While I obviously can’t speak from personal experience, over the years that I’ve been serving expectant mothers that have become mothers and witnessed the dynamics of the breastfeeding relationship – I have learned so much. In order to prepare to breastfeed successfully – there’s a lot of things that women need to do, but there’s also aspects of the relationship that can’t come from reading books or asking friends. In order to truly be successful in reaching her breastfeeding goals, a mother must make it a point to prepare herself psychologically and surround herself with the right resources to increase her chances of success.
That all said, here are 4 essential realizations that I think will help women reach their breastfeeding goals.
Remember: Breastfeeding is Work.
Women struggle in the beginning weeks of their first child not only to acclimate to the change in sleep schedule, but having a tiny person whose existence is reliant on them for nutrition. The concept of breastfeeding seems easy: Baby comes out, baby latches on the nipple, baby gets milk. But there are so many things that factor in. Was the birth experience traumatic? Does the mother have flat nipples? Does the child have a tongue tie? Should we be able to monitor how much a newborn feeds? Schedule? Don’t schedule? Overfeeding? There are a lot of things to debate and wonder about – and add to this complications like sore nipples, mastitis, overactive letdown, food sensitivities, reflux… It’s overwhelming and it’s not the experience you imagined during your pregnancy. But it’s rewarding and it has exponential health benefits for your baby.
Breastfeeding requires support from EVERYONE around a woman.
As if those difficulties weren’t enough to deal with, a new mother sometimes experiences grief from their significant other, parents, in-laws or friends. Common things that breastfeeding moms hear are things like:
- “Maybe your milk is making her fussy.”
- “You know, we would really like to feed the baby, too.”
- “You’re not going to nurse right here, are you?”
Not everyone is supportive of breastfeeding. Some people are so out of touch with it that they’ve forgotten how difficult it can be. Others have given up along the way and may discount what breastmilk means to a new baby. Surround yourself with like-minded mothers by joining your local La Leche League or getting supporting from friends who have successfully breastfed. You’re not alone in your difficulties and as soon as you start educating those around you and surrounding yourself with resources and knowledge, you’ll be much more likely to succeed in the long term.
Breastfeeding can be compromised by the tiniest “Booby Trap”
Booby traps are a real thing. They come in the form of formula companies sending samples to pregnant mothers, your pediatrician questioning how much the baby is getting, suggested supplementation, babies being overfed at daycare, short maternity leaves, poor advice and judgment from others for the duration, frequency or location of nursing. Everywhere you turn there is a breastfeeding obstacle. Make sure that you are prepared to handle them and well-educated so that you can continue breastfeeding to your personal goal through any obstacles that arise.
Breastfeeding mothers need a community.
It’s difficult to reach any goal without a supportive community. There is strength in numbers and by joining the communities that are available to you you can gain access to unlimited expertise. Personally, I recommend that my patients join the BRAS – Breastfeeding Resources and Support group on Facebook. This group is compromised of thousands of breastfeeding women, midwives, lactation consultants and veteran breastfeeding moms. It’s a great place to vent, get support and ask questions related to breastfeeding and the obstacles that you’re experiencing.
Very few people set goals without preparing for their own success. In order to help ensure that you meet your breastfeeding goals, it’s essential that you begin by understanding these concepts and doing your best to prepare. Of course, there are instances when mothers cannot breastfeed, but their occasions are rare and more often than not – the obstacles that stack against a breastfeeding mother are what derails that relationship. By preparing yourself for what’s to come, you’ll be much better suited to meet your own goals.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a great resource to start with and addresses many of the issues that women experience as they embark on their breastfeeding relationship. Breastfeeding holds many, many benefits for little ones from populating essential gut bacteria to strengthening the immune system to decreasing risk of SIDS as well as assisting in a new mother’s recovery emotionally and physically. Breastfeeding is best for babies.