If it’s natural, why was it so hard to breastfeed each of my babies? It seemed like something that was supposed to come so naturally. Although, before I had my first baby I’d only seen idyllic breastfeeding photos and less than a handful of women actually breastfeeding.
I failed to reach my breastfeeding goals with my first baby. I thought I was prepared. I read every pamphlet I received at my OB visits. I read a popular pregnancy book which included some breastfeeding basics. Since my mom didn’t breastfeed for very long, I felt that times have changed and maybe I knew some things that she didn’t know about then. Was I ever wrong about that. A few days after delivery, I was calling her multiple times a day for help.
If you’re a new mom, don’t get discouraged, there’s a happy ending to this! Even though I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to reach my breastfeeding goals with my first baby, I had abundant support and encouragement to carry me and my family through. My baby and I were always safe, fed, and happy. I felt like a good mom because my surroundings were safe and secure.
My next two babies came during times of stress and transition in our family. I was pretty knowledgeable about breastfeeding by this time. As a birth and breastfeeding professional, I had the training and confidence to birth naturally and reach my breastfeeding goals. However, I could have used the extensive support that I had with my first baby. Being away from my family as I had more children was hard. Often in my postpartum hazes, I didn’t bother to contact people who could help me while I experienced bumps on the road. I thought that I could power through. I did. But it was so exhausting.
From my experiences, the best thing to do to prepare for breastfeeding and it’s possible challenges is to reach out. Here’s a start:
Research and Learn
There are many great breastfeeding books out there. Check them out. I have yet to come across a bad breastfeeding- specific book. Even better, take a class. If you can’t take classes, request an educational appointment with a lactation professional. There are key basics to know ahead of time that just won’t come naturally to many of us. Breastfeeding is a learned behavior. Since many women don’t reach their breastfeeding goals (through no fault of their own) or are asked to hide while breastfeeding, we simply don’t know what it looks like. Get to know breastfeeding women, watch them nurse, and ask questions. If you’re having a hard time finding these moms, try going to a breastfeeding support group.
Get Postpartum Help
Expect postpartum recovery to involve only taking care of yourself and baby for the first weeks. Childbirth is an exhilarating and exhausting journey. Being in recovery mode for a while is crucial for your body to adjust to it’s new normal. Much like her newborn, a new mom will have many needs. A postpartum mother who is well rested and taken care of typically has a smoother recovery. Many cultures understand that it takes a village to raise a child. Most new parents will have family and friends to help with light housekeeping and meal prep. A postpartum doula is also an amazing and resourceful addition for postpartum recovery. Tip: Do this planning during pregnancy. Just as we set up the nursery during pregnancy, we need to set up a postpartum recovery plan.
Find a Lactation Professional
Most breastfeeding challenges will have simple solutions. At times, there are issues that will involve more in-depth care. Either way, there are knowledgeable lactation professionals that can help with various issues at any stage of a breastfeeding family’s journey. Look for them in hospitals, clinics, and within the community. When challenges arise, most moms will wait it out and see what happens. Since a small issue can quickly become a problem, it’s better to find help sooner than later.
“Looking back, I feel that breastfeeding would’ve been better if I had the help I needed, either from friends and family or professionals.”
I used to see my first breastfeeding experience as a failure. However, now I see that my experiences shaped me and reminded me of my strength and resilience. You may hear this advice over and over again as a new mom: “don’t do this alone. ” I hope you can learn from my 3 very different breastfeeding experiences that reaching out helps ease the journey.