Aside from actually giving birth, breastfeeding is generally the hardest thing that a new mom has to do. It lasts far longer than labor and delivery, it comes with a boatload of baggage called "social stigma," and it can make even the most self-assured mother doubt herself. Support is everything, especially when it comes to being successful at breastfeeding, and your friends can be there for you in ways that even your partner can't. Trust me, there are things every breastfeeding woman needs to hear from her friends that will help her and encourage her and remind her that, even if breastfeeding is the biggest struggle she's faced, she isn't alone in that struggle.
Sadly, I experienced every breastfeeding problem under the sun, and right from the beginning. There were times when I was so depressed and exhausted and hopeless that breastfeeding didn't even seem worth it, but having girlfriends who were able to relate to all of those feelings (even if it was in a semi-small way) really made a difference. Sometimes, a quick comment from a friend, like, "Wow, you're amazing for continuing," made the difference between me ending my breastfeeding journey and me, well, continuing.
It's great to have the support of your family; but (chances are) a significant amount of time has passed since your mom or your aunt or your grandmother or your second cousin once removed has breastfed, and time has a funny way of smoothing over the rough patches and making something difficult, seem blissful. I mean, nothing seems all that bad after 20 years, does it? True understanding and empathy is something you'll get from your friends, because their memories (or even current experiences) of breastfeeding are fresh and raw and relatable. If you have to commiserate with someone, it might as well be someone who is either going through it at the same time, or acutely remembers what it's like.
So, with that in mind, here are 11 things every breastfeeding woman needs to hear from her friends, because you might be the only person feeding your kid, but it doesn't mean you're the only person who knows what it's like to struggle feeding your kid.
"It Was Hard For Me, Too"
I can't tell you how important it is for every new mom (whether she's breastfeeding or not) to know they aren't the only ones to have a difficult time. However, for breastfeeding mothers especially, knowing your struggles aren't specific to you is just, well, vital. We have this idea of breastfeeding in our head, an idea that has been marketed to us, and when that idea doesn't become reality, it's difficult not to assume that we're the problem. To hear that we're not the problem, and that other women are experiencing similar problems, is everything.
"You're Doing A Great Job"
Honestly, you can never hear this phrase enough when you're doing something as exhausting as breastfeeding. Words of support and encouragement from your friends can really make all the difference.
"There's Nothing Wrong With Wanting To Use Formula, If That's What You Want"
Many mothers who have to end up either supplementing with formula or switching to formula, feel guilty and like failures and even question their abilities as parents. I mean, we're our harshest critics. To hear that our choice (whether or not it's made out of necessity) is an acceptable choice to make, can be a game changer. Babies that end up having formula turn out just fine, but hearing that from moms who have used it on their own babies can help reduce the mom guilt.
"You're Not Alone In Your Struggles"
For some reason, a lot of moms don't talk about their struggles with breastfeeding until they're asked directly. I don't know why this is (I certainly never had that problem), but if I had to guess, I'd say because mothers are constantly being judged for their abilities and/or their decisions and, well, who wants to put themselves in a position to be on the receiving end of that shame? However, the sooner new moms hear just how many women struggle with breastfeeding, the better off they will be.
"I Totally Agree, Cluster Feeding Is The Worst!"
You don't know how awful cluster feeding is on your nipples until you've been through it yourself. You just, well, don't.
"At Some Point, You Are Going To Leak All Over The Damn Place"
Getting this tip from the source, from someone who has actually been through it, can help drive it home, because I know I was in denial about how much I could actually leak.
"You're Not A Bad Mom For Going On Your Phone While You Breastfeed"
Oh, the mom guilt. I had a group of friends who all had their first baby within a month of each other (including me). One mom starting telling a story about something she had been watching on her phone while breastfeeding, and apologizing profusely for being such an awful mom because she had been using her phone. We all quickly chimed in and assured her that not only was she far from the only mother to do this, her being on her phone didn't mean she as a "bad mom."
"This Is What I Did To Make Pumping Less Stressful/Boring..."
In all honesty, I wish someone had given me a tip or a pointer or something that would have helped with breast pumping. It took me about three years of occasional pumping while staring at a blank wall, before I figured out that I could watch something on my iPad or laptop. It's OK, you can call me dense.
"When I Needed To Boost My Supply, This Is What Worked For Me..."
There's no question that every woman responds differently to galactagogues, but hearing first hand experiences beats reading stuff on the internet any day.
"This Was My Favorite Nipple Cream..."
I'm sorry, I couldn't resist Shaq in this gif. Again, who doesn't prefer first hand experience, as opposed to what a stranger recommends? I actually always include my favorite nipple cream when I give a baby shower gift.
"Breastfeeding Is Hard. Don't Let Anyone Kid You."
If there's one thing I think all breastfeeding mothers need to hear, it's that breastfeeding is f*cking hard. Especially in the beginning. Knowing in advance, or at least in the very beginning, can help frame your experience and manage your expectations and keep you from crying in the bathroom every morning. Instead of feeling like a failure if things get hard, you can understand that you are one of many who have been through this.