Many women contact me to express a hope that they will be able to breastfeed.
They want it for themselves and their children, but they just don’t know if they can count on it working out or not.
All you know is that your mother did it, but your sister-in-law couldn’t, and your cousin did, and your neighbor wanted to but didn’t.
The whole breastfeeding journey is shrouded in mystery.
How do you prepare for a mystery?
I want you to be prepared for the mindset challenges you can expect, so that the first time you become discouraged, you know it's not a sign that you should quit.
Here are six lies we believe that discourage us from breastfeeding.
I am making things harder on everyone.
Especially in the beginning, there are some logistics that may need to be dealt with:
- The lactation nurse may need to make time to come and see you. You may need to insist upon it more than once.
- You may need to ask your midwife for some extra time and assistance.
- You may need to ask your partner to be on 24 hour diaper duty because all you have the energy for is feedings.
- You may need to arrange for someone to come over and teach you how to use your pump.
- You will have the nuisance of your breasts leaking everywhere, or sore nipples that won't seem to heal.
- Your baby will need to share your hospital room (or be brought to you every hour of the day), instead of the convenience of being given a bottle down at the nurse’s station while you and your partner get sleep.
- You may need to post a Facebook shoutout asking if anyone knows of a mastermind group for breastfeeding Moms in the NICU.
Logistics! Problem-solving! All of these circumstances can be dealt with, even during your weepy postpartum mood swings, but you must possess the firm belief that these circumstances are worth dealing with.
If you don’t possess that belief, then the first time logistics rear their annoying head, you’ll say Sure, give him a bottle so we won't have to be concerned about X for the next few hours.
(A few bottle-feedings down at the nurse’s station can become a problem, because your baby needs to drain your breast in order for you to establish a good milk supply).
Be prepared for dealing with the logistics of a breastfeeding family. The best way to prepare is: Know why you are doing it. Remember why you decided that breastfeeding is worth it.
Knowing your “why” will help you with the next tripwire...
This isn't going how I expected. There must be something wrong with me!
Do not believe the lie that breastfeeding is supposed to be “easy.”
Your difficulties are not proof that you need to quit. They are proof that you are trying and that you and your baby are learning. They are probably proof that you need to reach out for more expert help.
Yes, you need help. And depending on where you live, it may not be super easy to find.
Expert help can come in the form of:
- a lactation counselor
- a visit to the WIC office or the pediatric chiropractor
- a phone consult with a breastfeeding hotline or a La Leche League leader
If none of these things are available, you might just need to start joining some random Facebook groups!
If you see your challenges as a reason to quit, then you’re about to fall for the biggest lie of them all: the all-too-common myth that breastfeeding is supposed to come naturally, and since I'm having difficulty that means there’s something wrong with me that makes me uniquely incapable to breastfeed.
The fear of being incapable of breastfeeding is extremely common, and the actual reality of women who are incapable of breastfeeding is not at all common.
Unless an IBCLC has told you that you’re incapable of breastfeeding, do not believe it.
Parents who cannot or choose not to breastfeed can line up donor milk for their child if they wish. Check out the website Human Milk 4 Human Babies, a milk-sharing facilitation network.
Make breastfeeding work for YOUR family situation.
The other incredibly common fear is that baby isn't getting enough milk. Most women wonder about this when they have newborns, so be prepared for this fear to cross your mind. Read this article over at KellyMom to learn how to tell if baby is getting enough milk: "Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?"
I can’t breastfeed because of my medication.
There is a big, widespread lie that anyone who takes any medicines shouldn’t breastfeed, or that in order to breastfeed, you have to live without your medicines.
Most medications are safe during breastfeeding. Call the InfantRisk hotline to ask about your over-the-counter or prescription medication: (806) 352-2519. You can also download their app, MommyMeds.
Lean on these experts and take comfort in their knowledge and experience.
Remember, the lie that medicine and breastfeeding are incompatible is widespread. Even your doctor might not have the most up-to-date information on this. Consult an IBCLC and the InfantRisk hotline.
Everyone is judging me.
I'm sorry, but yes, they are.
If they're not judging you for breastfeeding, they're judging you for something else. They're judging me, too. Someone's even gonna judge me for writing this post.
Are you the kind of person who feels like any time you are being judged, you need to correct people? Like it’s your job to make them see things your way, and to see your choices in a positive light?
...And if you can't make them see things your way, then that must mean you need to change your choices?
I’m going to offer you a different way of seeing it:
Your job is not to cure other people of their judgments.
Your job is to make the choice that you’re not going to try to please them or seek their forever-approval. Because it's impossible.
It is safe for you to be judged by others. You don’t have to do anything about it.
This is not an easy, one-time choice. It’s something we have to make a daily practice of releasing, and sometimes it’s very difficult, repetitive work.
I’m here to tell you that, as a Mom:
- You will always be prioritizing something that other people don’t think is that important.
- You will often wonder what other parents (and people in general) are thinking about your choices.
- You will collect criticisms from your mother, your mother-in-law, and other people close to you. You might feel like people are side-eyeing you at the mall or at church. Sometimes, they are. It’s normal.
What’s more, depending on where you live, you may feel like you have to hide in order to breastfeed your child. This is not true, no matter what anyone says.
There are laws that protect your right to breastfeed (whenever, wherever) published in 49 states.
...and infant nutrition carries more weight than anyone’s ignorant judgments!
I have to be glued to my baby 24/7 and I will have no life and no sleep and my career will go to hell in a handbasket so I’d better just formula-feed.
Girl, stop. There are some really active Facebook groups for working Moms. Invest in a high-quality breast pump (some insurances cover pumps) and interview some Type A Mom Bosses about how they do life. Listen to the Boob Group podcast. In fact, there’s a Boob Group episode about many of the issues I’ve brought up in this post.
Do what you do best: create a plan for success, and work it.
Make it work for you. Your Nursing Relationship doesn't have to look like anybody else's.
I’ll spoil my baby if I hold her too much.
I can guarantee you that, in your child’s infancy, someone will express to you their opinion that you’re going to ruin your child by holding them too much, or by allowing them to latch on any time they want.
Ignore them. From the moment your child is born, hold her skin to skin, and then do that as often as possible for the first six months.
Later, there will come a time for you to start teaching her that she can trust herself. That she can soothe herself. That she doesn’t need you every second of the day.
The first 6-9 months are not that time.
So you can lay down that worry. And pick up your baby.
What are some of the beliefs about breastfeeding that you think might stand in your way? What are some of the lies you believed that damaged (or nearly damaged) your experience of breastfeeding?