Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, wistful dream, or a horrid nightmare. Lucky for me, I had the chance to experience both. People, as well as circumstance, can make or break your breastfeeding journey, and each one of my journeys was so different that the only constant was, well, me. Sure, there were many variables that played into my successes and failures, but overall it was all up to me to either make it work or find an alternative. Breastfeeding didn't come "naturally" to me, either. In fact, it was a real struggle. The first time I nursed I lost that struggle, but the second time I persevered.
When I had my daughter, my firstborn, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I did not take any breastfeeding classes because I had erroneously assumed breastfeeding was a totally natural experience that all women can effortlessly do and, well, why would I need a class for something my body was designed to do on its own? Turns out, I should have taken that class. My daughter refused to latch, and after numerous attempts she and I were both screaming and crying. My nipples were bleeding, she was hungry, and after a week or so I gave up and started pumping. That's when the most hated relationship of my life began: the relationship between my breasts the breast pump.
My son was a different story, though. I knew all of the things I had previously done incorrectly, and all of the obstacles I was sure to face, so I was ready. My husband and I took a breastfeeding class, and were the only non-new parents in attendance. I came to the class with a single goal: learn how to get my child to latch. That's all I wanted. When my son was born, I insisted on the lactation consultant's undivided attention, too. I basically told everyone at the hospital that I planned on asking for the consultant as much as possible, because I had to learn how to breastfeed my child before I left the hospital and, well, there wasn't a lot of time. My determination, stubbornness, research, and willingness to prepare was, I think, responsible for my successful breastfeeding journey with my son. But I know I was not the only variable at play in my latest breastfeeding journey, and the people below can make or break that journey for any new mom hoping to nurse her child.
Your baby can definitely make or break your breastfeeding relationship. For example, my daughter probably hated me and wanted to bite off my nipple as payback for evicting her a week after her due date. My son, however, was nicer to his mother and decided to only slightly bite, so there was hardly any blood at all.
Your partner can either be supportive of breastfeeding or nonchalantly think it's no big deal. Either way, he or she can be a significant influence on your journey. My husband basically supported my decision. He knew how hard breastfeeding was for me, so he told me I need to take care of my mental health and if breastfeeding was causing me too much distress, I should consider an alternative.
With my daughter, the nurse on staff told me I needed a nipple shield and, because I did not know any better, I believed her. I truly believe I ruined breastfeeding for me and my daughter as a result. The nipple shield was the biggest crutch-turned-nemesis I have ever encountered, and ended up making nursing damn-near impossible. The second time around, however, the nurse didn't even mention the nipple shield and, instead, said I could totally breastfeed without one. Her believe in me gave me the confidence I needed to be successful.
The Lactation Consultant
A good consultant can help in ways you can't even imagine. If you need help, ask. Many insurances cover some of the costs that are associated with lactation consultants.
My mother was my rock, but not every mom is created equal. My mom helped me so much with technique and random tips and tricks and, in the end, she was looking out for me. It was nice to feel like there was at least one person who had my best interest at heart.
Your Breastfeeding Friend
My close girlfriend and I were breastfeeding at the same time and we used to text each other while we were pumping in the middle of the night. It was something that really helped me because it didn't feel as lonely as it could have.
The Random Offended Stranger
Some people just can't handle a mother feeding her children, apparently, and are just terrified at the sight of a breast. Sadly, those people can sometimes put a damper on breastfeeding. I, however, didn't care about any of those people and was lucky enough to not be told I couldn't breastfeed in public. Which was good, because I breastfed in public all the time.