearable, did I feel differently.
I began to wonder, Where the hell is the bonding? Why don’t I feel the magic? What is wrong with me?
I felt like I was failing my child because I was not enjoying breastfeeding. It was supposed to feel natural and nothing about breastfeeding felt natural to me, ever.
When I had my second child, I vowed to try breastfeeding again and give it my all. Again, I waited for the specialness, that magic, but it never came. The third time around, I went into breastfeeding knowing I would not be in love with it, but I did it because I could and should.
My reasons for breastfeeding when I didn’t love it were varied. For starters, some women can’t breastfeed and desperately want to. I also felt guilty about spending the money on formula when I was producing breastmilk for free. But honestly, the biggest reason I continued to nurse my kids was because I was afraid of what people would think if they saw me feeding my baby formula.
After I started to be honest about my breastfeeding experience with other mums (even the ones who loved it), so many of them agreed that breastfeeding was a lot of pressure; they felt like they couldn’t even take a trip to the shops alone those first few months in case the baby woke and needed to be fed.
For months you are either nursing or pumping. Your body never gets a rest when you are your baby’s only food source.
The times my children wanted to breastfeed for hours and hours, or fell asleep while nursing only to wake up howling if I had to break their latch and get up and use the bathroom, made me feel anxious and trapped.
And I know people mean no harm when the baby starts crying and they automatically pass the bundle back to the mother because they assume they just want to eat, but that isn’t always the case. I knew my children were ultimately my responsibility but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to say, “Can you please keep holding him? I have already nursed for exactly six hours today and I cannot do it anymore,” but of course I never did.
After being pregnant and breastfeeding for four years straight, I discovered something about myself: I was cut out to breastfeed, but I wasn’t cut out to love it, and that is okay.
If you are a new or seasoned mum who is breastfeeding because you feel like you should, but you aren’t in love with it, you are not alone. It is a hard, big commitment that isn’t wonderful for everyone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you don’t love it (or even like it).