Even before I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. There was something quite intriguing to me about being able to nourish a whole other person. The idea that mother and child would continue to share a bond even outside of the womb excited me and I was gung ho for it. There was no question in my mind that I would be a breastfeeding mama and that I would do it until at least my child’s first birthday. But, like the saying goes; “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Let me tell you that I had no idea just how much I did not know about breastfeeding and how much that would impact my actual experience with it.
I look back and think, “I was so naive”. When it came to the pregnancy, I read everything I could about what to expect and how the gestation should progress. I wanted to be in the know. But when it came to breastfeeding, for some reason, I assumed I knew all about it. How hard could it be? You’re just popping out a boob and the baby will drink right? Oh how rude the awakening was! I don’t want you guys to be like me so here’s what I wish I knew before breastfeeding.
- Meet with a lactation specialist: my notion that breastfeeding was simply popping out a boob was absolutely incorrect. Not every baby comes out knowing how to latch correctly. My daughter didn’t. Meeting with lactation specialist once after birth helped a little. But I should’ve been working with her before birth and continually throughout the first few weeks while I was struggling. The lactation specialist works on your body placement and coaches you and your child through issues with latch. Most hospitals have a lactation specialist that will come out and do home visits. Check to see what your insurance will cover.
- Order your breast pump as soon as possible: I knew I had access to a free pump through my insurance but I didn’t think that I NEEDED it to be there until I began pumping for while I was at work. With our latch issues, my daughter tore my nipple to the point of bleeding. At that point, she didn’t want to drink from me but wanted my milk and I didn’t have the pump to fulfill that need. Most insurance plans will allow you to order your pump a month before the due date. Get it right away.
- It literally takes all of your time: Babies eat ALL DAY. You think you have a enough time to do something like wash your hair and it’s time to feed again. If you have latch issues like I did and you’re pumping in order to feed, then that takes up even more of your time. It is a HUGE time commitment. Add that to all the other new mom duties and you’ll understand why new moms are always tired. I know for sure I was not ready mentally for the amount of time it consumed.
- People have very strong feelings about breastfeeding: I must have been living under a rock pre-baby because I had no idea that breastfeeding caused such a controversy or stirred up such strong emotions. I would post something about my struggles with breastfeeding and all the pro breastfeeding mamas would flock to my page with reasons for me to keep going. It was frustrating to say the least. Outside of the pro breastfeeding mamas were the people that were against breastfeeding in public. The things people say about women needing to cover up as if we aren’t inundated all the time with women selling us bras and bikinis. Oh, I forgot, boobs are okay if they are used to sell sex not to feed our children.
- It’s okay to not breastfeed: New and expecting moms get bombarded with messages that breast milk is the best milk. There’s a lot of data to back up that thought. But what happens is that the mom who can’t produce enough milk to feed her child and has to choose formula feels inadequate as a mom. Or the mom who just doesn’t have the time because she has to work 2-3 jobs to support her family. Remember it is a big time commitment and for working moms, it can be quite the struggle. What we don’t want to do is make mothers feel as if they are failing as a parent because they can’t breastfeed. I kept up with breastfeeding until she was about 8 months old. By that time it was such a strain on me because I was struggling to pump before she had to eat. The entire time I was so stressed about being a bad mom and not being able to feed my child that I’m sure that impacted my supply negatively. I was tired and depressed all the time so I was not able to be the best mom that I could be. But when I made the decision to stop, it changed our worlds tremendously.
If and when I am blessed to have another child, I do think that I would choose breastfeeding again. Even through the struggles, it did create a strong close bond between my daughter and me. I wrote this article not to deter anyone from breastfeeding because I believe that it is a beautiful act. However, I don’t want any of you to go into it blindly like I did. It is a huge commitment that takes a lot of work. I want you to be successful. I feel that now that I made those naive mistakes, I could go into it and not struggle as much. I also want you to know that if you choose not to or if you can’t, that’s fine too. Being a parent is all about what is right for you and your family. Remember, we’re all just making this shit up as we go along.