3 Times Breastfeeding Was So Hard I Wanted to Give Up

black woman breastfeeding
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I have a confession to make. When I initially made the decision to give breastfeeding a go, it wasn't just because of how natural, empowering, beautiful, and "motherly" it is. It wasn't just because of the big push to promote the many benefits of breastfeeding to mothers of color. 

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As a former reporter, used to covering crime, murder, scandal, gory accidents, you name it, running on crazy deadlines, and thriving on insane challenges, I was kind of afraid, yet eager to tackle my next big assignment: becoming a mother and making enough milk to keep a human being alive. And if I have to tell the truth, formula was expensive as heck, and we were about to become a one-income household. So I decided that I would breastfeed.

At first it was like, "Okay, cool. I've got the breasts, I'll make the food, and it'll be great!" Nobody told me that it would be hard. That it is a commitment, like, "This is your baby, and he owns your heart, and the breasts that lie over it, and you are on HIS schedule."

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Nobody told me that there would be at least three times (but really way more than that) when you will contemplate packing up the boobs and quitting. 

The first time: My son was a few days old, and he was just as perfect as could be. But man, that kid was like an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner. Sucking and sucking and sucking. My milk hadn't come in yet, and I was afraid he was starving. (He wasn't. In fact, did you know that babies' little bellies are only the size of a cherry when they are born?)

I was devastated and convinced that my body couldn't do its job. MY INCREDIBLE body, this thing that grew and birthed a human, had failed me. (WRONG!)

Nicole Collier
The author and her son

The second time: My son was eating like a linebacker, and he was growing. But my precious little milk-gobbling boy had reflux. BAD reflux, like a spit-up fountain. You could rent him out for parties, if you were into that type of thing. Clean clothes for Mommy were a thing of the past. I was getting tired of changing and explaining this white stuff all over me, including in my hair. My son had the special ability to wait until we were both bathed and ready for bed, and then, somehow, he would spit up, and it would find its way down the back of my underwear. That is talent. All of this spit-up had me questioning if he was keeping enough down, if this magic milk they speak of was really magic. (It was, and it is. Apparently, babies just do that sometimes.)

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The third time: Friends and acquaintances who didn't breastfeed made rude comments, questioning my decision to do so -- especially because of the reflux. My personal favorite came after my son had spit up like something out of The Exorcist after a feeding: "Maybe Mommy is making spoiled milk."

I'm sure that person thought their comments were helpful, or cute. What they didn't know was that their comments were hurtful and not true -- and just stupid. When you're new to breastfeeding, heck, new to the mom game, you spend nights awake staring at your little cherub, wondering if you're doing it right. (After some research, I found that the magic milk they speak of is real. It was, and still is, flowing from my breasts. My milk isn't spoiled, and neither is yours, if you're questioning it.)

Nobody told me that sometimes when you're trying to get the hang of this breastfeeding thing, your milk and your tears will be flowing in unison. Nobody told me that picking out an awesome shirt meant finding one that buttoned well across your breasts, allowing you to whip them out quickly without anyone noticing and put a baby on them at the drop of a dime. It also meant that this shirt could survive being washed a million and one times, and was appropriate to wear to bed, around the house, to the store, and to meet the Queen. (If you ever found time for that, with your busy breastfeeding schedule.)

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You know what I had learned, though? If you commit to it, you can trust that your beautiful body will do its job. After all, it's a job that bodies just like yours have been doing since the beginning of time. Seek the support of other mommies who have breastfed (there are tons of Facebook groups dedicated to dialogue, support, and plain old venting), and find someone to keep encouraging you, even when you want to quit. YOU CAN DO IT. You might find that you really come to love it -- and the bond you develop with your baby. I have. And I'm happy to say that 13 months in, I can wear whatever shirt I want.

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