How I Stopped Secretly Hating Breastfeeding


breastfeeding supportIt took having three kids for me to discover that there’s a wrong way to feed your baby – and that I’d totally screwed it up the first two times.

I don’t mean breast milk versus formula, on-demand versus interval-based feedings, or finger foods versus that pre-chewed bites thing that had us all Googling Alicia Silverstone.  What I mean is the self-defeating, all-consuming fixation so many of us develop when it comes to how long to breastfeed our babies.

From the day we deliver our children into the world, we’re met with an avalanche of opinions and “helpful” advice about breastfeeding. For me, it started in the hospital, where breastfeeding was a given and the F-word (“formula”) was uttered only in hushed tones, if at all. I was committed to giving it a go, and although I found that first week feeding my newborn son almost unbearably painful, my body adapted, we settled into a groove and things got easier.

That’s not to say I started to enjoy it. I didn’t. But I honestly thought that was normal – you don’t breastfeed because you like it, you do it because it’s good for your baby and, well, all the moms around you seem to be doing it too.

Instead of taking a closer look at why I was stubbornly continuing to do something I secretly hated, I focused instead on reaching the 6-month mark – a milestone I thought sounded respectable without being completely overwhelming. Each passing day with my son brought so much delight and wonder, and yet I was never free from the oppressive ticking of my mental countdown to weaning. Just one more month/week/day…

With my second child, a girl, I vowed not to put so much pressure on myself surrounding breastfeeding. And I failed. Completely. In fact, it was even worse because the demands of having “2 under 2” forced me to resort to exclusive bottle-feeding. I slogged through nine months of joyless pumping simply out of guilt that my daughter had somehow gotten the short end of the breastfeeding stick. Upon weaning the second time, I seriously contemplated building a cathartic breast pump bonfire in the backyard.

When we decided to have a third child, the one and only thing I dreaded was breastfeeding. Not third-trimester cankles, not childbirth, not even sleep deprivation – breastfeeding.

But then I finally succeeded where I had failed twice already. As my new little girl embraced her full-time job of eating and growing, I set no time goals, kept a container of formula at the ready, and nursed her as if each day very well might be the last.

More than a year later, that day still hasn’t come, and I love breastfeeding my daughter. Quite frankly I’m shocked to be able to type that sentence.

Nursing for a year-plus isn’t a “win,” just as nursing for a week – or not at all – isn’t a “loss.” What is a win is letting go of arbitrary timelines to measure our success as moms. We should feed our children every day in a way that nourishes their bodies without depleting ours. When I managed to do that, it opened the door to a new, entirely unexpected source of joy.


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