Image source: Wikimedia
Just call me mama moo.
Nobody warned you about breastfeeding. Oh, sure, you’ve heard Pollyannas make claims like “Many moms also discover that breastfeeding is easier and more satisfying than they ever imagined,” and “I look down into your eyes and feel you tugging at my breast but it feels like you’re tugging at my heart.” Excuse me, what? From the cracking and bleeding to the engorgement and leaking, this feels absolutely nothing like the most natural thing in the world.
Just keep swimming.
If you haven’t seen Finding Nemo, your babe will love it from around age four (just keep your fast-forward-trigger-finger ready). If you have seen it, then you remember Dory, the perpetually-optimistic-memory-challenged sidekick to Nemo’s Dad, Marlin. Her catchphrase whenever anything got them down: Just keep swimming.
I’m probably a textbook example of successful breastfeeding. My babies latched well and I fortunately never struggled with thrush or mastitis. But it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops: pumping never worked so it was all boob, all the time, and even after nursing three healthy babies I still struggled with confidence issues about my milk supply, plugged ducts, and the total exhaustion that came from being solely responsible for feeding my wailing, red-faced bundle of joy. Daddy’s support is essential, but let’s keep it real ladies: there’s no ‘we’ in breastfeeding. There’s no ‘wtf’ either, although that’s how I felt most of the time.
If you’re new to nursing, invest in lanolin cream and apply liberally after each feed. Make peace with washcloths in the shower, and, if that fails, cabbage leaves. Don’t wear underwire or leak pads containing plastic. If you’re comfortable walking around your house topless, enjoy! It’ll help the healing and you’ll be ready to go when little baba gets hungry. Which will be ALL THE TIME some days. You don’t need to eliminate caffeine (and come on, how are you supposed to function without it anyway?) but don’t overdo it, especially if you’re having trouble falling asleep after those nocturnal wake-up calls. Now is NOT the time to be thinking about weight loss, so take advantage of the opportunity to eat whatevs whenevs. Drink lots of water. As in, LOTS. Meditate, go for a walk, listen to music, do anything that will help you RELAX.
Struggling when learning to breastfeed is common. But pay attention to that feeling in the pit of your stomach if it starts to turn to despair. And then get help. Check out KellyMom and La Leche League for support, and don’t hesitate to scout out a local lactation consultant. If you need a reco, contact your doctor, midwife, mom friends, or the hospital where you had your baby. ASAP.
And if persevering doesn’t get you anywhere and you need to throw in the towel, do it and don’t look back. Breastfeeding was the right choice for our family, but it’s not for everyone. “Experts” can tell you the millions of reasons to choose breastmilk over formula (and they will!) but above all, a baby needs a happy, healthy mom feeding her something nutritious. Weren’t most of us formula-fed anyway?
There’s a steep learning curve to breastfeeding. With luck and support, it can be an incredible bonding experience and you’ll enjoy it so much you’ll be reluctant to wean. But it can also, easily, become something you dread, resulting in feelings of resentment towards your spouse, your baby, and every other mother who seems to nurse with ease. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if (when) you need it, and give yourself a long-overdue pat on the back! Then book a massage.
Email any questions and let us know how this worked for you!