While more than 79 percent of new moms initiate breastfeeding today, most do not reach their intended goals. I would contend that a lot of this has to do with the fact that, as a society, we know hardly anything about breastfeeding. For most of the 20th century, America saw an overall decline in numbers of nursing mothers. While rates have gone up since the mid-90's, the support networks of women who knew WTF was up no longer exist in the same way. So, most new mothers have to rely on personal breastfeeding mantas to help them through nursing.
Whether or not one chooses to breastfeed at all, of course, is a matter of preference. No one is obligated to try to make breastfeeding work (with a mantra or anything else) and especially if the parent in question has no interest. However, for those among us who do want to give it a go, repeated, empowering words of affirmation and comfort can make all the difference in the world and actually assist us in reaching our breastfeeding goals. While it's possible to succeed without help, support, or a strategy, it's not particularly likely (not to mention a lot harder).
So what are some of the things moms can tell themselves to push them through the difficult, painful, annoying, and messy aspects of nursing? I talked to breastfeeding and formerly breastfeeding parents and got the following responses:
"'I think I can, I think I can...' and then eventually I didn't need a mantra anymore, because it became easy after the nightmare of the first couple of months."
"Every time it got hard I'd make a goal like, 'OK, I'm going to breastfeed until she's 6 weeks old' and then without fail by the time we got to 6 weeks it was easier. Then I would say, 'OK let's do it until she's 3 months,' etc. etc. We breastfed until almost a year when I got my period and my milk supply diminished."
'Don't quit on a bad day.'
"A weird one but this stuck with me: Your boobs are production facilities, not warehouses. In the early days when I totally freaked about supply, this helped remind me not to stress, that I could always continue to make more milk. She's a year old next week, still breastfeeding, and I still remind myself of this sometimes!"
"'One more time is better than none.' I did not enjoy breastfeeding and did not last long. But I know breast milk is liquid gold, so I did it for at least a little while."
'This is temporary.' [It] is also a mantra for every phase of every parenting thing, but that helped on the hard days.
"'Just one more day...' Fourteen months later, and I'm still telling myself that."
"'Don't quit on a bad day' and I used to tell myself, 'You have done it for two weeks, you can do it for one more week,' and 'You have done it for three months, do it for one more' etc. Wound up talking myself into nursing for 20 months."
"'This is a short period of your life, it's for the best, you can do it.' Short period of my life ended up being 4 years straight with 2 kiddos.
"'Otters are not born knowing how to swim.' Can you think of anything more natural than an otter swimming? Just look at them! They've evolved specifically to be able to swim really well, but despite being well-suited for it they still have to learn and it's often a scary, painful ordeal. It's like that with breastfeeding. Nursing a baby is 'natural,' but it doesn't come naturally. Simultaneously acknowledging the inherent difficulty and the fact that new mothers are generally well-equipped to handle it was really reassuring for me."
"Having only been breastfeeding for 5 weeks, and a very, very rough time with it, my mantra is to breathe deep, not talk, and envision colors. Call me crazy but, for pain, envisioning a color helps. Not one specific color each time, but changing it up. We've struggled with breastfeeding and trying to remain calm and focused is what helps me. Breastfeeding is tougher than I knew it would be."
'This is a revolutionary act!'
"It sounds crazy and militant, but so few babies are breastfed to World Health Organization recommendations, so acknowledging and exercising the idea that nursing a baby is a basic right feels really powerful, even on days when it otherwise sucks."