I am getting closer and closer to publishing my memoir about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD. Breastfeeding plays an important part in my book because breastfeeding aggravated — maybe even caused — my symptoms. But I can’t include all the scenes I have written about breastfeeding, so here is one that is not making the cut.
“As you can see, for the first six weeks, breastfeeding is more difficult than formula. Formula is denser than breastmilk, so formula newborns feed less often. And of course, anyone can give the baby a bottle, so mom does not have to get up so often during the night.”
The teacher, a lactation consultant and doula, clicked to the next slide.
“But in the long run, breastfeeding is easier than formula. There’s no need to pack bulky bottles when you go out. When the baby is hungry, you just sit down and start nursing. You don’t have to waste a ton of time preparing the bottle.”
The teacher clicked to the next slide.
“But after six weeks, breastfeeding gets easier. Your baby’s stomach will get bigger, so she won’t have to nurse as often. She’ll get better at nursing, so breastfeeding sessions will not take as long.”
I nodded vigorously, along with forty other expectant parents, and scribbled in my notebook, Gets easier in six weeks.
The teacher frowned as the next slide appeared. “Unfortunately, most mothers give up and quit before reaching that six week mark. They switch to formula because they don’t want to do the hard work of those first six weeks.”
Silence. The implication hung heavy in the air: the mothers who switched from breastfeeding to formula were lazy and weak.
“But I know everyone who is here wants to give their children the very best possible start in life. And as we saw earlier, breastfeeding is better than formula. Those first six weeks are tough, but you are making an investment that will pay off in the long run.”
Right, I thought, it’s an investment. I can do this. I am strong enough.
By the time Pippa was six weeks old, breastfeeding was as time-consuming as it had been in the maternity ward. She was insatiable and I felt tethered to the leather armchair where I did most of the breastfeeding.
I emailed a group of trusted friends who had breastfed their babies:
Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t emailed recently, but I have another question. Pippa is six weeks old now. I thought breastfeeding should be easier than now, but things are as demanding as ever. Am I doing something wrong?
My friends responded individually but they each promised that the first three months of motherhood are hell but once I survived newborn boot camp, things would get easier.
The internet confirmed this hypothesis.
All right then, I thought, I just have to survive until the three month mark.
If the pressure to breastfeed had not been so intense, would I have suffered for as long as I did?