When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my son. Ideally, I wanted to breastfeed for a year. But things rarely go according to plan, especially in motherhood.
For many women, breastfeeding doesn’t come easily or naturally.
During the eleven months that I was able to breastfeed my son, I dealt with a poor latch, low milk supply, and mastitis (twice). Very little about my breastfeeding journey was like I had hoped. There were a lot of tears (many were mine).
In retrospect, I wish that I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself. But I also feel proud of my decision to stick with something that meant a lot to me.
Here’s what I learned from my experiences:
Allow yourself to be flexible
Your breastfeeding plan will probably not go exactly as you had hoped.
Despite wanting to breastfeed my son for his whole first year, when he started solids, my milk supply tanked, and I had to incorporate formula into his diet. And then, even though I wanted to breastfeed for a full year, my son decided to self-wean one month shy of that year mark.
I struggled a lot with both of those perceived hiccups in my plans. But it’s much easier to enjoy the moments with our babies when we embrace our reality as opposed to focusing on how things aren’t the way that we had hoped.
Utilize your resources
Whether it’s a friend, family member, therapist, doctor, lactation consultant, or someone else – speak with them about your concerns and struggles.
I was shocked and encouraged by some of the people who were willing to be open with me about their struggles. And I was oddly comforted by the fact that I could voice frustration and other moms could so often relate to what I was saying.
Not only can these people encourage you with emotional support, but they may also be able to provide you with actionable tips as well.
For me, some of the most valuable tips came from the lactation consultant who helped me with my son’s poor latch. Without this help, I’m not sure how long I would have been able to breastfeed due to the pain.
Take care of yourself
During my breastfeeding journey, I ended up with mastitis two times. One of those times occurred because I had cracks from a poor latch, and then I ran my pump for too long. I was transitioning back to work, my milk supply was dropping, and I was so exhausted that I fell asleep while pumping. I put so much pressure on myself to stick to my breastfeeding plan that I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I literally ended up getting sick because of it. This made it even more challenging to maintain my milk supply due to the mastitis.
It’s so easy for us moms to forget to take care of ourselves, especially if we’re too focused on taking care of everything else around us. Our families. Our jobs. Our relationships. We’re expert jugglers, but sometimes we just can’t keep everything going that we want to. And if something has to give, our care is what often gets ignored.
Don’t make things harder on yourself. Find time to take care of your needs. Start a bedtime routine so you can sleep better (even if there’s a baby that wakes you). Get some exercise. Read. Take the time needed to do something for you. Making sure that mom is having her needs met is such an underrated tool when it comes to breastfeeding.
Your worth is not tied to whether or not your feeding plan works out the way you had planned
Keep in mind that your breastfeeding journey is your own. If you want to push through the difficulties in order to continue your journey, take care of yourself, and utilize your resources. But if you decide you are unable to continue breastfeeding, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, our toddlers are all going to be eating crumbs off the floor, no matter how you feed them as a baby.
Sarah’s website is https://snugglebuglife.com/.