My breastfeeding journey was a surprising one. In that, no one, least of all me, ever thought it would happen.
Before life with my tiny humans, I never really envisioned myself as a breastfeeder. I was a bit prudish at times, I was never one to 'goo' and 'gah' at babies and, to be honest, I had never really thought about what it entailed. When I got pregnant with my firstborn, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me and genuine fears on my list included 'Will I even like the baby'. Typing that now it sounds mad, but at the time, those were the kind of things I worried about, and my impending date with motherhood constantly had me a little concerned that I wasn't cut out for the job.
Much like everything else, my attitude to breastfeeding was one of 'ah sure, I'll give it a go'. I had initially said I would try it for at least two weeks and see how it went. In the first few days, it was tough and the visual of both a nurse and my beloved husband in the hospital trying to stuff my boob into my poor baby's mouth will never leave me.
But these first few days quickly passed and I was lucky enough to have a lactation consultant call to the house on a routine call, which was a game changer. She was direct and matter of fact which is precisely what I craved at the time. There was no fuss and she got straight down to business. She was basically like an aerobics instructor for boobing, getting me to try this position and that. Whatever knowledge that woman imparted on to me that day, it stuck and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
So if I could offer any words of advice from my experience...
1. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Everyone's breastfeeding journey is different. For some people it's as easy as pie, for others it's bloody hard for whatever reason. The key thing is recognising that something isn't working for you, and to seek help sooner rather than later. There are so many incredible professionals out there waiting in the wings ready to swoop in and help out if you need it. A lactation consultant can be a beacon of hope in your hour of need, and a little support and advice can save you and your new tiny person hours of tears and frustration. So find a local lactation consultant or contact your local La Leche League if you feel overwhelmed and need support or advice.
2. Family and Partner Support
Having your family and partner on board makes all the difference. That said, I know this isn't exactly something you can always control. However, it is important you make your feelings known about your goals and highlight to those significant people in your life how it is important to you. No one needs the comments about 'Sure, would it not be easier to give her a bottle so you could have a rest', or 'Oh, your still feeding him yourself', or 'Oh, he doesn't sleep, that's because he's breastfed'. Remember that it doesn't matter what way you do it, there'll always be some busy body waiting on the sideline to let you know you're doing a substandard job. It's when that busybody is a member of your family that things can get awkward. So my advice, be upfront, honest and stomp those comments out. Be firm in your stance and intermittently huddle together with like-minded breastfeeding Mama's who are dealing with the exact same thing.
3. Breastfeeding Group or a Facebook Community for Support
You need to have a girl gang. More specifically, a girl gang who get their boobs out for the purpose of feeding babies. These ladies can be from far and near, maybe you know them, maybe they are a profile picture and personality you've gotten to know online. At the end of the day, who can give you support and advice better than other mothers in similar situations. From remedies for sore nipples to advice around the different stages of breastfeeding, these groups can really be incredibly informative and useful. So maybe you're the coffee drinking social type who wants to get out there and meet other breastfeeding Moms in your community. Maybe you want to be part of a bigger group at a national level and silently sit in the wings soaking up all the advice and information you can from an online community or forum. Whatever does it for you, just make sure you have someone to call at 3am during day 5 of a growth spurt when you feel like you're failing at life to be reassured that you are in fact normal and pretty fantastic.
4. Relax and Own It
New mothers, second-time mothers, and mothers, in general, have this awful habit of worrying. We worry when things aren't going as planned, then sometimes we worry when things seem to be going too well. So, my final piece of advice when it comes to your breastfeeding journey: try to relax more and worry less. Try not to worry if your baby is getting enough milk, the likelihood is they are. Don't worry if they are too quick or too slow to feed, believe it or not, they know what they're doing (nature took care of that one). Don't worry that you don't have enough milk, your body is a marvellous thing. Don't worry if some obnoxious woman is looking at you with disdain in Starbucks for feeding your baby (wink back to embarrass her). Feed your baby the way you want, when you want and where you want and I reckon that you and the tiny human you have created will be more content than you imagined possible.
Share if you know anyone who would appreciate this advice!