It’s national breastfeeding month, which means your timelines and feeds are going to be bombarded with pictures of babies peacefully latched to their mom’s breast, as well as tons of info on the controversial topic. I’m not here to debate whether you should breastfeed or whether it is the best choice for your baby. That decision is yours to make. It seems like everyone has their own opinion about whether it’s the most beneficial for your child or how appropriate it is or isn’t to nurse in public. They’ll shout these opinions in ALL CAPS in their debates on social media that are backed by Wikipedia and when you’re visibly pregnant, strangers will make all your breastfeeding choices for you while standing in line at the grocery store.
What no one really tells you, though, is how. Impossibly. Fucking. Hard. It can be.
During my first pregnancy, I assumed that it would be easy. If my baby latched, I thought, nature would just take over to nourish them into complete bliss. Oh, how wrong I was. While there have been those moments that everything is going smoothly and I look down at my baby in awe of what my body is able to do, there have also been plenty where I have pulled my edges out wondering why my tits grew 5 sizes and lost their spunk if they’re not going to “act right”. While I can look back in retrospect and understand that I am not completely at fault for the latter, I can now identify some of my own actions that led to a dwindling supply. Here are the 4 biggest mistakes I made while breastfeeding.
1. Assuming latching would be the only struggle.
This was the most common reason I had heard mothers give as to why they didn’t breastfeed and it was my biggest concern while pregnant. I thought I had dodged a bullet when my first child had no issue latching; it should have all been a breeze from there on out, right? Wrong. I had no idea how taxing breastfeeding could be on my body, how much I would resent my husband for not having to wake up at 12 and 2 and 4 and 6 am for each feeding, or how much I would strain to keep my supply up. And even though I ran into problems getting my second baby to latch properly, I quickly discovered that those brief few days were miniscule on my scale of breastfeeding snags.
2. Pumping too early.
All my nurses and midwives had advised against it, but after a handful of sleepless nights I was convinced that the myth of Dracula had derived from infants waking their tired mothers up to “suck the life out of them” before dawn. I was not doing this by myself anymore. Just a few days after birth, I started pumping so that I could share this “burden” with my husband. I didn’t realize that I was hurting my supply by sleeping through a feeding before it had even been established. I didn’t know this was one of the reasons that doctors recommended you wait 2-4 weeks minimum to start pumping. Even with my second when I had to hand express, I never realized how awfully skipping just one session a day could dwindle my supply.
3. Assuming I couldn’t produce when my body stopped responding to the pump.
I’m still not exactly sure why, but somewhere around the time my first was 4 months old, it became impossible to pump. I could feel my breasts swelling with milk and I was sure that I had something in there, but I just couldn’t let down into a breast pump. Rather than go to a lactation consultant, I cried and thought it was a direct effect of the couple of glasses of wine I’d had over the course of those 4 months. I gave up, turned to formula, and didn’t look back until it was too late.
With my second, I’d done slightly more research and learned how to hand express. I was ecstatic when I realized I could trigger my own let down, but even that ceased after a while. Eventually, I could only express my milk while nursing my baby boy. When the night came that I couldn’t express more than a few drops and he seemed too fussy to be getting anything himself, I broke down. I thought my body had failed me. Turns out, it was anxiety and stress that weren’t allowing me to trigger my let down. Which brings me to my last, biggest mistake…
4. Beating myself up.
Any time anything went wrong with nursing, I blamed myself. I constantly told myself I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t trying enough. I hadn’t taken well enough care of myself. This was not good for me or my baby, and it wasn’t good for my supply. It only added to my pile of stress and made it harder for me to allow my body to act as it should.
I’m not sure what led you to read this post. Maybe you’re expecting your first and would like to be proactive, or maybe you are struggling with the task yourself and are looking for answers. If you happen to be the latter, it’s important to know that you are not alone in this struggle. So many women struggle with breastfeeding, whether it’s a latch issue, over or under supply, etc. There are many resources out there for help, one of the most popular being La Leche League, which is all over the world. Otherwise, talk to your doctor, midwife, or friends and family. I’ve noticed that most mothers are always open to helping a mother in need when it comes to almost anything in the realm of motherhood.
I’d love to hear whether you can relate to my mistakes, or if you have made a set of your own that hurt your ability to nurse! Let me know in the comments below!