As soon as my baby bump became obvious I was inundated with questions and comments about breastfeeding;from a simple “are you going to breastfeed?” to a tangent about how if I didn’t breastfeed I was “showing the baby that I didn’t love them.” After I had Hudson, my son, it only got worse. I couldn’t believe how many women, mostly women I did not have a personal relationship with, brought up the topic and offeredtheir unsolicited advice and opinions. Not only did these interactions completely catch me off-guard, but they really affected my mental health. I analyzed everything I heard and compared myself to these other women. Remember: It’s okay to set healthy boundaries; you aren’t being rude if you tell someone you’d really prefer not to discuss breastfeeding.
Before pregnancy, I remember hearing the title “lactation consultant” and being surprised it was a real job. I wasn’t judging the position, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what this person did and how they could possibly help with breastfeeding. Well, ladies, I’m here to tell you that Lactation Consultant is not only a real job, but an important one and, while I have no idea how much an LC is paid, they probably deserve more.
When I was in the hospital the nurses didn’t really provide a lot of direction. They just told me to continue nursing and to stick with it. I had no idea that it would hurt so bad or that your milk doesn’t always come in right away (mine didn’t). After a few days at home, I was really concerned that I wasn’t doing something correctly and that Hudson wasn’t getting enough food, so I made an appointment with the Lactation Consultant at our pediatrician’s office. In addition to helping with the logistics of nursing (latching, positioning the baby, etc.) and weighing the baby after a feeding to make sure he was getting enough milk, my LC offered support and words of encouragement, which I really needed. Truth be told, I was a little embarrassed to make the appointment and felt disappointed that I couldn’t figure out breastfeeding on my own, but it taught me my first mom lesson: there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
Giving birth and becoming a parent is absolutely incredible, but it’s also extremely overwhelming physically, mentally, and emotionally. I noticed early on that when I felt stressed, upset, or anxious it not only affected my milk production but it affected Hudson’s feedings. So I started a ritual before feedings on the days when I felt a little out of sorts: I would take several big deep breaths and close my eyes for 10-15 seconds before picking up the baby, then I’d take him to this big comfy chair in our house, turn on an old movie, take a few more deep breaths, and try to relax while he nursed. It sounds silly, but it really helped.
When I was pregnant I didn’t have anyone to talk to about breastfeeding. I only had two friends with children and neither of them breastfed and I wasn’t breastfed so I couldn’t ask my mom. I attended a class a few months before my due date, but honestly, I really didn’t retain what I learned. There were so many thoughts going through my head trying to prepare for the baby and I was also just physically exhausted. When the baby arrived I assumed nursing was going to be instinctual. But it wasn’t that easy. As I mentioned before, I didn’t know it would hurt or that my milk might not come in right away. I didn’t have nursing bras or nipple salve or any of the proper supplies. I didn’t know how long feedings should last or when I should start pumping, I didn’t know anything. I ended up ordering a book on Amazon before I left the hospital.
Regardless of how prepared you feel you will mostly have questions, so whether you bookmark helpful blog posts (like this one) or pick up a few books, make sure you have reading material on-hand. Even if you don’t get to it before the baby arrives, it will be great to reference those first few days at home.
As Natalie so beautifully wrote in her post, “At the end of the day, she is nourished and happy and that’s all that matters.” It’s true. Your job as a mother is to nurture your child and whether that means breastfeeding or formula, your child’s health is what’s most important. For some reason, I had it in my head that I needed to breastfeed for at least a year. I have no idea where that came from or why I decided on that timetable, but when my milk supply plummeted and I had to stop nursing, I was incredibly disappointed and really hard on myself. I felt like a failure and I didn’t understand why all of these other women had freezers full of breast milk and I could barely fill 1/4 of the bottle after 45 minutes of pumping. Eventually, I saw the light and realized there were a lot of good things about formula: my husband could help with feedings, I could carry a mini cooler with bottles in my diaper bag instead of having to find a place to nurse, and I didn’t have to worry about pumping. It didn’t mean I wasn’t having special bonding time with my son or I was a bad mom, it just meant that he was being fed differently than I had planned.
Image by Carly Abbott Photography.