The Truth About Breastfeeding and Survival in Those Early Months

Breastfeeding is an amazingly glorious experience that can take your breath away as you look into your baby’s newborn eyes at 3am.  But let’s be honest.  In the beginning, it can be brutal.  There’s the all-important latch, the endless night feedings, the chapped nipples, and the general loss of sleep.

And it is great, really.  But no one tells you how hard it can be at first!

There is a sudden transformation of something (your breasts) that once seemed sort of like an unnecessary but attractive part of your body into something that drips, leaks, hardens, and chafes.  What a shock!

Luckily I had access to a free weekly baby clinic through the Peacehealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center where I delivered.  I desperately needed those appointments, both for the time with the midwives and for the discussions in the waiting room.  We, the haggard, un-showered,  spit-up-upon crew of mothers and fathers instantly bonded like a herd of war veterans.  There was hysterical laughter, there were tears, and there was a general sense that no one really knew what they were doing.  And that was the most reassuring of all.

So yes, those early days are magic and breastfeeding is blissful.  But it is also painful.  It will get so much better! In the meantime, get support, laugh, and embrace your own fallibility.  If you’d like more information, we heaps of information for breastfeeding mothers –from a milk-making cookie recipe to solutions for pumping breastmilk at work.   Most importantly, you can read dozens of stories in, “Was Breastfeeding Worth It?” that may give you hope for sticking with it.

Did you have good breastfeeding support?  Were you alone in those early, sleepy months of nursing your baby?  Please share with our readers who may be there now!


  1. For me, the first two weeks were incredibly difficult. My son was sleepy and didn’t latch on well. I also had an awful post-partum nurse at the hospital who implied that I should just give up trying and handed me a bunch of formula. I was devastated. My husband was supportive of my attempts to breastfeed but didn’t know how to help and would just stand around asking “Why isn’t it working?” until I snapped “Go get me a glass of water!”

    My son was also jaundiced, and this turned out to have a silver lining as the nurse who came to set up the light therapy was also a lactation consultant and set us up with finger-feeding–I pumped my breastmilk, and my husband or I would fill a syringe with it, attach the syringe to a tube, tape the tube to one of our fingers, and the baby sucked on that as we gently nudged the plunger on the syringe. The nurse also helped me with latching and just had such an encouraging attitude that I regained the confidence to keep trying and eventually my son and I got the hang of it.

    After the rough start, my son continued to nurse till I finally weaned him at 3 and a half!

    Now, I also have a few friends who really tried to breastfeed but just didn’t make enough milk to go past 2 months or so, and another friend who’s had repeated bouts of mastitis (but keeps going!). I think the important thing is, however your story turns out, just know that you tried your best and don’t beat yourself up about it if things don’t turn out the way you hoped.

  2. Its so refreshing to find other ‘green’ moms writing about the difficulties of breastfeeding, and other practices. I just wrote my own piece on my blog last week, As I wrote the piece, I found myself really struggling to walk the line of ‘keeping it real’ about the difficulties of breastfeeding (something that I *think* I would’ve appreciated when I was a new mother), but also not coming across as both negative and pessimistic. As someone who’s breastfed 3 children now, I want to be as supportive as I can to new mothers and empower them to make it with breastfeeding, but I also don’t want to inadvertently create feelings of shame and doubt by sugarcoating it too much either.

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