Recently, I have found myself being contacted by very new moms, in the first couple of weeks of their breastfeeding journey. While I have found that their questions and concerns are not all the same, they are all suffering from one primary condition:
I realize that providing information about too much information may seem a little… well… counterproductive. But the intention of this post is not to tell you that all the information out there is bad, but to remind you that sometimes you just have to get back to the basics to make this breastfeeding thing work.
Being a mom is extraordinarily overwhelming, exhausting, confusing, and frankly, hard. This is not to say that it isn’t wonderful. It is. It’s just amazing. You get to feel a kind of love that you previously couldn’t even really imagine. And babies are sweet and cute and fun to hold and they smell really really amazing. But couple that joy and love with a kind of sleep deprivation you’ve never known before, the new and scary responsibility for being completely responsible for a tiny human being, and navigating your relationship with the other parent in the uncharted waters of parenting… it can feel pretty complicated.
So, you’ve decided to breastfeed. You read 2 or 3 books and a handful of blogs while you were pregnant, and you know all about latching and not using bottles and skin-to-skin and oxtytocin, and you think I got this. And I hope that it just goes that well right off the bat. For some it does.
But for many moms (and this is the reason why we have a whole field of breastfeeding helpers), you need a little guidance. But so many moms I have talked to recently have expressed their frustration over mixed messages. Baby is born. Latches great in the hospital. You have it in the bag. Then you go home. Milk comes in, you get engorged and your baby’s tiny little mouth can’t seem to make it onto your breast like it did before your breasts were quite so full of milk. Or your baby loses more weight than your pediatrician would have liked and they tell you you have to supplement. Or your baby prefers one side to the other. Or he will latch but it hurts. Or this or that or the other thing.
So you ask your nurse/midwife/lactation consultant/pediatrician/friend/mom/breastfeeding counselor, and everyone gives you a piece of advice. They may all be perfectly good and helpful pieces of advice. They may all be right and useful in some way. But it’s JUST SO MUCH. And it gets so overwhelming that it can make a new mama feel like the walls are closing in and the whole world is just too dern hard. And then you get stressed, and your stress stresses out the baby, and it gets harder and harder to just breastfeed.
Information overload. It is so frustrating and hard. Everyone means well, and you want to do what is best for your baby.
So what do you do?
I have a few suggestions to help you cope. I’m going to try to keep this from being too… well… informative. Just a few thoughts.
You don’t ever have to give your baby a bottle. Even if your doctor tells you to supplement, and you are not pumping enough to meet the needs of supplementation, there are ways to avoid giving your baby a bottle. (And I promise you, if you really want to breastfeed, and you can avoid using a bottle, avoid using a bottle). Check out this link for ways you can feed your baby pumped milk or formula without using a bottle.
Take it one feeding at a time. Yes, you do have to have the big picture in the back of your mind, but every time you sit down to feed your baby, if you are worried about tomorrow and a week from now and whether you’re going to make it to your goal of 6 months or a year or 2 years, the walls can close in. It gets overwhelming. Focus on doing the best you can this feeding. Work on this latch, this time. And if you blow it, let it go. So you blew a feeding. You’ll rock the next one.
Take your cues from your baby, not your clock. You may have your doctor or someone well-meaning give you some arbitrary information on how often and how long/often your baby needs to feed. I am here to tell you that every baby is different and there is no set amount of time that will work for all babies. But the best news is that your baby will tell you when he is hungry and when he is full. Learn your baby’s cues and you will have this down.
Talk with someone who can help you through it. Information overload can be overwhelming, and it seems crazy to tell you to talk to another person about it after I’ve just told you that you’re getting information dumped on from the well-meaning masses. But you might do really well talking to someone if you can find the right person to talk to. It might be your mom or your best friend. It might be a lactation consultant. It might be a breastfeeding counselor. It might be me if you’re in my area. But find the right help. And if you talk to someone and don’t get what you need, keep looking.
Trust your body. In the end, when you remove all the layers of complication and information, remind yourself that you are designed to do this. It may not always be easy, but believing you can will get you a long way down the road to success.