Breastfeeding Took a Toll on My Life, Job and Marriage
A working mum shares with us how breastfeeding took a huge toll on her life, job and marriage. Read on to find out how she overcame the struggles and continued to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding took a toll on my life – this Singaporean full-time working mum shares with us her breastfeeding journey that was fraught with struggles.
Ever so often, we hear stories glorifying and celebrating breastfeeding. But in reality, breastfeeding is both heart work and hard work. Breastfeeding took a toll on my life, my marriage and my job.
Don’t get me wrong. The decision to exclusively breastfeed my second child was one of the best decisions that I ever made. I have no regrets. However, when breastfeeding took a toll on my life, I was unprepared and I felt alone in my struggles.
There needs to be more awareness of how difficult it can get. Mums need to know that they are not alone in their struggle. Most importantly, mums need to know just how much they should stretch themselves and when they should stop.
It started well for me. My boy latched like a champ from the first time the nurse brought him to me. I had no issues with my milk coming in, and within the first few weeks, I had a huge freezer stash to fall back on.
The first few months after delivery was rather easy. I was on maternity leave and the only time I left my baby was to ferry my older child to and from school. My husband was overseas and I took my baby along wherever I went.
Moreover, my little one made things easy for me. He had no issues switching from direct latching to bottle-feeding. Breastfeeding was easier than I had imagined it to be, or so I thought.
Things started to change drastically when my maternity leave ended and I returned to work. Breastfeeding took a toll on my life in every possible aspect.
Upon returning to work, I resumed my usual routines and spent most of my day out of the house. The hours apart caused my baby to have separation anxiety and he would make up for it by waking up multiple times at night to latch on.
It wasn’t so bad at first but after a few weeks, I started to feel ridiculously exhausted. I woke up every morning feeling more tired than the previous day.
I dragged myself out of the house looking like a zombie. My eyes were so puffy that no amount of concealer could save me.
Shortly after returning to work, my milk supply started to drop. As such, I needed to pump religiously, once every three hours. This meant that when I only had a half-hour break, it was a choice between lunch or expressing milk. Clearly I chose the latter.
Breastfeeding took a toll on my life. At that point in time, I was in denial and I didn’t see what I was doing to myself. I thought I was superwoman and I could bite the bullet and get through it.
Then one fine day, I was rushing through the expressway traffic to pick up my son when suddenly, I felt faint. My hands felt cold and they were trembling. My head felt light and I could barely keep my eyes open.
Tears clouded my vision and I wiped them away in a desperate attempt to keep my focus on the road. I felt hungry, tired and helpless. I was running on barely three hours of sleep every night and I often skipped meals just to breastfeed or express milk for my baby.
If that wasn’t bad enough, breastfeeding was starting to strain my marriage. We could not go out for a few hours without me having to express milk, or return home to feed the baby. Breastfeeding took a toll on my life by eating into whatever little time my husband and I had together.
Our sex life was not spared as well. My son would wake up multiple times at night and refuse to sleep unless he latched on. The milk bottle would never pacify him and he would cry and scream until he had it his way.
My husband started to get frustrated with the situation. It got so bad that he said breastfeeding was taking the joy out of being a parent. He almost didn’t want to have any more kids because of breastfeeding.
We ended up spending hardly any quality time together as we would get interrupted shortly after sitting down to have a chat. We often disagreed and he kept asking me when I would stop breastfeeding. Whenever we went out and I had to nurse the baby, it would end up leading to an argument.
My other family members were also not supportive of my breastfeeding journey. I felt like I was all alone and the world was against me.
I did consider weaning my son, but he did not take well to formula milk. Whenever I tried to introduce formula milk, he would end up getting rashes or terrible reflux episodes. I tried to wean him at 12 months, and again at 18 months but to no avail.
Eventually, I got pregnant again and it was truly the hardest time of my life. My nipples were sensitive and sore, and the pain was excruciating when he latched on. And I was exhausted and famished all the time.
On a few occasions, I broke down in tears wondering why it had to be so hard. It seemed so perfect yet it was such a mess and just so difficult. I really wanted to give up.
But somehow, I would cry it out and compose myself again. I reminded myself why I chose to breastfeed and how happy it made me to see my child smiling and falling asleep looking so contented after I nursed him.
Yes, breastfeeding took a toll on my life but I don’t regret it. Today I look at my 2.5-year-old son. He is healthy, thriving and happy. He is strong, intelligent and has a zest for life. Maybe it’s got to do with breastfeeding, maybe it’s just him. But somehow, I feel that the breastfeeding struggle was all worth it.
I now have a 6-month-old baby, and I am tandem nursing both my children. It’s not as hard as before as my boy is finally starting to understand that it’s time for him to ‘grow up’. He sleeps through the night and comes to me for an occasional comfort feed.
My breastfeeding journey this time round is surprisingly easier. My baby doesn’t nurse frequently at night and gets up for one feed at the most. I am better rested and I am able to focus on my job.
As for my marriage, things are much better. I’m glad that my husband and I managed to get past the rough patch and find time for each other. He has also become more understanding about breastfeeding.
So to all mums who are struggling with breastfeeding, just know that breastfeeding is your prerogative and only you will decide whether or not you want to do it. You don’t have to stop because you feel pressured to.
Having said that, if at any point you feel that it’s too much for you, stop if you must, or alternate the feeds with formula. Fed is best, and it’s most important that you are happy, healthy and sane.
*Names have not been revealed to protect the identity of the mum