It's World Breastfeeding Week 2020, and today we're going to get real and talk about something that isn't discussed enough. Are you ready? Here we go!
Breastfeeding is HARD, y'all. So. Hard. It can hurt. It can feel overwhelming. It can be exhausting. Sometimes baby won't latch. Sometimes you feel unsupported. Sometimes you have to go back to work before you feel ready. Sometimes you deal with clogged ducts, milk blebs, or mastitis. Sometimes you may feel at the end of your rope and like you can't continue doing this any longer. You may feel like you're failing. You may feel like you aren't enough. We hear often that #breastfeedingisbeautiful, and while that is still oh so true, beautiful doesn't equal easy. Breastfeeding may indeed be natural, but goodness that doesn't mean it's a walk in the park. Well... unless that park is actually a labyrinth and you're stumbling through it while blindfolded and dealing with sleep deprivation. If you're in the midst of a hard time right now, I want to first send you a virtual hug (or first bump, if that's more your speed) and tell you that I see you. Those of us who have been where you sit right now know that the precious and difficult moments are often intertwined. If we were together, I'd make you a warm drink, sit beside you on the couch (.... or 6 feet away in a chair) and I'd listen to how you're doing. We'd start with the sweet and delightful stories of your baby smiling at you for the first time, then we'd talk about your struggles. How much harder this all is than you'd expected. We might even cry together a bit, which is okay! Letting out those emotions can be a release. I'd make sure that you know that your worth as a parent IS NOT tied into how you're feeding your baby. When breastfeeding is a challenge, it can begin to feel like a personal failure. Either that your body is failing you, or that you're failing your baby. Please know that neither is true. Your baby needs YOU. Your love and care are what your little one needs. Once I was sure you know what an amazing parent you are, I'd share some practical tips. 1. Find a support group. I simply can't emphasize enough how important this one is. I know it can be hard to reach out in normal times, much less in the middle of a freaking pandemic, but it's one of the best things you can do! There's something wonderful about women supporting women, and many breastfeeding relationships have continued on past challenges due to peer support. For myself, when I wasn't able to breastfeed my 3rd child past 4 months, women from a local group stepped up and provided donor milk for her until she was almost 2 years old! Look for a La Leche League or other group in your area and get plugged in as soon as possible. And once your child is older, you'll be able to use your unique journey to encourage other mothers through the hard times. 2. Breastfeeding is a journey, not a destination. Whether you breastfeed for 4 hours or 4 years, there will be highs and lows. There will be times when everything is going smoothly and you'll be breezing along with baby in tow. Then you may start to feel touched out and overwhelmed yet again. Take each day as it comes and celebrates every step you take, no matter how small it may seem. 3. Seek out professional help. If you're still struggling, don't wait to connect with a lactation expert. You may need someone who can look at your individual baby(ies) and circumstances and help you craft a plan that works for you. While peer support is an invaluable resource, it can't replace a trained professional. Wherever you find yourself on your parenting journey, remember that you aren't alone. Because breastfeeding IS beautiful. And it's hard, too.