Can I hate breastfeeding and still do it?
In short, yes if that's what you want.
I did, for about a year and a bit before I found out that hating it and getting angry/agitated is a 'thing'. By that I mean 'Breastfeeding / Nursing Aversion and Agitation'.
When I started to experience aversion, it was with my first born, and I was living in an area with a bunch of lovely mothers. They were all huge breastfeeding advocates, babywearers, and attachment parents. So, when my son started to wake every 45 minutes at night, every night, I naturally asked for advice about what to do...and was told again and again to:
Whilst it worked in a sense, to get him sleep and back to sleep, I slowly lost my sleep, and quickly following, my sanity. Whether it was this, or the return of my post natal menses (despite exclusively breastfeeding every two hours since his birth...), that triggered my aversion I still don't know. In many ways, it doesn't matter. It was there, I absolutely hated breastfeeding, and it didn't go away. As it got worse, shortly thereafter, I started to experience it at every.single.feed.
Credit: Latched and Attached.
I began to feel very odd, as my rational will and wanting in my heart to continue breastfeeding was at odds with my feelings while breastfeeding. In my everyday life I began to feel isolated and alone because of my feelings of anger and agitation, and the guilt I got about those feelings. It was only recently that I began to realise why.
Firstly, wherever you look, any breastfeeding institutions and organisations, you see pictures of smiling mum and happy babies. Like most things about parenting, hating an aspect of it, with the exception of sleep, is not really spoken about or portrayed. We have social media too to thank for that. Everyone, everywhere, pretty much seems so happy when nursing. So, basically, I was taken by surprise. I had no idea what it was, had never heard of it, and never expected to experience those emotions, at such intensity while breastfeeding. Where the f was the oxytocin?
Secondly, I could not for the life of me find any information on what was going on, and it nearly led to despair. I didn't want to wean and anyway, he was a TOTAL boob monster, as in, it was INCESSANT, I couldn't if i wanted to. It was only when I found out about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER, that I stumbled upon the author's words about 'breastfeeding agitation. And then I was set. I read everything about it I could find ( which was easy because it is basically one La Leche League post, Hilary Flower's book, and numerous blogs). Needless to say it was not enough, no where did it explain why it happened. Nowhere did it say what could I do about it, and what could help. I wasn't pregnant, and I wasn't tandem feeding. It didn't make sense, and I desperately wanted to continue breastfeeding.
I also found an amazing peer-to-peer support group online, which gave me that crucial stabilizing support in my most darkest hours, so I could continue.
I started breastfeeding peer support work, and trained with the NHS, so I could learn more about breastfeeding and how to help mothers face-to-face, and how to transfer that to online.
Now I'm here, this is what I do, this is what I am. Someone who hated breastfeeding and who continued. (I'm not saying you should continue breastfeeding if you hate it, I'm saying I did, and it's possible if you want to)
How did I do it? Well, I'm not sure exactly, it was so bloody hard. My husband started doing nights, and so I only had to breastfeed a couple of times at night. He was my hero and my saviour, I could not have done it without him. My son stopped having milk at night a few months later. I then fed during the day, but it seemed like all the time, no, it was ALL.THE TIME. So I did a 'nursing only top' (didn't work), and a 'nursing only chair' (partly worked). I never offered, and didn't refuse, but only after offering EVERYTHING under the sun before milk (no-sugar biscuits were the key). I then did 'singing a song', and started to limit the time at the breast. I tried mindfulness and deep breathing while he was latched (this helped a lot). At the time I didn't know about cognitive distraction and supplements, which I would have done straight away (and I'm sure is helping me with my current breastfeeding aversion with my daughter).
About a year later my son had effectively stopped breastfeeding, I guess due to all the boundary-setting and limiting of feeds. Also, because I was pregnant, but I didn't know it at the time. I hoped to continue until he was 2 at least, but that wasn't to be. In truth, deep down, I was a little relieved, but that didn't take away from the pain of having to stop before I wanted to.
I'm sure I'm not alone in that, and I wish there was more support. If you know anyone who is struggling, or you are struggling yourself, get some help - there's more information now and an online support.
Sorry this was super long. I actually wrote it a couple of years ago, and re-wrote it and put it as a draft so many times. It's just hard to share stuff like this because everyone around me seemed to love breastfeeding, and now I work and volunteer in infant feeding saying something that can be 'construed' to be against breastfeeding or portray it in a negative light is shut down so often.
I hope it helps someone, I'm just trying to be honest.