So what better way to kick off World Breastfeeding Week than by getting mastitis? Totally kidding but that’s what happened to me last Thursday. Although I breastfed Eli for 27 months, I never had mastitis, thrush or really any other problems except that he was sensitive to dairy. But five and a half months into nursing Jude and we’ve had several issues. Not to self: just because you breastfed one child successfully without problem doesn’t mean that the next time will go so smoothly. Even still, that is no reason to not persevere. Along with the mastitis, Jude and I are also having some latch issues which is causing problems on the same side that has been infected. That has been going on for a month now. I’ll spare you the details but I will say that there have been times Jude has finished nursing looking like a vampire. Sigh. Problems like this can cause a nursing mama to be weary. All weekend long I prayed that God would let Jude and I get back to our happy breastfeeding relationship. If you know me well, you know how important breastfeeding is to me and how important I think it is for others. Stopping is not an option when these issues arise. Thankfully these issues are getting better! So, in all of this I decided to share some thoughts of breastfeeding that I hope will encourage moms, new moms and those who support new moms.
First, I hope that just by the above paragraph it is unnecessary to say that breastfeeding can sometimes be difficult. I know, sometimes mama and baby hit it off and it’s easy breezy from the start. Other times, not so much. The key for the latter is getting support and help immediately. Thankfully there are tons of support for nursing mamas who live locally near me. So, new mamas, don’t do it alone. Pregnant mamas, find support now to prepare yourself. Back in the day, women lived much more communally. Now days, we try to do motherhood alone and I don’t believe God intended that at all (Titus 2). Imagine the awesome breastfeeding advice Mary received from Elizabeth before Jesus was born! Even if breastfeeding comes easy for you it’s still nice to have someone tell you your doing a good job and encourage you through those sleepless nights and growth spurts. One of my greatest gains from one of the local support groups was just being able to get out of the house in those early weeks. Being around other mamas socially does a heart good. It really helped me fight the baby blues! Another benefit from finding a support group early on (in pregnancy!) is visually seeing other women nurse their babies. Though it seems so simple, actually watching other women nurse gives such great confidence to the new (and old!) nursing mamas. Although I was a 2nd time nursing mom, being around other confident nursing moms helped boost my own confidence this time around. I am more confident in my choice to nurse Jude and I am more confident nursing him in public.
Second to getting support, educate yourself. That’s what I chose to do when I was pregnant with Eli. I breastfed Luke for maybe 3 weeks. I did not have support and did not seek support. I was naïve and uneducated. And that’s why I failed. With Eli, I read everything I could about breastfeeding. (I will post some good links at the bottom of this post) I prayed and prayed that God would give me lots of milk! I talked to friends who breastfed, though there were only a few… um, at the time actually only one. (Although now, because of fabulous support groups I have many!) She was such a great resource to me. I kept in touch with her throughout the early days and weeks of breastfeeding and while she was able to give me first hand nursing mama advice, she was also a great encouragement to me. It is important to get real facts because there is so much bad advice about breastfeeding floating around. I hear it all the time. It comes from family, friends and yes, even doctors. In order to give example and remain candid, I’ll share a little about my own history. When Luke was born, as I said, I had no idea what I was doing when I began to nurse him. He cried. a. lot. He was a chunky thing and was hungry. I was told (not by professionals) and lead to believe he should be eating every 3 hours. Well, he wanted to nurse for 45 minutes long and then eat again in an hour. I thought… he must be starving… I probably didn’t have enough milk… He’s crying a lot too… that is confirmation. I just can’t do it… there is something wrong with my milk or my body. All these thoughts were poor advice, wrong thinking and unfortunately, thoughts that were encouraged by those around me. And even though I told myself the lies and tried to believe them (because I felt so guilty for not breastfeeding him), I knew deep down that I could have done it. I knew deep down that I had failed. I couldn’t explain it but I knew deep down my body should have been able to feed him. So, for a while, I spewed the same bad advice to ease my own conscience. But oh, what I learned when I did a little research. I could have just pretended that I just wasn’t made to breastfeed or that it wasn’t for me but I accepted the fact that I just didn’t know the facts and didn’t have the support I needed. Sometimes we truly don’t have the wisdom we need to accomplish something. I am a firm believer that when we do gain that wisdom, we are then accountable to it. Call me crazy, but that’s how I see it with breastfeeding. And a word to support people (moms, mother-in-laws, husbands, sisters and friends), if you didn’t breastfeed, that’s okay, but please don’t spew bad advice and discouragement! Like I mentioned sometimes those things come from a place of guilt inside (it did for me). The biggest thing a new momma needs is support and encouragement. And it is a big deal. If you don’t know the facts, learn them or just keep your mouth shut and point them to lactation professionals. And I mean that in the most kind way!
Hear me friends, I’ve been there. I still feel guilty sometimes for not nursing Luke. God is sovereign and His grace covers all. And in that grace He gave me two more chances to nurse babies! And for your mamas (planning more babies) out there that have been in the same position that I was, He can give you another chance as well!
Lastly, I just want to say in conjunction with educate yourself about how to breastfeed, educate yourself with how amazing breast milk is. Formula (and remember I have formula fed one of my kiddos) is not comparable with breast milk. There are numerous articles out there that you can read on your own that will clearly lay it out for you. So, search. Look at the negative effects of formula and the positive of breast milk. Just knowing what I know is the reason I will not stop and I will not give up. And if some some drastic, dramatic reason I had to, I would seek donor milk for Jude before formula.
Sweet mamas, you can do this. Your body was made to feed your baby. God perfectly designed it. It is a gift from Him to you and from you to your baby. Local mamas, find me and I’ll do all I can to help you succeed at breastfeeding your baby.
Here are some helpful links! Come back later this week for a list of common breastfeeding myths.
More from my heart on breastfeeding HERE
KellyMom (lots of great easy to read articles/info)
La Leche League (more great articles/info)
Benefits of breastfeeding (2 min video video)
Another fantastic short video
History of Breastfeeding: Growing a First Food Movement (video, my fav)
Breastfeeding statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics
The Science of Mother’s Milk “Perhaps one brand of formula can argue that it is marginally better than another brand, but can it possibly claim to be “inspired by breastmilk” or to “strengthen the immune system”? Those are claims that the real science simply does not support.”
Dr. Jack Newman’s facebook page
Why is pesticide in infant formula?
Breastfeeding can reduce maternal breast cancer and heart disease
Breastfeeding and childhood leukemia
Breastfeeding and diabetes
As always, feel free to share your story in the comments! Let’s learn from each other!