I happened across this post from Feb 2014 that I never published. I didn't mostly because it seemed like a lot of complaining. Since I'm not nursing anymore, I have no hesitation.
For those who don't want to read this post about nursing, I invite you to look at the picture of six-month old Isaac and move along. Now's your chance.
We all know the benefits of breast milk and nursing, but here are a few thing the books don't tell you.
Five truths of Nursing
(or my experience with nursing)
This was one of the most shocking things about nursing. In my mind's eye, I thought nursing would be this beautiful peaceful thing. And it is in many ways, but there is always way more mess involved.
For example, I have a forceful letdown, so once my son starts nursing, unless he is eating constantly there will most likely be 5-7 powerful tiny jets of milk spraying my son's face, burp cloths, both of our clothes, the sofa, and, on occasion, rugs. At least wiping up the hardwood floor is easy. The first time milk sprayed into his eyes and up his nose, I felt like a terrible mother. But, I try to take it in stride - it happens. Besides, he didn't seem too phased by it.
Even when I don't have obvious milk fountains, I still seem to have wet milk patches on my clothes. Lately I've avoided dry clean only clothes for this reason.
Never in my life have I been as hungry as when I'm nursing. During pregnancy, I surprised myself in eating a foot long sub for the first time. However, when nursing, I am famished. I've even woken up with hunger. Not waking up and feeling hungry; I'm talking about actually not being able to sleep because I was so hungry. They say you should have 500 extra calories a day when nursing & I take full advantage.
With this also comes with a loss of self-control. I used to be able to eat one chocolate square/candy/cookie after dinner as my 'something sweet.' Now I can't do without 3. Okay 4. Well, let's be honest, 5. On occasion 6, but that's all I'm admitting to.
This can come in many forms. I've been blessed not to have frustration in the area of not producing enough, not having a child who couldn't latch, not having a child with milk allergies, etc. My frustration come in a few different areas:
My son can be a slow eater. When he was first born, it sometimes took up to an hour to feed him. Early on he set his preferences for 'courses.' I think this came from his near-inability to burp. He'd need a break for a few minutes to digest, then he'd eat again. Well, he still does this, though his burping has improved. Despite my forceful letdown, he eats faster from a bottle. This may be because, I on occasion, choke the little guy with the powerful jets of milk. Sorry kid. For this reason (and sometimes the mess) I turn to pumping and bottle feeding.
At some point, there is going to be someone who thinks you are way more comfortable with nursing than you are. You will hint at needing privacy, but they will not pick up on it. You will do your best to cover yourself, though you are far from mastering the art of feeding your little one without exposing yourself to the world. In the end you say 'screw it, it's not like these are my normal breasts anyway.' But, honestly, that doesn't make you feel much better.
Alternative scenario: Once you really start believing the above statement (or just don't care anymore) you will try to convince someone that you can carry out a conversation while hiding your little one under the udder-cover (terrible name, great product.) They will be so distracted that a single piece of cloth separates your nipple from the world that they cannot focus on what you are saying.
Liquid Gold. That's what people call breast milk. I believe this is in part because of the work that goes into it. No, there is no active involvement in it's production, but the energy-robbing and nutritive-depleting process can be considered work, not to mention the time involved in pumping and nursing. (Can you tell I'm a bit hung-up on the time factor?)
It is no wonder, then, that I try to save as much as I can. Sometimes this is impossible when it is absorbed in a burp cloth (see Mess.) Also impossible to save is when the breast not in use decides it wants to be part of the action too and has a let down into your nursing pad and you are left with a heavy squishy bloated disc. Awesome. At least it didn't go through your shirt.
It is possible to reheat breast milk (at least we do in our house.) If my son eats 7 of the 8 ounces in the bottle, you better believe I save that one ounce. I'll save even 1/2 ounce, but I can let go less than a 1/4 ounce. I'll say goodbye to milk that has been reheated twice already, but I make sure this rarely happens. And I'll shed a little tear (or scream with rage internally) at leftover milk that was left overnight on the counter accidentally.
While I don't have pain all the time, this is no less important to address.
I am at my fullest in the morning. This is when I have reached maximum capacity and I can't help but leak into my nursing pads. While it is pretty awesome to pump two full bottles (8 oz each), it's kind of hard to make that transition to sleeping through the night and not wake up at 4:00am and and scream "I have to pump now!!" Super full... and uncomfortable; sort of like a throbbing sore thumb. That's the only way I can describe it.
This one really is quite painful. You have a knot that simply won't go away. Not only is it uncomfortable you are living in constant fear that this will turn into mastitis. You do everything the Dr. tells you: massage, warm compresses (though I tend to get a bit gung-ho and burn myself) and making sure baby's chin is pointed towards the block, which isn't so easy when it's at the top. At this point I admit: I'm desperate. I envision a new Olympic sport of nursing while he lays down and I'm supporting myself over him without suffocating him. In the end, we both lay on our side with feet in opposite directions and I end up getting mastitis anyway.
MASTITIS: This isn't 'quite painful.' This hurts. Picture screaming red lines on your skin and a knot you are afraid to touch, but you know you have to. The first few seconds of nursing brings tears to your eyes, but you know if you don't get through the water-shed moment the sweet relief will never come. I kept on thinking of the duct as a blocked drain and pretty soon the pipe would clear and a massive amount of milk would come jetting out and everyone in a five-foot vicinity would be soaked. Fortunately for my son, that wasn't the case. The antibiotics did their thing and it was a slow and steady recovery.
5. Good things
PRIDE: As mentioned before, it's work. I'm proud of sticking with it and doing as much as I have. Granted, Le Leche League would totally say, "sure, talk to me in another two years."
BONDING: I feel like part of this is just spending time with my son as I nurse, but feeding him, holding him closely, watching him smile up at me when he eats, and falling asleep in my arms is beyond wonderful.