By | Laura Cooper
New breastfeeding moms: you’re doing it right. Sore, milk-spraying-across-the-room, cracked, “are these even mine?” boobs and all: you’re doing it right.
A lactation consultant’s help doesn’t mean you’re failing. Pumping when you never thought you would, tube feeding, spoon feeding, supplementing with formula; it doesn’t mean you’re failing.
You’re fighting to give your baby what you think is best, and make it work for you. Breastfeeding can look 100 different ways for 100 different moms and babies. I wish I knew that before I started.
For me, it looked like 10 weeks worth of lactation consultant bills, nipple balms, shields, different types of bottles, and a perma-puddle of tears at my feet as I nursed and tried to teach my little one to feed well. It looked like guilt in those early days, self-doubt, and extra weight on my postpartum shoulders that should have solely been for cuddling a tiny little boy. (He still won’t take a bottle, but, pick your battles: I picked to fight to make our breastfeeding relationship a strong one. I wouldn’t change that for a movie out or a beer downtown…the movie theatres will still be there when my little peanut is grown up.)
I’m sorry, new mom, that no one was able to warn you about the emotional struggle that would come with breastfeeding. It’s hard physically, but a good diet, rest, lots of water, and time will fix those nursing problems (and for all others, we thank our lactation consultants!) But no one was able to tell you that something so “natural” would be so hard to figure out mentally.
Don’t get caught up in that: you aren’t doing anything wrong if it doesn’t click and come natural at that first latch. Or the second, or fiftieth. Just because that mom who became Facebook famous for breastfeeding while doing yoga handstands has it in her upset-down bag, doesn’t mean that struggling to make the football hold work on your couch means you’re failing.
I’m sorry, new mom, that you feel pressure to introduce a bottle, when you fear nipple confusion, or a tongue for formula over breastmilk. I’m sorry that others just don’t get it: that switching to a bottle doesn’t take off that anxiety, that pressure, for everyone. I’m sorry that you aren’t told enough that you’re doing the healthiest, best thing for your baby and you should be proud of your decision! I’m sorry that in others’ advice and tips you find insults, guilt, and mom-shaming.
I’m sorry, new mom, that you weren’t prepared for how lonely breastfeeding can be. That sitting alone in a dark room at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. trying not to make noise, with one arm trapped under a tiny little head is lonely. I hope you can find a tribe of mamas that you can text in the middle of the night and answer back and forth when your babes wake. I’m sorry that glaring eyes in public make you feel like you need to hide under a cover, or a whole blanket, or in a bathroom, or in a back corner. That your pride of figuring out breastfeeding and nourishing and nurturing your precious, sweet babe is squashed on by comments to cover up, or eyes that don’t speak — but that don’t need to.
I’m sorry that the stress of returning to work, or even wanting a night out, means sitting hooked up to a pump that might make you feel like a cow. That you’ll hydrate, and eat healthy, and sit and pump, and only get half an oz of that liquid gold. That you’ll re-enter all those feelings of what’s wrong and wonder if your breastfeeding journey is coming to an end — because no one told you that your body reacts perfectly for your sweet babe and different to a pump.
Normal might not mean easy, and it doesn’t have to. You’ll make your own normal, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not just that: yours.
New mom, you’re doing amazing. Whether you breastfeed for 5 days, or 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years: you are providing your baby with the best. Whether your breastfeeding looks like a breeze, or is a long-fought bottle, or whether it means exclusively pumping, or topping up with formula…Mama, you are killing it!
Laura Cooper is a first-time mom of a busy little boy, and wife to a PhD student. A displaced Maritimer and a travel writer by trade, she now calls Hamilton home.