Healthy Kids

Mom, You Lied About Breastfeeding

You’re going to love nursing your baby,” my mom told me as we folded tiny blue onesies and waited for my first child to decide it was time to emerge from the cozy womb. “There’s nothing like it. It’s so special. You bond so much as you breastfeed and it’s wonderful to watch your baby fall asleep so happy and content. When you nurse your body creates hormones that make you feel so relaxed and blissful. It’s the best!Boy, was she wrong! Relaxed? Blissful? My nursing experience was anything but! Here’s why:

It hurts! Why didn’t anybody warn me? Lo and behold, I discovered from day one breastfeeding hurts! Good grief, it hurts! For the first two weeks post-partum, tears would spring into my eyes each time my baby latched and I would have to grip the arm of the rocking chair until halfway through the feeding when the pain eased up.

My baby hated it. In addition to the excruciating physical discomfort, I didn’t get the consolation of watching my baby happily drift off to contented dreamland with milk drunk joy. No sir! My colicky baby never slept and he figured out right away that nursing meant pain for him as well. When it was time to nurse, I would pick up my little one and I could feel us both tense up knowing that one minute into the feeding he would unlatch screaming because of his miserable reflux.

What bonding hormones? Those feeling of bliss that were supposed to accompany each nursing session? I never experienced them. This was no tranquil bonding time. It was painful, stressful, and emotionally traumatic. We would both end up in tears at the end of each feeding.

He nursed constantly. This sounds strange knowing how much my baby and I both hated breastfeeding. But due to his reflux, he desperately wanted to soothe his little throat with some milk every minute of the day (only to unlatch in a wailing frenzy of pain, of course!) The physical exhaustion of nursing 24/7 was just impossible to handle on top of the zero hours of sleep I was getting because my poor baby just couldn’t fall asleep.

Pumping is the worst. I had to return to work at five weeks post-partum, but I was committed to making this breastfeeding thing work, so pumping it was! I soon discovered that pumping is awful. Of course, it was less traumatic than nursing because no one was screaming at me (a plus). But I did feel like a cow attached to a milking machine. Also, my little one decided right when the bottle was introduced that there would be no more nursing at the breast for him. Bottles only, please! So I was pumping exclusively, at least 3-4 hours a day (which was FAR more than I was sleeping).

When my son was 4 months old, I did what I never thought I would do: give up on nursing all together. It wasn’t anything like my mother told me it would be. Now, my mom is a sweetie pie. She didn’t mean to mislead me. She just had a wonderful experience and expected it would be the same for me. It wasn’t. It was awful and I mourned the loss of what I hoped and expected it to be.

When I was pregnant with Baby #2, I was determined to try again with breastfeeding, but I was scared that I would feel like a failure again and that I would hate every second of it. But everything was different! Sure there were typical challenges: cluster feedings, clogged ducts, discomfort, over-active letdown, milk dripping down to my toes and making a puddle on the floor (how is that even possible!), but on the other hand it was just like my mom said it would be. It was the best. My baby loved to nurse, and because she loved it, I loved it, too. We snuggled, we bonded, she fell asleep with milk drunk joy and I nodded off next to her with the help of all those amazing relaxing nursing hormones I finally got to enjoy.

So if you’ve had one bad experience, don’t give up!  A bad breastfeeding experience with one child doesn’t mean there’s no hope in the future. The second time around, nursing just clicked. Why? I honestly can’t be sure. I had made some changes in my life to prevent the same bad experience from recurring: I cut back to working only a few hours a week so I wouldn’t have to pump and embraced the principles of ecological breastfeeding. I was intentional about limiting stress in my own life so that I wouldn’t pass it on to my baby. But truly, I think our breastfeeding relationship just clicked because of Baby #2’s laid back personality and because she didn’t have the challenges with colic and reflux that our firstborn had. And I prayed many a Rosary that I would get the special experience I had dreamed of. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how things go with Baby #3! Wish me luck!

Oh and if you are currently having breastfeeding struggles be sure to check out the M+BL breastfeeding archives, Stephanie also had extreme breastfeeding difficulties and was finally able to get her daughter, Penelope to latch at 5 months but had to continue pumping around the clock for 18 months because she could never suck hard enough to get a lot of milk out.

Did you struggle with breastfeeding? Was it everything you hoped it would be or more challenging than you imagined it would be? Some of the stories might be featured in Stephanie’s next book!

Image credit Jade Pierce Photography


Haley is a Catholic wife and mama of two (and one on the way!), ballet teacher, and lover of all things Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, and Wendell Berry. Find her at her blog Carrots for Michaelmas where she writes about urban homesteading, motherhood, literature, faith, homeschooling, and her undying love for bacon.

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  • Marion
    June 6, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    I bottle fed my first daughter and breastfed the second. But I read lots of books on breastfeeding (my favorite book was “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May Gaskin—on birth AND breastfeeding.) I spent the last few months of my pregnancy roughing up my nipples with an old washcloth and they were as tough as leather by the time I gave birth. I then proceeded to breastfeed her for 4 years. LOL! Both of my daughters breastfed their children and both had problems with sore nipples. I told them over and over to toughen them up, but they didn’t listen to me. Overall, they loved the experience and did it for a full year. Having done both, I have to say breastfeeding was the best for the bonding experience and I wish I’d done it with both of my children.

    • Haley
      June 7, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      I didn’t know that Spiritual Midwifery was also about breastfeeding! I’ve always meant to read that and now I’m even more intrigued. How awesome that you were able to breastfeed your second daughter so long!

  • Katarina
    June 7, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    I was 100% sure and prepared to breastfeed my newborn son. My determination during pregnancy was so huge I thought I could move montains in order to brestfeed. However, we were diagnosed with IUGR at 36 weeks and my baby was born in 38 week with 2,5 kg ( it makes 5,5 pounds according to google). It had increased level of CRP and jaundice for which reason it spent a week in ICU. He was fed with a formula first three days (it still makes me cry) and then I finally mengedto pump some milk. When he was released from hospital, we started struggling with breastfeeding. There are days when he will breastfeed and there are days when he screams and makes breastfeeding impossible. He is very colicky in addition to other problems and his constant crying it making things worse. I am still pumping (electric pump is a a life savior for mother who have to pump!) however, I am hoping, once he grows bigger and stronger he we embrace brestfeeding exclusively. At this point I am grateful I have enough milk and he is not “eating” a formula.

    Thanks for sharing your story, it is very comforting to know it doesn’t have to be like this with the next child, should God trust us with another one(or more :)). Good luck with your new baby and breastfeeding!

    • Haley
      June 8, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      Sometimes things don’t go how we plan them and it is so difficult! I’m sorry you’ve had such a struggle, Katarina, and serious props for your perseverance. I hope if you’re blessed with more little ones your experience is so much easier! Baby Three is nursing well and I’m so thankful after the struggles with Number One!

  • Adele
    June 7, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Ina May also has a new book entirely about breastfeeding.

    • Haley
      June 8, 2013 at 9:06 PM

      That’s good to know! Thanks, Adele 🙂

  • Sarah Joseph
    June 7, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    I had SO many problems with my first baby! I had horribly cracked nipples for the first month and a half, mastitis 3x in 6 months, and a baby who was convinced that my knees or neck or finger would give up more milk than my breasts! I’m just glad my husband was so encouraging and strong for me–when I would cry as the baby was latching on he would rub my back and tell me it was going to be so much better and everything I had dreamed of soon. It was so hard, but a good lesson in taking things a day at a time and learning to accept help from people who wanted to give it. I’m so glad I stuck with it, because breastfeeding gives me such sweet moments with my little one now!

    • Haley
      June 8, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      I’m so glad you’re able to enjoy nursing now! And what a blessing that your husband was able to give you so much wonderful support to help you through the hard times. Mastitis 3x! I’ve never had real mastitis, just some clogged ducts that I was able to loosen up with massage and heat. Sounds awful!

  • Jessica
    June 7, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    This sounds like my issues with my first child. I was so mad when the Dr. told me it was JUST colic. What they say when they don’t have any idea basically. I knew there was something wrong with my baby though. It took me awhile but when I figured out that it was a dairy issue and stopped eating it…..things changed around! May be something to watch out for with the next baby!

    • Haley
      June 8, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      I’ve heard about dairy allergy from so many friends as being the culprit behind the colic. Both my girls have been spitters but of the happy variety so I haven’t dropped the dairy, but I wish I had known about that when I was nursing my son! Could have saved us a lot of tears.

  • Katrina
    June 7, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    I nursed all of mine, but I will say the first baby was the hardest. Those first two weeks…ahhh that was a crazy kind of pain! When you have sore nipples, cracked nipples, and nipples that you don’t even want to put in a bra or have any type of clothing touch them…WHY in the world would you want a baby to latch on to them with their little tight-lipped grip and start sucking?!!! I would absolutely dread it. But we made it through those two weeks. And for me, it was a great experience after that, and with all the other babies that came along (which never hurt like the first baby did).

    • Haley
      June 8, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      Those first couple of weeks are definitely the worst! But with my second and third the painful nipple thing only lasted 4 or 5 days instead of two weeks for which I’m so grateful!

  • Sara B.
    June 8, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    My expereince was exactly like yours. Everyone tld me is was WONDERFUL – it was HELL! I called it Mama Octopus wrestling Baby Squid. I cried and cried – but he flourished. At three months, he looked at me one night and clearly stated, with his eyes, I have had enough. He never latched on again. Pumping was a disaster and I spent a month at work with wet blouses and smelling like breast milk before I quit completely.
    But my second baby was a dream. Nom, nom, nom- and she smiled sweetly and delicatley burped. We loved nursing – so I also agree: try again, every baby is different.
    THe icing on the cake was when my first was in third grade, and his speech problem with R’s had not cleared up, the speech therapist at school decided that he was tongue-tied, and needed a frenectomy (you know the little skin that holds your tongue down.) The oral surgeon says, “I bet you couldn’t breast-feed him! If you tried it must have really hurt.” Where had he been 9 years earlier?

    • Haley
      June 8, 2013 at 9:15 PM

      Pumping is so hard. My hat is off to all the mamas who are able to do it long-term because I certainly couldn’t! I’m so glad that your second experience was a good one. And how frustrating that your son’s tongue-tie issue wasn’t discovered earlier. But now you know why it was so difficult to nurse him!

  • Pam
    June 20, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Thank you for this article! I am due with #4 in November – and determined to try breastfeeding again even though I was not able to with the first 3 kiddos. Like you, I hated the breast pump – it was so dehumanizing! Again, thank you for the encouragement. Congratulations on your newest little one!

    • Haley
      June 23, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      Thank you, Pam! I hope you have an easier time breastfeeding with baby #4! The only big struggle for me right now is overactive letdown. I’ve read that emptying the breast by pumping can help but I’m loathe to pull the pump out again!

    • Lynn
      October 13, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      Definitely try again, Pam! I had a terrible time (incredibly bad nipple pain) with my first two and was never able to actually “nurse.” I pumped for the three months of maternity leave with each of them. With number three, who is now almost 8 months, I decided to give it another shot and with the help of a good lactation consultant and some perseverance in the face of the pain, we have been exclusively breast feeding his whole life now! My goal is at least a year and I have every confidence that we’ll get there. 🙂

  • Aly
    July 12, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    I only have one, a 16 month old boy, but nursing was extremely difficult for 6 months. We were lied to by nurses in the hospital who exaggerated how much weight he’d lost and forced me to supplement. Then my nipples scabbed over and nursing was excruciating (I think he has a lip tie). So we used a shield for 10 weeks. When I returned to work he lost weight, and then went on a nursing strike for a month or so. I refused to offer bottles at home and just offered the breast when he was sleepy and swaddled. He would also only nurse laying down which made going anywhere complicated. Finally at 6 months he nursed easily, at 8 months I stopped working, and we are still going strong. It was a long long hard road for those several months but beyond worth it now. And it’s inspired me to become an IBCLC because all of the reading and research I’ve done and continue doing is fascinating.

    • Stephanie
      July 13, 2013 at 2:28 AM

      What an amazing story, thanks for sharing!!