Before anybody gets het up, let me just say that I truly believe breastfeeding is best (hell, even the formula companies will tell you that), that I advise all of the fecund ones in my life to breastfeed, and that I believe women in our society give up too soon on breastfeeding. I further believe that breastfeeding my son, keeping him alive solely on a product of my body, was one of the most empowering things I ever did as a woman. Having said that, a recent thread on one of the forums I visit centered around breastfeeding and I realized, once again, what a load of crap women are fed by many breastfeeding books and sites. I, NotHannah, decided it was time to become The Decrapinator.
See, I realized two days into breastfeeding that nobody had given me the real deal Holyfield when it came to the truth about the whole "baby eating from my body" thing. It was, I discovered, hard as hell. I'm sure the reason that all of the organizations and doctors and whathaveyou that advocate breastfeeding don't say "It's hard as hell" is because there are lots of women out there who would prefer things that are "easy as shit." Point taken. But for a woman like me, a realist with an edge who prefers to know exactly how bad it's going to be before it gets bad, the truth smacked me upside the head.
The Decrapination is for women like me.
What "they" say: "It might be a little uncomfortable."
The Decrapinated Truth: Breastfeeding hurts at first, even if you do it right (see below). Forget "a little uncomfortable" and trust me when I say that none of the men or women in your life have ever clamped down on that tender bit of flesh (um, your nipple) as viciously as a newborn baby. And this happens, you know, every two hours or so. Ouch. There are things you can do (oh, blessed, blessed Lansinoh), but pretty much until the baby figures out how to latch and your nipples develop what I referred to as "calluses," it's going to hurt. And yes, I said "calluses." As in, "Hey, my nipples are now hard enough to cut glass. Awesome." Don't worry, they PEEL OFF when you're finished breastfeeding. (Go read the last paragraph. Right now. Go.)
What they say: "It's the most natural thing in the world."
The Decrapinated Truth: Natural does not equal "easy." I am totally convinced that breastfeeding is a "survival of the fittest" thing. Because, natural as it is, for the first two weeks, you feel like a complete alien. It happens right after birth: you're sore and exhausted and shaky and all of a sudden, there is, HELLO, a person who doesn't want to have sex with you attached to your nipple. In front of your husband, mom, dad, and a nurse you don't know. WTF??? It doesn't make it any easier to know that you're going to feed this person, because HELLO--you're feeding a person with one of your body parts. Further, this body part isn't like your legs or your hands or, you know, your brain. It has served no other purpose in your life up to this point than to sit there and look cute. Now you're asking it to provide sustenance for another life form. Making it even worse is the fact that there will be people suddenly grabbing hold of it as if it weren't really attached to your body(and, incidentally, feeling tenderish at the moment) and manipulating it in ways that it has NEVER been manipulated. One of them will be your lactation nurse. The other will be your husband, who is crying with you at two in the morning because smooshums WON'T FRICKIN' LATCH. Speaking of (in two parts)... (Also, go read the last paragraph.)
What "they" say: Proper latching can be achieved by (insert various jargon about aereolas and holds and suction.)
The Decrapinated Truth: Proper latching can be achieved by crying, having your husband shove the baby on your boob, having one of your friends watch you and point out what you're doing wrong, calling the lactation consultant, asking your pediatrician what you're doing wrong, yelling at your frazzled husband that no, you don't want to just give in and give your smooshums a bottle, and crying again. Turns out that some babies don't latch right. Turns out that this can give you nipples that are sore beyond the regular "damn, there's a person eating from my boob" pain. Turns out that this can give you mastitis. Even bigger ouch. SEEK HELP (and read the last paragraph.)
What "they" say: It's important to have a supportive partner.
The Decrapinated Truth: Okay, this is true. But what "they" fail to tell you is that while you shift into "Nurturer" role, your partner is feeling all "Provider/Caretaker." Which means that when you and smooshums are wigging out at 2 in the morning, h/she is going to go into this weird place where the only thing important is that the two people he loves most are happy. H/she won't care if that means that h/she has to invent a time machine and travel back to medieval England to find a wet nurse. H/she just wants the crying to stop. So when h/she is dangling a bottle of formula in front of your streaming eyes, h/she is being supportive. Clueless, but supportive.
What "they" say: Breasfeeding will give you a cosmic bond with your baby.
The Decrapinated Truth: Um, what? Look, a lot of women who breasfed will tell you that they felt a thrill when they looked into their shmooshums' eyes while breastfeeding, that their souls entwined or whatever. Honestly, I think all women who are feeding their babies have that. That's just what moms and babies DO: get all soul-entwined. But this is a lovely opportunity for me to point out that for whatever reason, baby feeding is a huge, hot-button issue. No matter what you decide, expect perfect strangers to give their opinion about it. Sometimes loudly or hurtfully. It seems pretty weird, I know. Who knew that keeping a person alive could piss so many people off?
So, yeah, breastfeeding sucks. The above difficulties have caused many a woman to give up. And it must be said that even after Herculean efforts to get the boobies a-workin', some women cannot breastfeed.
HERE'S THE REALLY IMPORTANT PART: You can do it. Give yourself two weeks. A nurse friend whose babies couldn't get the hang of latching and who pumped for six weeks straight told me that. After two weeks, something changes. The baby figures it out. You figure it out. Your nipples give a little sigh and get ready for the long haul. Things get better. A month passes. You know longer think twice about whipping your boob out in front of your husband's best friend or your brother's new girlfriend. Six months pass. You could breastfeed your kid while climbing Mount Fuji. You can pump AND type a sales report at the same time. You can do it. The Decrapinator wouldn't lie.