With a catchy title like, "The sucky truth about breastfeeding," how could I pass it up? I read the blog, which had been shared by Mamalode, and the breastfeeding experience described by Karen Alpert was something completely foreign to me. She describes nursing her babe as feeling like having paper cuts all over your nipples, and "...Now imagine someone pouring Tabasco sauce all over those paper cuts. And now imagine them taking some jumper cables, clamping them to your nipples and then attaching the other end to electricity. Now imagine them letting loose a million red ants and letting those red ants crawl up those jumper cables to your nipples where they decide to feast on you." She does admit that she might be exaggerating, and does go on to say that breastfeeding is worth the agony... but sheesh! Who would want to attempt it after hearing what she describes as a "normal" breastfeeding experience?
I am now nursing my second child, and I suppose I'm one of the "lucky ones" for whom the whole experience comes easily. Not completely without pain, but certainly nowhere near the agony Alpert endured. She wrote her blog because she believes it's normal for the experience to "suck," and she wants pregnant moms to be mentally prepared for anguish. Kudos for sharing her experience, but her experience is not the "truth" she claims it to be. She should start up a forum where mothers who struggle with breastfeeding can share their experiences with each other, not give mothers-to-be yet another thing to worry about.
Can I tell you the truth? It is not normal for breastfeeding to hurt, beyond the ache as your milk lets down and the cramping postpartum (which helps your body return to its normal shape more quickly). If given the opportunity, many babies can do what is known as the "Breast Crawl," during which they find the nipple by scent and latch on unassisted. If nursing is painful or feels unnatural, there's likely some way to improve the experience, and a lactation consultant can probably help.
Alpert's article is a sad example of what breastfeeding looks like when things aren't going well, and it saddens me that she's telling the world that her experience was normal, and to be expected.
Yes, many women and their babies struggle with the nursing process. And yes, that can cause lots of physical and emotional pain. Many women also struggle with childlessness, but you wouldn't tell a newlywed to expect infertility, would you?
You want some really good advice? Do you want to really be prepared for breastfeeding?
Don't worry about it.
Please, don't worry. Your body is built to feed your baby, and your baby's primal drive is to eat. It will come naturally. If for some reason it doesn't, there are innumerable resources at your disposal to help things smooth out. And if they are of no help, then you're lucky you live when you do, as formula is readily available.
It will be fine.
You'll be able to feed your baby, one way or another, so you can't fail at this.
Prepare the nursery. Prepare to lose sleep. Prepare to endure a hormonal roller-coaster. But please don't "prepare" to breastfeed... your body has got it covered. If you must read up on it, pay no mind to bloggers who think they're doing the world a favor by asking us to believe that their awful experience was normal. They're out to make themselves feel better, not you.
Trust your body, trust your baby and trust that there is help available if you need it.
If you're struggling with breastfeeding, please consult La Leche League or contact the Lactation Consultant at your hospital. But no matter what happens, relax. Smile. You're going to be great.