Breastfeeding is truly a group effort. It's not just a pact you make with your mammaries, it's with your baby, your partner, your job, your family, your friends, the hospital you delivered in, and even your community. So many women want to succeed at breastfeeding, but there are so many factors that can set you up to fail. And before anyone gets all in a huff, I'm talking about factors other than medical reasons that make a woman physically unable to nurse.
I breastfeed my twins -- almost 11 months and counting -- and I am truly thankful for the support I had and still have to get me here and take me beyond. (Okay not everyone has been uber-supportive, but I just squirted those people in the eye with breast milk and the sweetness made them convert.)
There are so many things you need to succeed that have nothing to do with baby. When people question why there are lactivists, I want to scream -- THIS IS WHY.
- We don't have faith in our bodies. Most (not all) moms can produce milk, enough milk to feed their baby and even babies. (Yes, moms of multiples, too!) With some pediatricians obsessing over a child's weight gain and cross referencing the growth chart of formula fed infants instead of breastfed infants, it's enough to make a mom feel that she's a terrible mom and is starving her baby. (Oh the guilt!) Most of us can produce the right amount of milk that will make our babies thrive. Stressing that you can't can dry you up.
- There is no support from the start. The sooner your baby nurses after birth, the greater the chances of breastfeeding success. Birth 'em and boob 'em! You can still succeed if baby wasn't able to be at breast right away, however (I did!), and the more support you have from the hospital staff, the better. Take advantage of the lactation specialists if your hospital has them. Seriously, even if you think you rule at breastfeeding, enlist their help.
- Husbands are discouraging. If your husband is making a bottle of formula the minute you start to complain about sore nipples, you just aren't going to succeed (in breastfeeding and possibly marriage). Your support system at home is vital to your success ... at both.
- Family isn't supportive. You weren't breastfed and you turned out fine -- sound familiar? Even those words from your mom can be discouraging (even if she doesn't mean harm). If you choose to breastfeed, everyone around you must choose to accept and support you.
- Friends don't understand. When you become a mom, your social life changes. If you're breastfeeding, it changes even more. Having supportive friends who understand you aren't going to be able to down margaritas and only have a two- or three-hour window before you have to be back home to nurse baby and still want to hang out with you are not only great friends, but great supporters.
- Jobs aren't accommodating. Some jobs have zero support and that's detrimental to pumping while at work. Bathrooms shouldn't be pumping rooms, but they often are. Working moms need more support to succeed when they return to work and the only way we're going to get it is to demand it and team up together to help raise awareness. I can't make a joke here because there is so much guilt that comes when a mom has to go back to work.
- The community makes it difficult. Every week it seems there is another mom who is told to stop nursing in public. I don't walk around making fun of the horrific fashion don'ts I see on the street, so do me the same courtesy ... if you don't like it, look away (and change that dreadful shirt).
Some people view breastfeeding moms as a bunch of yappers with god-complexes because we have lactating udders. Or they just say, "No one was breastfed in my day and we all turned out fine." Well, you know what? Women used to not have the right to vote, and we do now. So ... THINGS CHANGE. We right our wrongs. If you're wondering why nursing moms speak up so much, it's because there isn't enough support out there for those who want to succeed at breastfeeding. It's not because we look down upon anyone who chooses otherwise, it's because we need support (and not just because our breasts are heavier).
Do you have a good support system? Do you support breastfeeding women in your life?
Image via Michele Zipp