It’s World Breastfeeding Week and this year’s slogan is “Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life.” If you’re a mom, soon to be mom, or know a mom, chances are you’ve heard this phrase or some version of “breast is best.” While this week is meant to celebrate all the positives about breastfeeding, let’s just get real for a moment. Breastfeeding is indeed wonderful in many ways. But, it can also be complicated, demanding, unglamorous and even a lot of pressure.
It’s Not Just You, Breastfeeding is Hard
Have you ever wondered why something so natural is so hard? You would think you could just plop your baby on your breast. But, oftentimes that’s not quite the case. From ensuring the proper latch to dealing with engorgement, and baby struggling to feed, breastfeeding is hard.
When my milk came in, my breasts were huge! As a smaller chested woman, this was temporarily awesome, until they started throbbing. Then my son couldn’t latch on and eat because they were so full and hard. With tears in my eyes I tried googling my way through it. I came to the conclusion, via some internet thread, that I should try putting cabbage leaves in my bra. I desperately stuffed my bra with the leaves and got no relief. All that ended up happening is my breasts smelled kind of weird, and my son refused to eat. Around 4 a.m., I reached out to the local La Leche League Facebook group and learned everything I was going through was normal and would pass.
Moral of the story, the internet is great but seek real help! The La Leche League is a wonderful resource, so are lactation consultants. You don’t have to endure something challenging by yourself. If you do find yourself on a teary-eyed late night Google search go to a reputable source. Kellymom is highly recommended and trusted.
Breastfeeding is Not Always Glamorous
We’ve all seen the beautiful photos of a mom with a cute baby sucking at her breast. But, breastfeeding is not always picture perfect!
For example, I have an oversupply of milk. While this is a blessing, it is also a challenge. My breasts are prone to do some very unglamorous things. There’s constant leaking. I know leaking is a normal thing, but this leaking is out of control. So much that I use a milk saver to collect milk.
Then there’s the spraying. Spraying that shoots my son in the eye, and can also shoot across a room! It’s frustrating and hilarious at the same time. Words of advice if you face this same issue: try hand expressing before feeding to release some milk. Always keep a burp cloth handy so you can spray into it if needed.
Even if you don’t have these issues there will likely be some point in your breastfeeding journey that is not glamorous. It could be cracked nipples, a plugged duct, mastitis, or thrush. Whatever it is, know you’re not alone and seek support!
It’s OK to be Nervous About Breastfeeding in Public
We know we have a legal right to breastfeed in public. However, that doesn’t automatically equate to you feeling comfortable at first. Some women are totally comfortable from day one, and that is truly awesome. But, don’t feel bad if your first feeding in public is nerve-wracking.
I was an awkward mess. I couldn’t get my bra to unclip, then I couldn’t find my nursing top flap under the nursing cover I had on. And finally, I struggled with getting my baby under the cover to eat. I was sweaty, my son was sweaty. I felt a full panic about to come on until my husband told me to relax. With those words, I took a deep breath and focused on my baby not what was going on around me. Word of advice: practice with all the things before getting out in public. That way you can just focus on feeding and not on one-handed maneuvers. Also, consider having someone with you for support.
You May Feel Pressure at Some Point
Yes, breastfeeding is wonderful for many reasons. But sometimes it can feel like a lot of pressure. First, you are the source of food for your baby. We should be used to this since it was that way during pregnancy, but this is different. There’s no, not feeding the baby because you’re tired or sick. They rely on you, and that is huge.
Next, even if you want a break, at some point you’ll still have to ‘work’. Bust out those pumps because you’ll likely need to pump to keep engorgement at bay.
Finally, you may feel pressure from your circle. From your child’s doctor, your family, friends and even society. People will likely tell you the benefits of breastfeeding and that you should keep it up. Know this, while breastfeeding is amazing for many reasons you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby. If the pressure becomes too much, talk to your healthcare provider about other options for nourishment.
As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, let’s celebrate the awesomeness while keeping it real. It’s amazing but it’s also challenging. It’s natural but there’s also a learning curve. It could be a breeze or a struggle to get your baby to drink that precious liquid gold. I once read a quote that eloquently captures the breastfeeding journey: “Breastfeeding is like a hike through the woods: Natural, but not always simple. In fact, it can be challenging, breathtaking, and full of the unexpected.”