Breastfeeding has been an interesting journey for me. There are many, many important things to know about breastfeeding that I wish I'd discovered before experiencing them. I started out filled with anxiety surrounding it. Anxiety that I wouldn’t have enough breastmilk for my baby, anxiety that it would be too painful to bear, anxiety that I would end up with mastitis... I just had so much anxiety.
What’s funny is that all of those things ended up happening to me, but I continued to breastfeed my daughter, and our breastfeeding relationship lasted for almost 2 years. Then with my second baby, I thought I’d be footloose and fancy free, since I had already experienced so many issues, and worked through them successfully. I was neither footloose nor fancy free, and it was another struggle. But I am still breastfeeding him at 19 months, and we’re fine these days.
Now, I’m not trying to tell you that you should breastfeed for as long as I have, or that you’re any kind of failure if you don’t make it past the first month, or choose not to breastfeed entirely. I’m just telling you that all your fears can come to fruition, and you can still manage to breastfeed successfully. Whatever your definition of success is.
There’s no doubt, however, that having some friends sit me down and give me a pep talk about what was ahead of me would have helped.
You Don't Need To Panic If Your Breasts Feel Empty
I can’t even tell you all the times I panicked about this very thing. But if your baby is producing the right amount of wet diapers and still gaining weight consistently, you’re doing just fine. Our breasts do some amazing adjustments during milk production, and sometimes the engorgement in the beginning, when your milk first comes in, can give you a false sense of what to expect.
The Volume Of Milk That You Pump Is Not An Accurate Measure Of How Much Milk Your Baby Gets
I have heard of mothers measuring how much milk their babies are getting by pumping to see what comes out, but guess what? The suction on one of those contraptions is nowhere near as effective as what your baby can accomplish. Let me say it again: pumping won't remove all the milk in your breasts.
You Are Not A Bad Mom If You're Unable To Breastfeed
I know this isn’t exactly about breastfeeding, but I feel like it’s really important to convey: You are not a bad mother if, for some reason, you don’t breastfeed. It seems to me that breastfeeding advocacy, in an effort to shift the tide away from formula feeding, has wandered into some serious shaming. And I say this as a breastfeeding advocate. No mother should feel guilty for how she feeds her baby, unless she’s feeding her baby mocha frappuccinos and mai tais.
You Are Not A Failure If Your Baby Has Trouble Latching
It was a lactation consultant who told me this, after days of tears (mine and my daughter’s), due to her inability to latch. I felt like a failure, because I couldn’t do this basic thing for my newborn. Turns out I was doing this basic thing just fine, but my daughter wasn’t very good at latching yet. I know it’s hard in the beginning, with all those postpartum hormones raging through your body, but it’s important to try and take your ego out of this equation.
You Are Still Breastfeeding If Your Baby Is Drinking Breastmilk From A Bottle
It was a different lactation consultant who told me this, when my second baby was about 5 months old and I was experiencing excruciating pain when he fed. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep going, and she assured me that, although my baby might not be attached directly to me, this didn’t mean I wasn’t breastfeeding. It was such a relief to hear someone say it, so I’m sharing this now.
A Lactation Consultant Should Be Able To Help You Achieve Your Breastfeeding Goals In A Non-Judgemental Way
I have always heard about the judgy lactation consultants that new moms run into at the hospital, but I’m lucky enough to have never met one personally. The job of a lactation consultant is to help you meet your goals — not theirs. So if the person you’re seeing is coming across as judgy, either call them on it, or find someone else, because they’re not all like that.
Not Every Breastfeeding Session Is Going To Be Picture Perfect
I'm all for the #NormalizeBreastfeeding movement, but sometimes the photos of celebrities breastfeeding can make it seem like it's all rainbows and unicorns when you're feeding your baby. It's not. It can be awkward and annoying, and it is often not Instagram-worthy. And that's OK.
Whatever You're Experiencing Right Now, You're Not Alone
I absolutely mean this, and I speak as the voice of experience: You may be thinking that your situation is uniquely painful or depressing, but I would truly be shocked if it was. I’m not saying your situation isn’t painful or depressing, I’m just here to tell you that someone out there is going through it as well. And in the era of Google, take a moment to see if you can find yourself a community that you can commiserate with. You’d be surprised how much that can help.