If only there was a one-size-fits-all, infallible answer to the age-old question that is, "How do I survive breastfeeding?" If my circle of friends is any indication, the spectrum of experiences that breastfeeding moms can become acquainted with is all over the map. Some love it, some hate it, some have few (if any) struggles, while some are totally challenged from the very beginning and are unable to (or chose not to) continue. Still, I’d wager that there are some common feelings that afflict the majority of breastfeeding moms as they get the hang of feeding another human being with their body on the regular. For most of us, it’s a new, tiring experience, so it’s no wonder that it takes some dealing.
If I could go back and tell past me a few key, spoiler-but-ultimately-helpful things about the tumultuous thrill ride that is breastfeeding, I totally would and without an ounce of hesitation. In fact, I may even bookmark this list to share with any friends who are embarking on their own breastfeeding journey, because it's not always easy and acknowledging that fact can, in turn, actually make it easier. After all, it's called a "journey" because it’s exhausting and it feels long and your clothes get messy, and if that doesn’t describe a journey, I don’t know what does.
Is breastfeeding beautiful and wonderful and magical and an incredible bonding moment and any other positive synonym you could possibly come up with? Yes, it is. For some. For others it's difficult and heartbreaking and painful, and for others it's all of the above. Talking about how complex breastfeeding can be is never a bad thing, and if more new moms knew the following, more mothers might just be able to survive breastfeeding a little easier, and with much more positive synonyms to describe their experience, than negative ones.
You’re Not Alone
I've never been a parent during any other era, so all I can say is that I'm thankful for the frequent dialogue I see, currently, about the challenges of breastfeeding. Seriously, if I thought I was the only one who struggled, I'm not sure I would have lasted.
Everyone’s Going To Tell You How Fast It Goes, Because It Does
In the early weeks, the last thing I wanted to do was hear about how quickly my breastfeeding experience was going to fly by. However, now that my son's a ketchup-dipping, peanut butter-loving toddler, I realize just how sort and, dare I say, sweet the time he relied solely on breast milk really was.
Whatever Happens Is Okay
Breastfeeding is not the only way to feed a child. Nursing is not the only way for a child to get breast milk. Thankfully, we have options.
There’s Help. Lots Of It.
By the time I staggered into the lactation consultant's office at my nearest hospital, I was bordering on desperate. Thankfully, I left in far better spirits then I arrived, and that made all the difference.
Keep A Spare Shirt In The Diaper Bag
Leaks happen. Spit-up happens. It's better to accept the inevitable than try to fight (or tempt) fate.
Always Ensure Your Phone Has Plenty Of Battery
The last thing you (or your baby needs) right now is for your phone to die in the middle of the show you're streaming, that's essentially keeping you awake so you can continue to feed your baby while conscious.
You’re Allowed To Feel However You Want About Breastfeeding
Full disclosure: I did eventually learn to enjoy and appreciate breastfeeding, but plenty of women don't, and that's totally OK, too.
There’s A Lot Of Garbage Advice Out There
As tempting as it was to skim bulletin boards and online mom forums and various sketchy-yet-convenient internet sources for tips and tricks, it's not always the most reliable.
It Will Change As Your Baby Grows, And As You Get Used To It
I'm not saying that everyone learns to love breastfeeding, or that there's a magic moment that inevitably occurs at some specific age that turns a challenging process into an easy one. I am saying that how breastfeeding feels in the hospital or those first days at home, is not always how it will feel in a month or two or ten down the road. Hang in there (if you want), mama.