Why Breastfeeding Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing
If I could describe my feelings about the upcoming birth of my fourth baby in, oh, four days (I'm being induced due to some medical complications) in one word, it would be this:
It may sound crazy because I've had three other children already, and one would think I would be totally prepared for another little baby, but in a way, having done this three other times, I'm even more scared of what it is to come. The sleepless nights! The weight that won't come off magically when I give birth! The challenges with older children's attention!
But the thing that is causing me the most anxiety?
I am dreading the thought of breastfeeding again. (Sorry, future baby, if you're reading this, but hopefully you'll understand some day.) I tried to explain my fears to my husband and it came out in a jumbled mess of mommy guilt and tears and me muttering something like, “You can't understand what's it like!”
Like it or not, he can't understand my breastfeeding fears and, in part, that's the biggest issue for me:
It feels like everything is on my shoulders.
It's stressful to be the sole source of nutrition, comfort, and health for your baby. Not only do you go through the tremendous work and sacrifice of pregnancy, but once the baby is out, the real work begins. There are all kinds of complications with breastfeeding, and sometimes, it's harder for mom to feed one of her babies than it is for another one of her babies, so there's really nothing simple about the “breast is best” argument when you're the one bleeding and crying in the middle of the night, feeling guilty for even feeling like you don't want to breastfeed.
But what I've come to realize this time around—and what's really getting me through in a good mental state—is realizing that breastfeeding really isn't an all-or-nothing game.
I can play it by ear, take it day by day, week by week.
I can breastfeed on one side if mastitis plagues me again.
I can exclusively pump.
I can supplement if I want or only feed during the day or do some strange hybrid of whatever works to get us through that particular day.
That's kind of the beauty of breastfeeding—your body will adapt and make what your baby needs, and it's really a remarkable thing when you think about it.
So in four days, when the real work begins, I'll be doing my best to stop thinking about how hard it is and learn to listen to my body, let go of the stress of what I think I should be doing as a “good” mom, and go with the flow.
Even if that means not exclusively breastfeeding.
Did you do any partial breastfeeding?