I was prompted to write this because of a comment my friend Crystal made on one of my local message boards. She is giving birth for the first time in a few months (she already has one perfect, beautiful adopted son), and she wants to try breastfeeding with this new baby. She said, “I really want to give it a shot, but from what I have heard, I should plan on it not working out.” I am really pro-breastfeeding if it’s at all possible, so this is what I told her--and I hope it might help some other moms-to-be who have the same concerns:
I think the biggest reason most people fail is because they DO go into it expecting it NOT to work. You hear so many new moms say that they just didn’t have enough milk, or that their milk dried up too fast, or that—-for whatever reason—-they just COULDN’T do it. I know there truly is a small percentage of women who just physically CAN’T, but more often than not, it’s more of an emotional decision to quit than anything else.
I don’t care what people say; breastfeeding is NOT a natural process. It’s not pretty. It sucks at first. It's hard as hell, and I TOTALLY understand why so many women give up before it starts to work for them. Put it this way--Max was over nine pounds when he was born, but it took us a good two and half weeks to get the nursing thing down, and he had lost more than TWO pounds by the time he really started eating well—that’s a lot of weight on a body that tiny! I remember many a day I would just sit on the couch crying, trying to get him to latch on, convinced I was starving my baby to death. It was scary, but luckily I had an awesome pediatrician who encouraged me to not give up. Most babies will lose some weight (and some, like Max, will lose a LOT) before they figure out what to do.
But you just have to keep telling yourself--babies survived for thousands of years before formula and bottles. They didn’t all just perish because their mothers found nursing difficult and decided to quit trying. It's a process, like lots of other tough things in life—one that both mommy and baby have to learn together. And being prepared before the baby is born is the most important thing you can do; arm yourself to the teeth with information. The biggest thing that helped prepare me: Billy and I took a breastfeeding class at our local women’s hospital before I gave birth, and that alleviated some of my nervousness and prepared Billy to help me out a lot (partner support is super-important). There’s a lot of gear out there that can make things easier, too, and that class was a godsend in educating us both. Also, I got a phone number for a good lactation consultant who lives locally and would come to my house. And, of course, LaLeche meetings help a lot of women (even though I found their members a little overzealous at times—-the mom with the kindergartner hanging off her breast was extremely unsettling, but that’s a story for another day).
One more thing I can say in favor of breastfeeding (and other than the baby's health, the BEST thing to me about bf'ing) is the financial benefit! I really think that kept me focused more than anything. We saved several THOUSAND dollars (almost five, think) by breastfeeding that first year, which Billy always claims paid for our new AC and the last big screen TV we bought. (By the way, I told Billy the money we save this time will have to go to my boob job--I am going to look like someone on a National Geographic special after this one!)
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not criticizing moms who choose not to breastfeed. It’s not for everybody, but I do want to encourage every mom-to-be to check out her resources and give it a good, solid try before giving up. It's hard, but the benefits are incredible.
3 years ago