I’m sorry if you didn’t get to breastfeed. There, I said it.
What do those words mean to you? Do they sound strange? Condescending? Someone will surely comment the ever popular ‘that’s judgemental’, but it’s not. That’s not what I mean.
I really mean that I’m ACTUALLY sorry if something happened that made it too hard for you to get to carry on breastfeeding. Is that better? Does that get my point across more clearly?
(By the way, I don’t think this applies if you really didn’t want to breastfeed, because then you don’t need anyone to say sorry. You did what you wanted to do so all is well. Carry on with your cute baby.) This is for the moms who really wanted to breastfeed. To them, I’m saying sorry, because that sucks.
I’m a Nurse, and a Lactation Consultant and run an agency of Birth & Postpartum Doulas in Toronto, so I think about this stuff… a lot. I know that many people think that people who want to support women to breastfeed are somehow simultaneously criticizing moms who don’t, but we’re not. I just wish we could ALL do a better job of supporting breastfeeding mothers to actually breastfeed.
Let’s think about this for a second.
Studies have been done to ask women about their intentions to breastfeed and almost all mothers say they want to! Seriously, like 90-95% or so. So that’s why I’m writing this.
If so many mothers want to breastfeed but they aren’t always getting reliable or consistent help and support after they have their babies, then we need to fix that. It’s not fair that so many women do want to breastfeed, but are also finding it difficult and need help that they aren’t getting. Some feel silly for needing help at all because they’ve been told that ‘it’s natural’ and they should just figure it out. Some are afraid of asking for help in online groups because they don’t want to be seen as somehow offending mothers who aren’t breastfeeding.
Whether you only breastfed for a short while, you’re still breastfeeding your three-year-old, or you’re pregnant and wondering how the whole thing works; talking about breastfeeding gets more information out there, and that is good. If you have breastfed, then mentioning things that you wish you had been taught or what you wish you had known as a new mother, isn’t being judgemental but is trying to teach us all. Putting information out there for the next mom in line is crucial and awesome.
Most of us didn’t grow up in a village where all the mothers were topless and sat around a fire breastfeeding all day. If we had, more of us would be breastfeeding for as long as we wanted, and it would be much easier for us to learn. Most women who have children today didn’t grow up seeing breastfeeding at all, so for us, it isn’t necessarily natural, instinctive or easy. It is a learned skill, and it takes practice.
A great place to start is learning what behaviour is normal for a newborn baby (before you even have your baby if possible). Knowing that you can expect REALLY frequent feeding (like the relentless cluster feeding on the second night… and let’s be honest, most of the first few weeks!) and knowing about the Supply and Demand system (the-more-often-you-feed-the-better-your-milk-supply-will-be) can really help.
Also, knowing how to get a deep latch and knowing if a baby is actually drinking milk and not just sucking would keep many moms breastfeeding longer. Knowing about safe co-sleeping and that 70% of moms do it to survive would help new parents to cope, get more sleep, and keep them from feeling that normal newborn behaviour is somehow wrong.
Knowing, too, where to get help.
Oh yeah, don’t forget hand expression. Sorry… I could go on all day!
Hearing about the reality of new parenthood may seem scary but it can help you, I promise. Being scared and unsure is normal for new parents, and information is power.
Lots of new moms might just Google everything I’ve just listed. But we as mothers can help too. Helping new parents by saying “I had a hard time, and I wish I had asked for help sooner” or “I’m sad that I didn’t get to breastfeed longer, I really tried” is so honest, and hard, but real. It’s so important to talk about these things, and not just jump on anyone who says ‘BREASTFEEDING’ on a post asking about formula, but to let them share any tidbits of helpful information that they can give.
If I see a post online asking about supplementing, I read between the lines and ask if they also need help with breastfeeding. I do this NOT because I’m judging that mother for using formula, but to support her in case she’s making that choice out of fear or because she thinks she has no other option.
Support for breastfeeding mothers is important to me because I don’t want a mom to stop breastfeeding when SHE doesn’t want to stop. THAT’S the difference.
I have been lucky enough to help some of those moms when I ‘read between the lines’ and they ended up being able to continue breastfeeding even when they were actually asking what formula they should use. Yes, it is my actual job to help, but in a perfect world, all moms in the ‘Mom Community’ can help each other by sharing what’s real for her. So don’t be afraid to try.
For more practical help before your baby arrives, consider one of Nutmeg Consulting’s private Breastfeeding Prep Consultations or a group class to learn about what to really expect, how to prevent issues, and make a plan in case things aren’t going well. Also, try to get help as soon as possible if things aren’t going your way, with a Lactation Consultant Home visit. Sometimes it can be as simple as a few pointers and a bit of information that can help you on your journey to comfortably and confidently breastfeeding your baby, and we can also help if it’s more complicated than that.