This is part 1 of a 3 Part Breastfeeding Series in honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month
When I was pregnant with Natalie, I started doing what any new mother in America would do; I started reading all the pregnancy and motherhood books I could find.
It was through that reading/research I decided that I would breastfeed our children. For me, there were too many benefits to justify not breastfeeding.
Benefits to breastfeeding for baby (1)
- Reduced risk of SIDS
- Reduced risk of obesity
- Reduced risk for infections and sickness
Benefits to breastfeeding for mom (1)
- Extended nursing delays the return of fertility (the dreaded Aunt Flow)
- Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- Potentially more sleep
Before my pregnancy, I never even thought about it. I only ever pictured myself bottle-feeding my future babies since that seemed to be the norm growing up in the 90’s.
I was so ignorant to the world of breastfeeding; I had no idea how a pump even worked. Imagine my surprise when I saw what you were supposed to do.
Put the flange on your nipple (make sure its centered or else....), and then turn on the pump.
Commence machine “sucking” your nipple through a tiny funnel where milk squirts from a few tiny holes you had no idea even existed.
Get the picture? I was floored! Did I really need to do that to my body? Oh Goodness – I will never let my husband see me pump! How embarrassing!
I was a 26-year-old woman embarrassed about pumping breast milk.
This is why National Breastfeeding Awareness Month exists!
It’s more than just normalizing a natural way to feed your child, or gaining the right to feed uncovered anywhere and at any time. There are still women who have no idea about the benefits of breastfeeding and how it even works.
Barriers to Breastfeeding
I was bombarded with books and articles telling me how natural breastfeeding was, but if breastfeeding is so natural, why didn't it come naturally? And why don’t more women breastfeed?
I learned although it is natural, breastfeeding it is hard and takes a lot of work. You don’t just pop out a baby, put them to the breast and suddenly everything is working perfectly.
Breastfeeding is an art form and sisters, we are so far removed from that art form we need assistance from professionals, like certified lactation consultants or support groups like La Leche League.
Not only that--our culture and upbringing play a huge factor in our decision to nurse our children.
Many studies have shown that numerous sociocultural and socioeconomic factors contribute to minimal or no breastfeeding at all.
Some of these factors include (2)
- Not being the cultural norm
- Today’s grandmothers have limited/no first-hand experience. A decline in breastfeeding in past generations has resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge and support (that art form I mentioned earlier).
- Reliance on childcare outside of the home
- Short or no maternity leave (why is this still a problem in 2018?)
- Inflexible work hours or lack of pumping breaks
All of these factors are outside of your realm of control. Throw in the hormonal imbalance and insecurities of being a new mom and it’s a miracle any mother breastfeeds.
My Struggle as a First-Time Mom
I remember the first moment I placed Natalie to my breast to try and feed her. My hubby took a picture of me smiling, holding our baby girl, and giving her that “liquid gold” as it is so often referred to.
That moment was not beautiful. That moment hurt as if I had placed a clamp on my nipple and left it there... how is that supposed to be normal?
Here’s the thing.
Breastfeeding hurts in the beginning. Some women have experienced sores, cracked nipples, and bleeding galore. All of that isn’t “normal,” but it happens. This is why you need help, whether from a mom or aunt who has breastfed before or a Certified Lactation Consultant. Get help!
There is nothing wrong with getting outside help. You’re new to the journey, and so is that bundle of joy you are holding in your arms.
It’s not like your baby learned how to feed in the womb. Babies aren’t used to having to work for the nutrition, so it’s going to take time to get into a natural rhythm.
Momma, please remember – you are not a failure if you couldn’t figure it out right away. It’s a work in progress, and that is perfectly natural/normal.
Tips for Your Breastfeeding Journey
- If it hurts, breathe and count to ten. If the baby’s latch is still hurting you (like unbearable pain), then unlatch him or her and try again. It will take a few tries.
- Nipple Cream, Nipple Cream, Nipple Cream. I link nipple butter as one of the main reasons I did not crack or bleed. I used Earth Mama's Nipple Cream.
- Ask questions. I had a friend/mentor who had her second baby a few months before I gave birth. She was a godsend at 3 am when I was struggling to figure out what I was doing. I asked her all sorts of questions, and she would offer me tons of advice on tips and tricks.
- Pre-stage water and snacks. There were a few set locations I would nurse my baby girl, so I ensured (aka my husband made sure) there was always water and snacks available for the endless nursing sessions. You are always thirsty or hungry.
- Do what makes you comfortable. It is easy for you to feel like you have to do something for the sake of others. Try to let that thought go. If you want to nurse uncovered, great! You do you. If you feel better nursing in a room behind a locked door, more power to you. It’s hard enough figuring out what you’re doing, you don’t need to add on the stress of being uncomfortable in your surroundings.