The true cost of breastfeeding, 6

It’s been about a month since Carl visited. The crack on my nipple is healing. I’ve been diligently spreading breastmilk on my nipples, and applying the nipple cream, and letting my breasts air-dry.

Things are better, but it’s still a struggle.

Every time I feed Lucas, I have to check his latch. I get lazy about this, and I still get wounds.

There’s less pain now, but I have fallen asleep while breastfeeding–twice! 

And there are other costs.

I’m always hungry and thirsty. Lucas feeds every two hours, and it feels like I need to eat that often too.

Because I have to air-dry my breasts, I’m shirtless as much as possible. When I have to leave the bedroom, I have to be careful about the shirt I wear. I need something in a soft fabric that won’t chafe, and I need dark clothes so it’s not terribly obvious when I start leaking.

I’ve stopped looking at my breasts as objects of beauty and desire and sexuality. I look in the mirror and think, are they lopsided? Engorged? Will they hurt today?

For about a week, my  breasts didn’t know when it was 3 in the morning and my child was asleep. My breasts would be full and aching and I would have to get up and pump. My breasts didn’t know that it was  6 am and he was still asleep.

When Lucas’ cries reach a certain pitch, my breasts ache, and I start leaking.

When I get dressed to go out, I look for the shirts that I can easily lift up or open, so I can feed Lucas easily. Never mind if I look a little shapeless.

When I feed Lucas from one breast, and pump milk from the other, I feel like a factory, or a soup kitchen. I’m a food source.

When he cries and I don’t know what to do, sometimes I just count the minutes till the next feeding, because that I’m sure will quiet him down.

Sometimes I feel like half my day is spent in bed, breastfeeding.

Most of my blog entries written over the past two months were written on my phone, while breastfeeding or pumping. Including this one.

My friend Marla said it took three or four months before breastfeeding became completely painless for her. My OB said at one point, breastfeeding hurt so much that she was tempted to apply anesthesia to her nipples. Ros said, sometimes it’s like you’re afraid of your own child.

It will get better, I’m sure. It will get easier, and I won’t feel like a cow. But as I’m writing, I wake up at 4, 5, 6 in the morning, my breasts aching, and the bed is wet with milk. Note to self:

Don’t let motherhood turn you into a lactating hermit. Being a new mother means you’re vulnerable in a whole new way and need people in a deeper sense than you ever have before, says Ellison. Seek out other mothers at the playground, the gym, even the grocery store. Other mothers empathize with what you’re going through like no one else. One large study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that belonging to a strong social network correlates with better mental functioning. Plus, social support helps ward off postpartum depression — a problem that affects 10 percent of new moms.  

How motherhood makes you smarter 

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