* This is for anyone who is breastfeeding, is planning to breastfeed, knows someone who intends to breastfeed and anyone who goes outside and might come in contact with a woman breastfeeding*
It’s kind of odd, but every since I was young enough to understand, I knew I’d breastfeed when I had children. My mother didn’t breastfeed (for very long…not that I remember) and I didn’t really know anyone that breastfed until I was about 15. I just knew — I guess something inside of me always knew that it was best.
When I got pregnant with Josiah there was NEVER a question of “if” I was going to breastfeed. When I went to the hospital to deliver Josiah I had my Boppy nursing pillow, my nursing bras and LOTS of nursing pads and cream. It wasn’t immediate, after all a lot of babies have to learn, but before we left Josiah had it figured out.
By about day three when my milk had come in and Josiah had jaundice (which meant he didn’t want to eat a lot) I got engorged in both breasts. To make it simple, it felt like I had nearly golf ball size tumors in both breasts and thought I was going to die of pain. I thought I was hurting Josiah because my ducts were clogged and he couldn’t get enough milk. I finally gave him a bottle of formula, which I swore I’d never do, just so I could get some sleep.
I cried to my Dad the next day and told him I didn’t think I could do it — I told him I was just going to tell the WIC office to give me formula instead of the electric double breast pump. Interestingly enough, my Dad talked me out of making a bad decision during such an emotional time. I DIDN’T want to stop breastfeeding, I just wanted to feed my baby. I just wanted the pain to stop.
Later that day I got my pump and my step-mom had me take a hot shower and afterward she literally helped me “iron out” the knots so I could pump. Once I did that and pumped, I felt a million times better. After that, I went on to nurse Josiah until he was 15 months old.
If I wouldn’t have had friends and family that supported my decision to breastfeed, I would have been another one of those women that say, “I tried but I couldn’t do it,” when the truth is I was completely capable of doing it, it just required a little more work than what the movies show. Now don’t get angry with me, I know that there are some women out there who have legitimate medical reasons why they can’t breastfeed, but at least half of the women that say they couldn’t, really mean when the going got tough, the tough got going. Once again, I KNOW, there are women out there who really couldn’t/can’t do it — that’s not who I’m talking about. I’m also not trying to make anyone feel bad — what I’m trying to focus on is the support system that is required when making a life changing decision.
Most women realize that breastfeeding is best because frankly we’ve all heard, “breast is best.” What a lot of women don’t realize is the amount of dedication and support breastfeeding requires.
Here are a few truths about breastfeeding (all of these won’t necessarily be true for everyone):
- Baby is not going to latch on in one magical moment after birth. It may happen for a select few or for veteran breastfeeders, but certainly not new moms. You’re going to get frustrated, you’re going to want everyone out of the room because you feel awkward and uncomfortable until you and baby get a rhythm going.
- Your nipples are going to be sore, cracked, and possibly bleeding by day 3. Once baby latches on, baby is still trying to figure out the best way to get what baby needs, which meals a lot of trial and error. This is what nipple cream and gel cooling pads are for. Yes, I had these really cool gel pads that go on your breast after feeding and it feels amazing!
- Baby is going to be hungry A LOT. You will have to feed your baby when people are over, when you’re trying to cook dinner, when you’re trying to sleep, when you’re trying to pee and when you’re in public. Baby has no concept of “a bad time”. When baby is hungry, baby wants to be fed. Unless you plan to stay in your house until baby is weaned, or unless you plan to only be gone in 2-3 hour intervals (including driving time), be prepared to nurse in front of people.
- Nursing covers are not “discreet” or easily dealt with when you have a hungry baby. I tried using a nursing cover, but draping a big piece of cloth over me and putting the strap around my neck with one hand while fumbling with my bra was not easy or discreet. I used a thin blanket and that was more discreet than anything. Beware though, nursing is a lot of work. When covering up, baby WILL sweat and WILL make you sweaty too.
- You will be toting baby with you EVERYWHERE for an extended period of time. You have the option to pump or supplement, but the more you do that, the less your baby will nurse and the sooner they’ll be weaned, which means formula and bottles. On pumping, take a vacuum cleaner hose and attach it to your breast and turn it on. Feel good? No. Pumping is necessary for women who are working or leaving baby for a few hours, but it’s NOT comfortable or fun. I pumped daily from the time Josiah was three days old until he was 15 months old. If I had to choose between nursing in public and pumping, I’d nurse in public.
- You will leak through your nursing pad and bra…and shirt at one point in public during your nursing experience. One time I had someone say out loud to me, “Hey what’s that huge wet spot on your shirt?” My response, “My breast got too full and some leaked out.” Don’t freak out about it. Keep an extra shirt or a jacket just in case. It’s like someone getting caught with their pants unzipped, it’s happened to everyone (everyone that’s breastfed) at one time or another.
- You will have people give you dirty looks and have people tell you where to nurse, when to nurse and when you should wean your baby. As a parent, you should be used to people telling you how to raise your child, but telling you what to do with your breasts seems a little personal…
This is why breastfeeding women need support from EVERYONE. Breastfeeding moms need support from their husbands, their parents, their extended family, their friends, their co-workers and bosses, and the people walking down the aisle that are having trouble staring.
Women who feel ridicule or discouragement from those around them are more likely to quit. There are those women (like me and so many others that I know) that are more headstrong and don’t really care what you have to say because we know what’s best for our bodies and our babies, but there will be those women who are more timid and unsure and without support — they’ll quit. And you know what? Those women will resent the people who didn’t encourage them and will feel like failures as a mom because they didn’t follow their initial instinct.
Be an encourager. Don’t say you support breastfeeding, but then tell women they should nurse in the bathroom or out of sight. That’s not support. Don’t say you support breastfeeding, but get mad because your BFF brings the baby to the party.
- Why I Breastfeed: A Q&A with Mayim Bialik (babyzone.com)
- Natural Protection against Breast Cancer – Breastfeeding (docrohan.wordpress.com)