When I became a mother, there was never a doubt in my mind about whether or not I would breastfeed.
Sure, guilt may have been a huge factor in that decision, and four years of nursing school and years working in OB were probably an extreme motivator, but bottom line? Breast was best for me and my baby.
That being said, however, after four babies and a combined 43 months of breastfeeding so far (my youngest is 7 months old and still going strong), I have to admit that the reality of breastfeeding a baby is far, far different than the expectations I had as a brand-new mom starting out. I definitely wish I had known more about the actual process of breastfeeding before I began my own nursing journey.
1. Breastfeeding changes everything about your life
Honestly, there’s not an aspect of your life that won’t be affected by breastfeeding. It changes how you view the world. My body image, my marriage, my free time, my work — it’s all different now. Not all necessarily in bad ways, but just in ways I didn’t necessarily expect.
2. You will love it and hate it all at the same time
Any breastfeeding mother could probably talk about the love-hate relationship that breastfeeding brings. Because of the very fact that you love the unique bond that only you can give your baby, it’s also an incredible amount of pressure to be the only one that can give that to your baby. I love that I’m the one everyone turns to when the baby is crying, but at the same time I’m the one that everyone turns to when the baby is crying.
3. It is what you make it
With my first baby, I almost resented how much my baby had to eat non-stop. It seemed like I never got to enjoy eating at family parties, couldn’t ever finish a full conversation and was always worried about leaking through my shirt everywhere I went.
But once I popped that second kid out, I realized that I could totally re-frame how I thought about feeding my baby. Instead of resenting those “interruptions” in my life, I found that it made me a lot more peaceful and happy if I looked at them as welcome rests and breaks — and almost like sneaky little baby cuddles that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
4. You might risk ruining your baby taking a bottle forever
I guess I just kind of assumed that all babies would take a bottle, breastfed or not, because people always made it sound like breastfeeding was the “hard” choice while babies would automatically love formula if given the chance to suck it down. Um, no. That definitely did not happen for me. When I went back to work or, heaven forbid, tried to leave my baby to do crazy things like grocery shop, three out of four of them refused a bottle of any kind. Breastfeeding may be best, but your baby will not let you forget it and may refuse to take a bottle at all, which is all sorts of fun.
5. It makes you feel like an animal
Sure, celebrities like Oliva Munn can look beautiful and serene breastfeeding their babes on the covers of magazines, but when you’re running around at home, it’s 90 degrees out on a hot July day and your baby is starving, you feel nothing but the realization that breastfeeding is one of the most primitive acts ever. (Besides actually making and birthing the baby, I guess.)
6. It will probably make you feel just a teensy bit competitive
You may hate me for saying it, but oh well. It is what it is. Secretly, while I really don’t care about the reasons why other mothers formula feed (and I’m well aware some aren’t making a real choice, but have no other choice), I still sometimes compare breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. I don’t think any choice is more superior, but on my dark days, sometimes it feels like breastfeeding mothers can’t get a break in the same ways that formula feeding moms can, simply because our bodies won’t let us. It’s not like those boobs shut off, you know?