We talk about due dates and deliveries, nighttime and nappies, but often overlooked is the infamous “B” word. No, not that one – breastfeeding. Everything we read talks about benefits and bonding, but how often do you hear about how difficult it can be? That is doesn’t always come naturally to everyone and can take a lot of work and often times, a lot of frustration? From feeding positions, chaffing and nipple shields, to milk production, breast pumps, nursing covers…the information can feel equally overwhelming and intimidating.
It’s time for upfront, honest conversations. And the truth is, breastfeeding is hard. A virtual high-five for those of you who had it on the first try. But it wasn’t that easy for the rest of us. If you didn’t already know, it’s common for your baby to struggle with latching and normal to not have your milk come in for days after delivery. Babies feed on colostrum until supply has been established. But not all mothers produce enough and your baby may need to be supplemented with formula in the days in between or perhaps for longer. And then there’s the catch, your body produces milk on a supply and demand basis (insert economics 101). Your baby drinks, your body produces. Your baby can’t latch, your supply diminishes. You suffer from PPD, your supply diminishes. You stress, your supply diminishes. WTF – What the Feeding???
Then comes everyone’s favorite, the breast pump. I spent the good part of the first year of motherhood attached to this automatic self-milking apparatus. We had an on-again, off-again relationship. In the beginning, it was on me every three hours and off once I had enough milk and then on again when I didn’t. You get the picture. It kept my supply up, until baby and I had things figured out. It took a while, some supplementing and a few pharmaceuticals. It also took a lot of frustration, some tears and a bit of screaming.
It was difficult and I didn’t always enjoy it the way “they” said I would. And that’s just it. It’s not only about having resources to help you through your nursing struggles, like most things in life it’s about managing expectations. The better you understand, the less stressful it is. And less stress could mean more milk. It’s a vicious cycle. Time to put an end to it with more hand holding and less sugar coating. Motherhood is rough, unpredictable, amazing and utterly crazy.