If you’re about to give birth, and you plan on breastfeeding, you may want to cover your ears for this next part: the first month of my child’s life, and subsequently, the first month of breastfeeding, were way harder than I expected them to be. I’d heard breastfeeding could be a challenge, but I (naively) tried to remain optimistic about the entire process and my ability to navigate it. However, this totally backfired when I had my fair share of challenges that humbled and frustrated and, basically, wrecked me both physically and emotionally for the first month of my baby's life and my breastfeeding experience.
To be fair, I’m not sure it’s possible to be completely "ready" for breastfeeding, and any challenges that may arise, before actually trying to breastfeed, but still. If I could go back and shake my own shoulders like people do to each other in movies, I totally would.
That said, a fair amount of knowledge came from those challenges; Knowledge that I get to carry around with me and use when and/or if I ever find myself breastfeeding again; Knowledge that I'm more than happy to impart on new mothers because, well, the whole going back in time and shaking your own shoulders is not a viable option. I’m not a breastfeeding expert or medical professional, by any means, but I am a mom who’s been there, so I’m hopeful that my struggles make things a little easier for the next person. So, just in case there are challenges for you, too, for the love of all things baby-related, know that you’re not alone. You're not alone, and if you follow these rules, you'll survive breastfeeding just fine.
Be Good To Yourself
Not only have you just gone through pregnancy, but now you're also healing from birth and trying to figure out this whole breastfeeding thing. It's not an easy time to be you, because you're exhausted and sore and overwhelmed and slightly nervous if not somewhat terrified. Whatever form of self-care you prescribe to, I highly support any efforts to do it. All of it.
I'm not sure what I would have done without my partner's help, or without the lactation consultant I routinely visited. Both of them were crucial to getting through some major latch issues, and both of them were major influences during those first few weeks of breastfeeding.
Know That It Will Get Easier
I remember hearing so many different predictions about when it would get "better." Some told us around six weeks, some said eight weeks, some said three months, or even six months. Whatever your timeline turns out to be, my experience told me that it doesn't stay as difficult as those first few weeks for long (thankfully).
Know Your Sources And Use That Information
There are some key websites (like La Leche League International or KellyMom, for example) that I learned to trust, and many, many more that I learned to disregard. Sure, it was nice to see posts from an anonymous, random mom that gave me hope, but just because some sort of oatmeal herb oil concoction worked for her, doesn't mean I should be trying to same. Do your research. Find your tribe. Be patient. Eventually, you'll be able to sift through the internet and find out what you need to know.
Keep A Spare Shirt In The Diaper Bag, Just For You
For real, guys. You may not ever need it, but in case you do, you will be so stinking proud of yourself for having it available. I'm serious, that back-up shirt will give you confidence in yourself and in your ability to mom. That's freakin' priceless.
You’re Allowed To Feel However You Want About Breastfeeding
I've noticed that media depictions of breastfeeding are all over the map, and if you spend anytime on "mom-internet," you'll likely come across some descriptions that don't sound anything like yours. At first, when I was in the throes of my breastfeeding struggles, I didn't want to go anywhere near stories from anyone who loved breastfeeding or had an easy time with it. If you're feeling the same thing, know that you're not alone. You don't have to love breastfeeding. You don't have to even enjoy breastfeeding. In fact, you can hate breastfeeding. That's valid and understandable and in no way means you're a bad mother.
Do Whatever You Need To
I've put myself through some pretty crazy breastfeeding routines that required me to pay attention to some pretty crazy details. I'm talking about specific apps, a timer, a certain pillow, nipple guards, you name it. I have no shame. I did what I had to do and if someone else thought it was weird? Well. Meh.
Remember Your Priorities
Jeff Goldblum is right, guys. Between you, your baby, and any medical personnel that you're inclined to refer to, you'll figure out how to feed your baby. Everything will work out.
Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself For Watching TV Or Playing On Your Phone
For the love of all that's holy, keep yourself entertained. It's hours upon hours of sitting still. You're allowed.