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Young mother holding her baby boy.

Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Easy

Breastfeeding my daughter has been a meaningful experience, it has also been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. With so many amazing benefits for baby and mom, I knew I wanted to try to exclusively breastfeed for the recommended first six months of my baby’s life. But I also had realistic expectations. I was prepared for the chance that we might face challenges. I read about what to do if my milk didn’t come in or if my baby had difficulty latching and other troubles I might experience.

In the hospital, my initial fears were calmed as baby and I had a great start to nursing … and then things changed. After our first week, breastfeeding became almost too painful for me to bear. I tried everything. I talked to my OB-GYN, my daughter’s doctor, all my mom friends, and spent an hour laid bare on a video chat with a lactation consultant. I used lanolin cream, hot compresses, cold compresses, nipple shields—nothing eased the excruciating pain.

My daughter was nursing around the clock and when I wasn’t in tears from the physical pain, I was filled with dread anticipating the next feeding. Mangled, cracked, and bleeding constantly, just looking at my nipples hurt.

Finding no relief or answers was extremely frustrating. And I felt like I was failing as a mom because I could not mentally overcome my discomfort. Luckily, my husband and my friends and family were incredibly supportive, and they encouraged me to do whatever I felt was best for myself and my daughter.

Frankly, at this point, if anyone had offered me friendly advice to “keep it up” or “push through,” I probably would have tackled them and quit immediately. But I felt like I was able to give myself permission to move on, and for some reason that gave me what I needed to continue. So even though I thought about quitting every day, I kept going. I kept hoping that, with more time, my body would adjust to its new job and things would get better.

And eventually they did.

Finally, after about eight weeks, my nipples healed and I turned a corner. I was in awe of my body’s resiliency, and I actually found myself looking forward to feeding and comforting my baby. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I encountered more challenges (blocked ducts and an unfortunate incident with a breast pump). Even so, the goal of six months, which once loomed like an impossible prison sentence, seemed within reach. I not only made it to that milestone, but when I did, I was shocked that I wasn’t ready to start weaning my daughter.

As much as I had read about breastfeeding, nothing prepared me for the wide range of emotions it would cause, and the contradictory feelings I would have about the experience. Today, my daughter is 9 months old, and I still nurse her twice a day, while supplementing with formula and solid foods.

Like so many other things, breastfeeding is a unique and personal journey. What is right for one family, may not work for another. Some mothers have a beautiful experience from the start, but if that isn’t your reality, just know that you are not alone. For me, it was a rocky road that filled me with self-doubt and frustration. In the end, I am incredibly grateful that instead of just painful memories, I will now have some positive ones of connection and love as well.

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About Danielle Vigueria

About Danielle  Vigueria Danielle Vigueria is a new mom, step-mom, wife, and freelance writer. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Virginia and a Master of Professional Studies in publishing from George Washington University. She recently traded her beach life in coastal Virginia for the mountains of Idaho. When she isn’t writing, Danielle relaxes by hanging out with her family, reading lots of YA fiction, and watching the deer wander in her backyard.