photo courtesy of healthychild.org
Dear Discouraged Breastfeeding Mama,
It’s late. Or early. Though you are so tired right now you probably don’t even know what year it is. Try and spell your name. I’m sorry that was mean. Don't worry though. Eventually the sleep fairy will pay you a visit and you will once again be able to do things like spell your name and tell time and laugh at lame jokes made by silly bloggers.
I’m guessing that you are beginning to feel like a cow, yes? The new baby high is wearing off and the parade of visitors is dwindling and you are starting to feel the effects of choosing to stare at your baby in awe instead of sleeping. All of these factors can make it that much harder for you to see the light at the end of the nursing tunnel. The first few weeks are hard for everyone. Your nipples are cracked and bleeding and every time your baby latches on you cry out and tears run down your face. All that Lanisoh cream that you got at your baby shower and from the nurses at the hospital doesn’t even have time to do its job because as soon as you delicately apply it on, all the while silently praying for some nipple miracle, it’s time to feed the baby again. And in between feedings you can’t even relax the way you so desperately need to because you spend your time staring at the clock and dreading the agony of the next feeding.
If it all that isn’t enough, the time will eventually come when you get to navigate the joys of nursing in public. Those big nursing covers come in handy until your baby decides that they like to eat their meals with a view. Then you get to fight a freakishly strong mini human to stay covered up which just gets that much more attention. And when you are tired, sore and grumpy-any look thrown your way could be the straw that breaks the mama camel’s back.
And then there are all the comments you get from family, friends and even strangers. I’ve had people make comments to me about how breastfeeding is gross, that it’s going to make my daughter a lesbian, asking how long I plan on nursing and many other rude comments or questions that are none of their concern.
Oh, the pleasures of breastfeeding. Kind of sounds like a nightmare, huh? Well for all of you mamas that are at wits end with your breastfeeding journey, I have a message for you….
You are incredible. You are a beautiful, strong, super mama and you are sacrificing yourself over and over for your child’s nourishment, bonding, emotional security and peace. You are going through a hell of a lot and soldiering on for the sake of your baby and you are AMAZING.
Trust me, I know it’s hard. I know it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done. I know you burst into tears on days because you just don’t think you can take it anymore. But you are stronger than you know.
You are going to be so proud in a few months when you look back on your journey and see what you have accomplished. You are giving your baby not only the best nourishment possible but also an incredible bonding experience that you will cherish for life.
And it DOES get easier. The swelling and fullness that weighs you down now will go away. The cracking nipples will heal. Your baby’s latch will get better and the soreness and bleeding will disappear. What you are left with is an easy and peaceful and comfortable and snuggly and lovely way to nourish your baby while developing an emotional bond that will be a firm foundation for his or her growth in life.
By no means am I trying to make formula feeding or pumping mamas feel guilty or inadequate. Any feeding method can be lovely and an amazing bonding experience. I have two kids and was not able to nurse my first. Because of that I carried a horrible sense of guilt with me for his first year of life. I didn’t feel like a good mom. I felt like I was cheating my baby boy out of something and I felt like I was a failure. Do not EVER feel like that. I don’t whether you nurse until you feel your baby can be weaned off, if you formula feed from day one, if you pump and supplement or whatever. As long as you love and care for your baby to fullest of your abilities, YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOM. Motherhood is not measured by your choice to breastfeed or not. This just happens to be a letter directed to women who are pursuing breastfeeding but are feeling discouraged and need some encouragement.
You can do it! There is hope and it gets better. Talk to your partner and ask them to encourage you. You need people cheering you on! Get ahold of a copy of The Nursing Mother’s Companion, it will also be a great source of encouragement and advice. Take time for yourself as well. A shower or a Target run can be lifesavers. Don’t be too proud to ask your close loved ones for help with the baby or the house work or with food. It takes a village. Women have been doing this thing for years and years but no one can do it all and keep their sanity. Take it one day at a time. Take it one feeding at a time. It gets better. You can do this.
You CAN do this.