Why Breastfeeding Isn't a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
When I was pregnant with our first daughter, I had a fantastical idea of what breastfeeding would be like. In my mind, she would latch perfectly and nursing sessions would always bring the warm, fuzzies as we bonded in utter bliss.
Well, needless to say, that bubble was quickly bursted as I embarked on my breastfeeding journey. In the earliest months after her birth, breastfeeding was excruciating for both of us - either she was screaming or I was crying anytime she nursed.
I constantly felt like there was no possible way on Mother Earth that I could produce enough milk to feed her. Add in a few bouts of mastitis, plugged ducts, latching issues, and countless nights of, “What the heck am I doing?”, - I was on the verge of giving up breastfeeding entirely.
Thankfully, with a lot of persistence, support, and professional help, we made it through the rough patches, and I was able to nurse our baby girl for over a year. With each subsequent baby, I faced a unique set of challenges that we learned to work though, and in the end, we all made it out okay.
Breastfeeding was nothing that I imagined it to be yet it gave me more than I ever anticipated. I look back on those days and remember it all: the joy and the fear, the strength and the weariness, the stressful and the blissful all at once. Through my own experiences as well as in my work as a Lactation Consultant, I have learned that
Making the Decision to Breastfeed
Ultimately, the choice to breastfeed is a very personal decision. Many women may go into pregnancy and motherhood feeling pressured to feed their baby in a certain way, but it is essential to know that you are allowed to do what is best for both you and your baby.
We have all heard the saying, “breast is best”, and unfortunately, countless women have been shamed for their decision about how they feed their baby. Whether a woman decides to breastfeed, bottle-feed, supplement with formula, pump and feed through a bottle, or formula feed from the start, she may inevitably feel guilty about her decisions.
Why is this?
Ultimately, we all want what is best for our baby. But if you’re being realistic and honest, it is important to know that breastfeeding doesn’t always work out - and that is okay, too. As moms, we already carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, and no mother deserves to feel shame or guilt about whether or not she is breastfeeding her baby.
However you feed your baby, know that you are the best mama for your baby, and your decision to breastfeed should be based on a variety of factors that take your overall health and wellness into consideration.
Understanding if Breastfeeding is Right For Me
I have learned that keeping an open mind about how your breastfeeding journey may unfold with your baby is best for keeping your sanity and balance in motherhood. Ultimately, every baby is unique, and depending on your situation and circumstances, how you feed your baby may look different than you expect.
When deciding whether or not you should breastfeed, keep in mind that your well-being as a mother is just as important as how you feed your baby.
For example, if you have found that breastfeeding is negatively affecting your mental health by creating added stress, anxiety or pressure, it is important to take this into consideration. Or as another example, if you have a chronic mental or physical health condition for which you take certain medications, it is crucial to have a discussion with your health provider about this and breastfeeding. The World Health Organization has outlined specific medical reasons for temporary or long-term use of breast-milk substitutes.
The main message to understand is that every mother and baby are unique and so is every breastfeeding situation. What might work for another mom may not necessarily be applicable in your situation, and that is okay. Regardless of how you decide to feed your baby, it is critical to be supported in your journey.
Talk about the feelings that are coming up for you with your partner, health care provider, or someone you trust. Most importantly, realize that your ability to be an amazing mother that nurtures a healthy, happy child is not affected because you can’t or choose not to breastfeed.
Connecting to Professional Support
Lastly, the benefit of professional support for mothers cannot be overstated. In the case of breastfeeding, working with a Lactation Consultant can help provide you with the guidance and support you need to work through any issues you are facing in your own motherhood journey.
Remember, providing breast milk to your baby can happen through a variety of ways, and a Lactation Consultant can help you develop an individualized feeding plan based on your specific needs. If you are having any complications with breastfeeding, a Lactation Consultant can also help you troubleshoot these issues to improve your overall breastfeeding experience.
Above all, know that you are the best mama for your sweet baby, however you decide to feed your child and regardless of what your breastfeeding journey may look like.