I know, two posts in one day, but I’m feeling motivated tonight and this has been on my mind for a few days now….
Dear mamas and mommies and mothers and mamans, etc. I’m sorry. Breastfeeding is a tough topic. And I say this not to alarm or freak out my future mama-friends. I say this out of love and a little bit of sadness.
I know mamas that never wanted to nurse and were judged for that decision. I know mamas that tried to breastfeed and couldn’t produce enough milk. I know mamas that got open sores on their breasts and bruises from trying to nurse or pump to do “what mamas should do”. I know mamas whose babies went on a nursing strike and self-weaned far before the mama was ready. I know mamas that have developed deep anxiety and postpartum depression from the act of nursing. I know mamas that haven given up entire food groups so that their allergy-prone baby would stop breaking out in rashes or having bloody stools. This is serious stuff folks…this “simple” business of providing sustenance for our little ones.
I know mamas that overproduced milk and dealt with terrible bouts of mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast that causes fever, pain, exhaustion and more. I know mamas that nursed through the mastitis time and again. I know mamas that gave up nursing after a really bad bout of mastistis. I know mamas that have never had too little or too much supply but they still wonder every day whether they are producing enough.
I know mamas that had to put their baby in daycare even though their baby refused to take a bottle. I know mamas that pump at work three times a day, every day that they go to work for months and months to give their babies that precious liquid gold. That’s like an hour and a half, five days a week for months on end. That’s like 180 hours of pumping over the course of 6 months!
I don’t know if I know any FTMs (first time mamas) that haven’t felt at least a little bit of guilt, pain, sadness or anxiety when it comes to producing food for their baby. Guilt for not nursing or having to stop… Anxiety when their baby stops eating… Sadness when they have to stop nursing before they are ready…
I’ve heard people be shocked at the idea that breastfeeding is hard or that it hurts or that a baby may have trouble learning to latch. Isn’t it natural? Aren’t women born to do this? Yes, and wasn’t the infant mortality rate a lot higher before the introduction of formula? Didn’t women used to live in more communal societies with woman openly nursing so that new mothers could see and learn from the elders and peers that surrounded them? Didn’t some women have jobs, yes jobs as nursemaids to feed babies whose mothers couldn’t for whatever reason provide them with milk?
Here’s what I do know. I do believe, we as mothers are hardwired to want our children to survive. We want to give them everything we can. And when the decision is made for how we feed our babies, it’s rarely a simple decision. A lot of us don’t even consider the path we take a choice. We do what we must. And I say this just to hopefully help people understand what a sensitive and difficult subject this can be for mamas.
Be gentle with your mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. And most of all be gentle with yourself. A healthy baby and health mama and papa is king. How you get there is just another chapter in that messy adventure of life.