“It’s time to feed now” the nurse says to me. My son is only 20 minutes old and they are telling me to “put him to the breast”. I have no idea what I am doing and it feels so right and foreign at the same time.
Everyone is watching, waiting, to see what is going to happen. Nothing happens. “It’s OK”, the nurse assures me. “We will try again after he has his bath”. We tried again and still nothing. I then get a knock on the door from the lactation consultant who gives me the run down on everything I need to do if I want to successfully breast feed.
I could not believe what I was hearing. We talked about everything from pumping, to nipple cream, to nipple guards, to positioning to hand expression! I had no idea that nursing could be so involved. After a 42 hour labor I was exhausted, but I was managing. It wasn’t until I had my 3rd attempt at failed breastfeeding that I had my big meltdown. The tears started flowing and they would not stop.
A nurse quietly came into my room and asked me if I wanted them to take my son to the nursery for a few hours and they would give him a bottle.
Although it sounded tempting I said no. I wanted to breastfeed. I knew it was the healthiest option for my baby. I just did not realize it would be so hard. I also did not realize the pressure I would feel from society and everyone around me to be able to do this one task that I was designed to do.
Breastfeeding use to be the only way women fed their babies. For thousands of years that was the only option. There was no formula, there were no pumps. God designed breasts for the sole purpose of providing nourishment for our children. So why wasn’t I able to do it?
I had just worked so hard on giving birth to this baby and now I could not even feed him! I felt like a failure, but I was determined to keep trying.
I knew it was getting close to the time when, if my son did not get some colostrum or milk he would need to be given a supplement. With no one in the room and hubby asleep, I quietly put him to the breast one more time and said a prayer. God must have heard my plea because sure enough my little baby started to latch on.
I ended up breastfeeding for 10 months and all 10 of those months I had to work hard at it. I sometimes envied the mom who could just whip out a bottle of formula and feed her child. I had to go off by myself and find a dark room with no noise or distractions, otherwise my son wouldn’t eat. If I wasn’t breastfeeding I was pumping, and if I wasn’t pumping I was taking supplements to increase my milk supply.
I can remember leaving one of my best friend’s beach weddings to go pump in the car. I now know why they call breastfeeding a labor of love!
If you are one of those women who find breastfeeding so easy that you could nurse while doing a headstand, then I salute you. I think that’s amazing and I am happy for you. Remember though, it is not easy for everyone, so be careful what you say around new nursing moms.
If you are one of those women who find breastfeeding surprisingly challenging, then I feel your frustration and stress. Know that you are not alone and that there are so many wonderful resources, lactation consultants and even free nursing counselors available by phone. Your physician or pediatrician could provide you with those resources.
If you are a women who is about to have a baby, or who has a newborn, I want you to hear the truth about breastfeeding.
If you want to breastfeed, but are having trouble, don’t give up or stop. There is help available for you. Most people can breastfeed; they just think they can’t because they don’t have the right help, support and encouragement.
If you don’t want to breastfeed, or if you find that breastfeeding does not work for you, your baby, or your lifestyle, that is perfectly OK too! What is most important is that it is YOUR decision, and that you feel confident about it. Don’t let anyone talk down to you or make you feel guilty for your decision. Formula is a great, healthy option for babies. If it wasn’t, they wouldn't provide it in hospitals!
So moms, let us unite and support one another in raising healthy babies! Let us refrain from judgmental comments about what we think is ‘best’. Being a mom is wonderful and hard at the same time. There is no room for criticism. Whatever choice a mom makes, whether it’s to breastfeed or formula feed, she needs support and encouragement! Lastly, Let us not forget how blessed we are to be moms!
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds" Hebrews 10:24