After seeing this viral "Fat Shaming/Not Fat Shaming" video floating around, I started thinking about what a best friend should really say to someone who's just beginning their journey to motherhood, sometimes it may not be easy to say or hear, but it may just be the thing to make your breastfeeding journey successful and rewarding.
Breastfeeding is hard!
I know breastfeeding, along with topics like postpartum depression and miscarriage can be taboo or difficult topics to talk about. And in this day of facebook, twitter, and all things social media on the magical connecting internets, we like to put our best face forward, and only post the wonderful parts of our lives. I'm very guilty of posting and sharing many positive breastfeeding articles and affirmations, which is awesome, but the underlying factor of WHY I feel the need to share these ideas is because I know how hard it can be, and I know there's someone out there struggling at this very moment with one of these issues, so we need to bring these topics up.
I'm going to be your best friend or your awesome doula right now. I'm going to tell you that breastfeeding is hard...but it's also great. Breastfeeding is another one of those life events that you have to adjust to. You have to prepare mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically for the journey ahead. If you dive into this journey with little preparation and the good ole' optimistic "I'm going to try and see what happens," then you'll probably end up with less than satisfactory results, until you take steps to educate yourself and ask for help when you need it!
The first thing I would tell my best friend or my client is this: Your roller coaster of emotions is completely normal. It is also completely normal to want to give up multiple times a day in the first weeks and especially at 1 or 2 am when baby has been fussing for hours. I hope you can find strength in a loving and willing partner who will always support you by bringing you snacks, water, and extra pillows during those feedings or even just staying awake with you every once in a while to give you that extra encouragement. A partner who isn't willing to help you in those ways, or one who immediately starts putting doubts in your head ("baby isn't getting enough milk, let's just give them a bottle of formula") is just adding another hill to climb on your journey.
I am lucky enough to have a great partner, but on the nights where even he was too tired to stay up with me, I found comfort by way of communities like "The Bump", where I could search the forums, read, and commiserate with mommas who had babies around the same time, so we were going through the same things!
Breastfeeding (especially the early days) can feel very isolating. You may only be comfortable nursing at home, or you may be apprehensive about having this baby who will need to be fed every 2 hours while you're trying to go out and about, so you just stay at home all the time. I think there is a biological connection to some of these factors. The less you go out, the less you're exposing baby to all the crazy stuff floating around out there, but taking those baby steps will only help you to get your footing and run with it later. Before you know it, you're in the middle of Target pushing a cart with one hand, holding a baby to the boob in the other, and somewhere along the way grabbing your other kid with that mystical third arm to keep them from knocking down a row a cereal!
Just know that whatever issue you're facing, there's almost always a solution. It may mean that you have to make some other adjustments, like pumping when going back to work, or it may mean seeking out the help of a professional lactation consultant. Common "issues" I hear, and was victim to with my first baby, are just problems that were just left unsolved because I didn't seek out the help I needed.
There's no shame in whatever choice a family makes when feeding baby, but I hope that if your desire and goal is to breastfeed that you don't give up because you were struggling up one of those hills and couldn't find a friend to help push you along and over the hump.
So when you see that person on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or where ever, who says breastfeeding is just "so easy and natural", you should really ask them what their secret is and what their path to that bliss looked like! At the end of the day it really is a great bonding time with baby, and you should feel powerful, comfortable, and confident that your baby is getting exactly the nutrition and security he or she needs and you're the one providing it. If you're not feeling those things, then find your village of helpful friends who can guide you to that place of peace.
Your friend and doula,