It’s national breastfeeding awareness month AND world breastfeeding week! I’m a breastfeeder 38+ months with three babies so far. I’ve experienced some major highs (nursing in public like a ǫᴜᴇᴇɴ). I’ve also experienced some major lows (feeling touched out). I only share them because when I was searching for a lifeline in the darkest moments, I couldn’t find much on the topic. I’m hoping by putting it out there, that one night, during one momma’s extensive midnight Google search, she’ll find this post and see it’ll all be ok. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
I loved every minute of nursing our first. Twenty four hours born and short of a learning curve on how to suckle, she was nursing like a champ. I felt secure and confident as a mother because of our bond. I had all the oxytocin flowing and I felt like a warrior. Around 19 months in, I entered the second trimester with babe number two and my supply dried up. Nursing had built up an amazing relationship between us, and she even weaned with grace. I can honestly say I don’t really remember weaning her because it was so fluid.
Ending my breastfeeding relationship with my second was quite a different story. Start to finish she nursed like a pro, latching within hours of birth. We had an uneventfully normal nursing journey, a milk elimination diet to calm some upset, and oh so much bonding and love. She could nurse anytime anywhere, with the expected flexibility of a second child. And she fed with the hunger of a thousand horses.
But as I neared the second trimester of our third pregnancy, nursing became physically painful. My supply was still there, as was her desire to nurse. But man the PAIN. Like, oh my God get this piranha OFF of me kind of pain.
The pain on top of having two babies under three, left me feeling touched out in the final weeks breastfeeding her.
When I say touched out, I don’t mean ‘I’m annoyed, I need you to go to bed.’ I mean, ‘borderline anxiety attack’ touched out. ‘Frustration and anger toward my baby’ touched out. Bedtime would approach and I couldn’t even fathom a nursing session.
I felt I was a horrible mother for not wanting to give her what she needed. For being selfish. For what felt like anger toward my baby (even though my better conscience could ration that the anger was toward my own frustrations and discomfort). I’d look at that angelic face, her beautiful blue eyes wet with tears, and her sweet, soft voice asking me for milk, and think to myself how horrible I must be for feeling this way toward a baby that I loved so much. I was so confused by these feelings. She just wanted the comfort of nursing. I felt like, in those late hours in the dark, I had nothing left to give to her. I was on empty. I just beat myself up over and over in my head. After fighting her for an hour, I’d cave and nurse through the pain just to get her to sleep. And while nursing I would feel resentment. And I would sob.
And I mean sob. Ugly crying face, snot running out of my nose, puffy eyes sob.
A few times my husband would hear me from the other room and text if I was ok. I wouldn’t let him help. I felt this immense need to take it all on myself. (Why are mother’s always martyrs anyway?) I remember just praying and praying to God in that rocking chair for the strength my daughter needed me to have. Praying to be the mother she needed me to be.
Being touched out was one of the most confusing, frustrating, anxious periods of my motherhood journey yet. But eventually, I got through it.
And yes, eventually, she did wean.
But my fears didn’t end there. I was so wounded from the experience that I worried for our next baby. I didn’t think I’d be able to emotionally handle nursing our third, especially when I’d need to start nursing again in five short months. The entire remainder of our pregnancy I would be left questioning myself. Googling for someone with a similar story. Hoping to find someone who went from despising breastfeeding to loving it again. I prayed for a new, fresh bond. Prayed I’d emotionally reset and be able to love the nursing relationship again. I cried over this fear. I told my husband I didn’t know if I’d be able to get through it. I was convinced my brain could no longer handle the demand of it all.
Because. It. Is. Demanding.
But, something did click, and I reset. My mind. My hormones. Our third was born and the clouds cleared and I looked down at that beautiful latched baby and all was right in the world.
This season isn’t for the weak. It’s so much more than perfect squares on Instagram and smiling albums on Facebook.
And breastfeeding is so much more than the perfectly angled #brelfie. Or the beautiful meadow nursing photoshoot. Each nursing relationship has come with different challenges and wins. And sometimes the hardest part isn’t at the start of your nursing journey, but instead at the end. My hope is that amongst the happiness I share here and on social media, there is also some rawness, just enough to keep it real.