Tied Down by Breastfeeding. And How to Get Over It!

You have no idea what “routine” is anymore.

Morning feels like night and night feels like morning because days and nights have become one.

Lightness and darkness mean nothing to you.

Your boobs are KILLING you and you’ve got a tiny little human sucking the life out of them every 2 hours on the dot.

You feel trapped because your baby depends on you and only you for food.

You can’t go anywhere for more than an hour and you can’t do anything that you once used to.

Fast-forward 10 months… 

You’ve got a great routine.

Once again, days are days and nights are nights. It feels good.

Lightness and darkness mean evvvvverything to you.

Your boobs appear to be back to normal (minus the extra sagginess you try not to notice in the mirror), pain is nonexistent and every time your little one needs a milk snack you relish in the opportunity to relax, get close and bond.

You can go lots of places. Anywhere you like in fact.

One of my good friends inspired me to write another post on breastfeeding. She inadvertently reminded me that us breastfeeding mamas need all the support we can get! If I can help just one of you out there to feel a little better about the experience, my job is done.

Here goes!

 

10 Reasons Why You Feel Tied Down by Breastfeeding

1 – It’s all on you.

“Got Milk?” Uh, yeah. In fact, you probably have lots of it. But you’re the ONLY one! No one else can feed your baby but you. Not your husband, not your mother, not your friend. Just you, Mama. And especially if your baby feeds often, this makes it pretty much impossible to even so much as get your hair cut.

2 – Pumping is more of a hassle than it’s worth.

It sounds so easy. Just pump your boobs, store your breast milk and then go wherever you want, whenever you want leaving behind a delicious bottle of the goods for your baby. Sure, except that we’re forgetting one very important part: if your boobs miss a feed while your little one is mowing down on the bottle when you’re out, then you need to pump to keep up your milk supply. Now, given, this is particularly critical in the beginning and not so much as the months go by, but still! The beginning is when you need a break the most. And yet a break isn’t a break at all. It just becomes a logistical nightmare you’d rather not even think about.

breastfeeding-pumping-equipment

3 – Your baby doesn’t take a bottle.

Okay, so you don’t mind pumping and all is well. Over the first few weeks, you’ve accumulated quite a stash of milk popsicles in your freezer that you just can’t wait to use so you can have a little time off…to snooze, to watch TV, to read, to go for lunch with a friend, to give your nipples a rest! But now your baby throws a baseball bat into your spokes! No bottle. Nope. Not having it. And your plans for freedom slip away.

baby-bottle

4 – You’re not comfortable whipping out your boobs in public.

You’ve seen other moms do it many times before. You’re proud of them, maybe even a little envious…but you simply can’t bring yourself to do it. You’d much rather nurse in private. And that’s okay! I’m not sure if it was because my little guy and I had sooooo many issues at the start, but I could never breastfeed in public. Then once my pain was gone and nursing actually became an enjoyable experience, my little prince went through his “distractable” phase. In other words, the tiniest sound or voice would prompt him to break latch and have fun instead of feed! So I never really had a choice but to nurse in private – door closed. Problem is, along with the decision to avoid breastfeeding in public, comes total isolation. You’re always alone. You have zero company. You miss out on conversations. You get bored. You feel antsy and anxious instead of relaxed. You feel…tied down.

closed-door

5 – There’s a constant balancing act between demand and supply.

I often say breastfeeding is like magic. It’s mind boggling how our bodies know how much milk to make for our little ones. Of course, for the first few weeks or months, your body is figuring it all out (as are you and your baby). This is when you might experience engorgement, really full feeling breasts, leakage, blocked ducts and fast flow. In fact, during the first month or two I was breastfeeding if my little guy broke the latch during a feed, my boobs would be spraying evvvverywhere – including right in his face! It was pretty hilarious. But then all of a sudden, I remember waking up one day, feeling my boobs and then freaking out because I thought I totally lost my flow! They felt deflated and squishy (like they used to feel after a feed, not before). But I noticed that Brody simply nursed as usual, definitely getting the milk he needed. When I mentioned this to my lactation consultant, she was so excited. She explained that this signified two good things: 1) my baby boy was latching well and efficiently feeding to get milk, and 2) my body had become regulated in its milk production, effectively producing what baby needed (and not over-producing).

Now, part of how this “magic” works is on you. Let your baby feed on demand and maintain a consistent nursing schedule. If you miss a feed, your body will assume this is milk baby doesn’t need. So supply goes down. If baby has an extra feed or two in a 24-hour period, your body thinks baby needs more, so you might notice your boobs feel fuller over the next day or two. These adjustments are not immediate, but our bodies are so impressive when it comes to breastfeeding that you can count on the fact that if baby needs more or less milk as the days and months go by, she’ll get it!

I think as breastfeeding moms, we’re constantly monitoring and noticing our milk supply. Other than your baby’s latching and feeding habits, so many things can affect your milk supply including fatigue, caffeine intake, stress, diet, not enough water, etc. etc. If you’re anything like me, you’re very much in tune with your body, and as a result, your milk supply (maybe even too much so). We’ve already established that you don’t like pumping and/or your baby doesn’t take a bottle. Sooooo…something’s gotta give. And that something is your schedule and your freedom. You don’t want to just skip feeds to do whatever you want or need to do because you think that might potentially drop your milk supply and screw up days ahead. And yet again, your life is dictated by breastfeeding.

book-appointment-cancelled

6 – You feel guilty leaving your baby and messing up the sacred “schedule”.

Once you start to get in a groove, things get easier. You and your babe figure each other out and that’s when the real bonding and utter enjoyment come into play. I think the bond a mama creates with her baby is exceptionally special when breastfeeding is involved. That’s not to say a mom who can’t or who chooses not to breastfeed doesn’t have a strong bond with her baby, but breastfeeding gives a whole new meaning to the word bond. And along with this extra special bond comes the mommy guilt! “How will he sleep without my boobs?” “She’s going to freak out when she wakes up and can’t breastfeed because I’m not there…” “But I always nurse him at 4pm!” “If we miss that feed, I’ll have to totally restructure our day.” And on, and on, and on.

7 – A ridiculous amount of strategy goes into every plan.

Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, a friendly gathering or a trip out of town, if you’re still breastfeeding, everything (in the beginning) feels like a logistical nightmare. “My baby feeds at this time, but we’ll be here at that time, I wonder if there’ll be somewhere I can slip away, what if the appointment runs long and my baby is starving, what if she doesn’t fill up before I go, I can’t breastfeed there and he’ll hate me putting the cover over him…” And to avoid these crazy thoughts, you plan, strategize and prepare up the ying yang until it’s alllll figured out. But then you’re so exhausted you can barely muster up the energy to get out the door.

8 – It’s lonely.

Even though the world around us has come a long way when it comes to the acceptability of breastfeeding in public, I think a lot of us mamas just aren’t there yet. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal comfort level, views and beliefs. Of course, every decision comes with its own consequences, one of which might be loneliness in this particular case.

9 – Sometimes it’s easier to just say “No”.

Because of so many of the reasons above, lots of times, you might find yourself choosing to turn down that invite, to cancel that plan or to avoid certain outings altogether. It’s just not worth it. TOTALLY understandable. But the result is likely that you feel more tied down.

10 – It’s a VERY demanding job.

I’m not sure which category you fall into but some women have a seamless breastfeeding experience. They never go through any pain, they have a good latch, and they have a baby who feeds fast, doesn’t get distracted, relaxes at the breast and never bites. Other women (including myself) have a bit of a rougher go: we experience pain, we have trouble latching, we have babies who are excitable, hyper and challenging to tame at the breast. If you fall into the latter group, chances are you find breastfeeding quite a demanding task – not in a bad way, just in a matter-of-fact kind of way. It is what it is. You don’t regret your decision but you also don’t think of it as a total cakewalk either.

Okay, ladies. Enough with the negativity. Let’s get to the good stuff and transform every point above into a positive one.

check-mark

 

10 Ways to GET OVER IT

Feeling tied down by breastfeeding? No big shock there. I think most of us do at one point or another. The best way for you to get over that feeling is to CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

Sit back.

Relax (ideally with a glass of wine).

Take a load off.

Reward yourself.

Acknowledge everything you’ve already done for your baby.

Remind yourself of why you chose to breastfeed in the first place.

Know that it’s temporary.

Know that it’s the best.

Know that in due time, you WILL enjoy it and you’ll come to treasure every moment.

1 – It’s all on you.

Yeah, it is. Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full kinda gal? Think about this statement. It’s all on you. There are two ways to consider it: 1) It sucks that you’re the only person who can feed your baby, or 2) The fact that you’re the only person who can feed your baby makes you the most important person in their world.

glass-half-full

So…embrace it. Love it. Accept the responsibility with an open heart. See how much comfort you can provide by doing it. Understand that it’s so much more than food – it’s the closeness, the skin-to-skin contact and the absolutely unparalleled contentment your baby loves. Watch as your baby becomes more and more attached to you over the months ahead – and pay special attention to how much you come to relish in it. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

2 – Pumping is more of a hassle than it’s worth.

That’s right. It is. So don’t do it! In the first few months I know it’s hard to get a grip on the fact that your life is exponentially different than it was just 60 days ago – or even more so, 9 some odd months ago. Don’t worry, it won’t take you long to settle into your new role. As long as you LET yourself.

  • Imagine you couldn’t breastfeed (because many women can’t!)
  • Accept the fact that your boobs are now utility vehicles.
  • Know that they’re in use pretty much all the time.
  • Appreciate the closeness that breastfeeding brings.
  • Remind yourself that it won’t last forever.
  • Bid farewell to pumping because it’s a VERY shitty alternative.

3 – Your baby doesn’t take a bottle.

I can think of a few incidents where this was definitely inconvenient and worrisome. You know your baby needs to eat and if you’re not there, he’ll surely starve! Not exactly. One of my close girlfriends said something awhile back that totally reassured me before a night out: “Don’t worry. Babies can go a surprisingly long period of time without food. If he doesn’t take the bottle, he won’t starve before you get back. There are babies his age already sleeping through the night and going 12+ hours without food.” I think this was around the time that my little one was about 4 months old or so. She reminded me that if he goes 4 or 5 hours without food, he’ll be fine. And if he’s really, really hungry, he will take the bottle. Sure, it’s not ideal having a baby who refuses anything but boobs. But especially once you start to introduce solids, your concerns about her not taking the bottle will become less and less of an issue.

baby-food-containers

I remember feeding my little guy a bottle a couple of times. Beforehand, I thought to myself, “This is gonna be great, my boobs will get a rest!” But you know what? It was awful in comparison. There was no body heat. There was no connection. That wonderful closeness was gone. The special mom-baby bond had disappeared. For moms who haven’t breastfed, I find it very hard to explain. There’s just something about breastfeeding that is indescribably magical. Mind you, this isn’t how I felt in the beginning. If you’ve read any of my other posts like Breastfeeding Problems…Tongue Tie, Lip Tie, What Tie? or Breastfeeding Pain, you know that I struggled immensely for two and a half months. So what’s my point? If your baby doesn’t take a bottle, don’t worry. If you haven’t already, you’ll adapt. You’ll accept things for what they are and you’ll love the fact that your baby prefers the real deal to the substitute, rubber nipple.

4 – You’re not comfortable whipping out your boobs in public.

This is a tricky one. And I’m right there with ya, Mama. Unfortunately for us, though, this is how we separate and alienate ourselves from the world. The one thing I can say about getting over this point (and I believe it’s damn good) is this: you’ve created an opportunity to have special, one-on-one, uninterrupted alone time with your baby. In the hectic, non-stop, buzzing world we live in today, how often do you actually get an opportunity like this? Where there’s no noise, no voices chattering, no TVs humming in the background, no smartphones or tablets or computers…sounds crazy doesn’t it? I’ll tell you something. It’s WONDERFUL. Because I choose not to breastfeed in public, wherever we are, me and my little guy just slip away into our own little space to nurse. It’s quiet, it’s comfortable, it’s peaceful. I stroke his head, I talk to him, and he makes the most adorable noises to communicate back. I now treasure this time to think, to practice mindfulness, to really and truly live in the moment, to enjoy the closeness, to just BE with my son. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

5 – There’s a constant balancing act between demand and supply.

True. But try not to become overly fixated or concerned about your milk supply. Even though I had tons of milk (especially in the beginning) I was always thinking about what would happen to my milk supply if my prince and I missed a feed. Yeah, just one feed. I learned that, every now and then, skipping a single feed isn’t going to do much of anything. Our bodies are incredible. As baby’s demand fluctuates, so does our milk supply. Sometimes you might notice that it takes a day or two for things to feel back to normal, but it’s a fast adjustment. If you’re worried your supply is too low, let baby suckle a little longer on each side (if they’re willing) and this will tell your body, “Hey, milk is low, baby needs more, pick up the pace!”

6 – You feel guilty leaving your baby and messing up the sacred “schedule”.

smartphone-calendar

This is natural. Totally normal. It’s motherly. So don’t beat yourself up about it! Motherly guilt is a powerful thing. I’m not saying it’s a good thing but I’m not saying it’s a bad thing either. Before I actually became a mother, I thought I’d be leaving the little one on a regular to go out for nights on the town, girly dinners and partying sessions. But it’s true what they say…life changes. Slowly, you realize that there’s someone else in your life. Someone who needs you, depends on you, loves you unconditionally. And you feel the same about them. And those feelings take precedence over most of the albeit useless things you used to do that seemed so important before. It’s great to get out once in awhile and it’s a good idea to plan little outings with those friends who matter most to you. Give yourself a break, take a night off. You’ll probably feel guilty, but know in your heart that you shouldn’t. And on the flipside, if you’d rather say no to that invite, do it. Listen to your gut. And don’t feel guilty about that either! Cherish this time with your baby. She’ll be a teen who wants nothing to do with you before you know it.

7 – A ridiculous amount of strategy goes into every plan.

Ha! I know, right? It’s absurd. So instead of letting it drive you crazy, take a minute to see the humor in it. Laugh it off. It’s really all you can do. Top recommendation to battle this point (which, by the way, I was no good at): strategize LESS. Try to go with the flow a little more. I found that the more I conjured, planned and strategized, the more things didn’t go as I anticipated. And I don’t mean that in a negative way! I often paint these scenarios in my mind and then spend way too much time planning for what I’m going to do if it happens only to be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. And then I think to myself, “Huh! Awesome. Clearly I shouldn’t have wasted so much time thinking about this.”

8 – It’s lonely.

Oh, but it’s not. This is serious you-and-babe bonding time, Mama! Change that negative perspective around. You’re not alone at all. Sure, for those 5, 10, 15 minutes of nursing time you don’t have the company of an adult you can actually have a conversation with, but you needed a break from those people anyway! Look at that gorgeous baby’s face and see how content she is as she eats with you. Notice how he looks at you or strokes your arm. Recognize how special this moment is. Enjoy it. Don’t spend it wishing you were somewhere else.

9 – Sometimes it’s easier to just say “No”.

Absolutely. And you have the perfect excuse. Even those friends who don’t have kids and who don’t get it at all, they will give you special treatment when you tell them you can’t make their birthday party at the same club they went to last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Say no! Say it with confidence and scrap the side of guilt. There’s no need for it. You care about saying no far more than your friends care about you not being there.

10 – It’s a VERY demanding job.

It’s also a VERY rewarding one. Trust me when I tell you that it will get better. It will get more and more awesome. It will become something you truly enjoy with your baby. This article isn’t about all the benefits of breastfeeding because we know the list is long and impressive and you wouldn’t be nursing in the first place if you weren’t aware of at least some of the points on there. No, this isn’t about that – although these are all excellent reasons to reinforce why you’re sticking with such a taxing job. This is about YOU. You’re battling pain, discomfort, inconvenience and emotional turmoil. You’re frustrated and tied down. You’re missing out on events, gatherings and conversations. You’re putting the needs of someone else ahead of your own. You’re learning. You’re adapting. You’re changing. You’re growing into your role…

You’re MAMA.

You’re amazing.

And don’t you forget it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.