My nipples are not chew toys.

That was my thought this morning (2 a.m. to be exact) as my son clamped down. He’s six months old and teething. My nipples have become an extra source of comfort for him. Not only is he nursing more often, sometimes 7 times in one night, he’s starting to pinch the other one he’s not gnawing on.

For something that is as natural as it is, the realities of nursing aren’t as pleasant as one might think. When my children were newborns, they nursed around the clock. Meaning, there was a baby attached to my nipple constantly for the first two weeks of their lives. It was incessant crying for more milk and getting no more than 45 minutes of sleep at a time and that, my friend, was easy.

Some babies struggle to nurse in the first place. They can’t latch on properly or they simply prefer a bottle. Other babies nurse fine but can’t stomach mama’s milk. I know of so many mothers who tried to breastfeed their babies but it just didn’t work out.

The struggles are real.

For other moms, their children took to breastfeeding easily but perhaps took too much comfort in nursing. These moms were worn out because their child nursed around the clock long after mother’s milk came in. My son has been doing this since he turned 4 months old. He’s now 6 months. It has been 2 months of having no more than a good two-hour stretch of sleep. To say I am exhausted is putting it lightly.

I tell you these things, not because I want to discourage breastfeeding. I want to do the opposite.

Breastfeeding, with all of its sleepless nights and discomfort, is the most beautiful thing I’ve been able to experience with my children.

And don’t be fooled by more words, this is not a “breast is best” article. I respect all moms, whether they formula feed or nurse their children. This mothering thing isn’t easy for any of us. We moms have to stick together and that is why I write this: I need breastfeeding mamas to know they are not alone. I need breastfeeding moms to know that they aren’t wrong in thinking sometimes breastfeeding sucks.

Physically, breastfeeding is taxing. It takes energy to produce milk. Being a milk truck adds to the exhaustion that is motherhood. There is also the fact that many breastfed babies prefer the breast. That means dads, partners, grandparents, can’t necessarily take over for mom at night. My son is one of those babies.

Although it may seem like a curse, the truth is it’s a blessing.

You see, when he leans over at night seeking nourishment and comfort, he leans in to me. He finds comfort in my flesh. He is calmed with my nourishment. I get to hear him babble and coo in the wee hours of the morning. It’s an intimate moment that he and I share.

My breasts don’t feel like they are my own right now. Sometimes they hurt. Sometimes I resent waking up every hour and a half because my son is teething or going through a growth spurt.

However, I do it. I do it because, most of the time, I love it. I charge through because he loves it, because it feels right for us. So mama, if you are struggling with the realities of breastfeeding, please know that you are not alone.

Breastfeeding isn’t easy but it is a blessing. It is nothing short of amazing.