Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Breastfeeding Secret

My beautiful Ichigo is 6 months old today.

Before she was born, I knew I would breastfeed her. There was no doubt in my mind. I educated myself with books, through websites, and by taking a breastfeeding class with my husband.
As I educated myself about breastfeeding and parenting in general, I began establishing very high standards for myself. I wanted a natural birth. I wanted to wear her everyday. I wanted to breastfeed exclusively and let her self-wean whenever she was ready. I wanted to share our bed with her, and parent her using attachment parenting ideals. And do you know what? I did it! So far I accomplished all these goals. But I have a secret. It's something I have told very few people. Even my mother doesn't know. Here it is...
I hated breastfeeding.
Were you expecting that one?
Let me explain.
When Ichigo was born, my husband and I were living in Tokyo- far, far away from any family. I had planned to have her at a midwife-run birth center, but she was taking her sweet time being born. At 41 weeks and 2 days, after being in labor for a day and a half, my midwife transferred me to the hospital. It was a WHO baby-friendly hospital, and I was still able to be attended to by midwives and have a natural child birth.
Ichigo was nursing within 30 minutes of being born, and during our week (yes, one whole week) in hospital, the midwives offered nursing advice daily. I knew that it was essential to get a good latch, so I focused on that and we seemed to achieve it. But one thing that didn't seem to be happening was that warm and fuzzy mama and baby feeling you get when breastfeeding. You know the one, right?
Once we got home from the hospital, I still didn't have that feeling. I had more of a "how can this baby want to eat again!?" feeling. It's hard to admit this, but I resented my baby. It feels shameful to type those words, but it's the truth. I resented that she needed to nurse over and over again and that I was the only one who could feed her.
Despite the way I felt when breastfeeding, I was committed to continuing. I never bought formula. I wanted Ichigo to be exclusively breastfed. I loved reading blogs about breastfeeding, and I was an advocate for breastfeeding. I just didn't like it personally. Every time Ichigo nursed, I would be anxiously waiting for her to finish.
I tried looking up phrases like "I don't like breastfeeding" and "breastfeeding + resentment" online, but I didn't find much. I didn't want to quit, I just wanted to feel like I wasn't the only one feeling the way I did.
So, here I am 6 months in. I exclusively breastfed my daughter for all this time. I've never been able to get her to drink my milk from a bottle. Only recently is she drinking a little breast milk from a shot glass. So, it's been a long 6 months!
Today I gave Ichigo her first taste of food, baked sweet potato fries. And do you know what? It was kind of sad for me. As I explained to my husband, it was the beginning of the end. I know that I may be nursing Ichigo for years still, but the start of solids signals that one day she will no longer need my milk. And that is bittersweet.
I fought for this breastfeeding relationship that I established. I fought my own selfishness. I fought the resentment. I fought the exhaustion. I fought people who don't think women should nurse in public.
I am proud to be a nursing mother. I am proud of what I have done for my daughter. I want other mothers to know that not everyone feels the same when they nurse their baby. Some women struggle with pain or illness. Other struggle with negative emotions or exhaustion. If you are a nursing mother who is struggling, please reach out to other mamas, a lactation consultant, or a La Leche League leader, and know that whatever obstacles you are facing, you don't need to give up.