World Breastfeeding week is here, which means it’s that time of year when everyone is talking, tweeting, facebooking and blogging about nursing. As the blogger behind Mama’s Got Milk, I write about breastfeeding all the time. My awesome friend Michelle has asked me to write something for World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) and I am honored to do so.
First, let me give you a quick rundown of what WBW is. This year marks the 20th year of WBW, which always falls on the first seven days of August. WBW is organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. Their website lists the objectives of this week, which include celebrating the successes we have made, as a planet, in the world of breastfeeding as well as working towards even more success in the places that are lacking acceptance and legislation.
We now live in a world where it is generally acceptable to breastfeed your little one whenever and wherever you need to. Fortunately, everyone I know is pro-breastfeeding and very supportive of nursing mothers. I have never had to deal with any rude comments or adversity. Some mothers will encounter people who can’t stop staring or give dirty looks, but I feel confident that those people are the exception to the rule and will soon have no choice but to join the masses and accept that mothers are going to feed their babies when their babies are hungry. Period.
Although it seems like everyone is talking about breastfeeding right now, there are still some topics that people don’t like to address. I have decided to talk about the issues that always get left out of the conversation. Let’s go for it!
1. Breastfeeding can be very hard. While many mothers nurse their babies from birth without a hitch, others have to endure a lot of hardship along the way. Nursing mothers often have to deal with latch problems, low supply, over supply, engorgement, clogged ducts, thrush, nursing strikes, dietary restrictions, and many other obstacles. One of the reasons I chose to nurse my babies is that it is easier than formula. I don’t have to tote bottles around with me, I don’t worry about throwing out expensive formula if the baby doesn’t finish it within an hour, I never have to run to the store to pick up food for my infant, and I don’t waste precious time standing in front of the sink scrubbing nipples and bottles. That said, there have been days (and weeks) when it would have been much, much easier to shake up a bottle of Similac and pop it in my baby’s mouth. When my son was born my milk took almost a week to come in and, possibly due to the fact that he weighed almost 11lbs at birth, he was starving. I wasn’t even producing colostrum, and he had no interest in sucking if he wasn’t getting any food out of it. I met with lactation consultants daily, read tips and tricks on the internet and tried so hard to get him to nurse even though nothing was coming out. That first week of his life, instead of soaking up every bit of his squishy newborn goodness, I stressed. I stressed a lot. In the long run it was totally worth it, we went on to have a wonderful, 17 month long nursing relationship. But man, oh man, that first week was rough. The whole time, I just kept wondering “how come nobody told this was going to be challenging?” I sat through 6 weeks of prenatal classes where I learned everything from labor signs to how to change a diaper, but nobody every told me that breastfeeding might be tricky. Now, when I meet a woman pregnant with her first baby, if she asks me for advice I always try to mention that while breastfeeding is the most wonderful thing you can do for your baby, it is not always easy and that it’s important to have lots of support in case you hit some bumps in the road.
2. You can’t take a break. Let me start by saying, I heart my pump! I love that I can leave my daughter with my husband or my mom and run to the grocery store sans kids. However, the part I didn’t think about before the first time I did this, is that even if I leave the baby with tons of pumped milk, I can’t just go half a day without nursing or pumping. Not only will my boobs feel like solid, painful rocks, but the long break will signal to my body that I don’t need all that milk it’s making and my supply could take a hit. So, even though I left my daughter with my parents to go to the movies last weekend, I still had to rush home and pump afterwards. I’m not complaining, I’m really not, but I’m being honest – nursing moms don’t ever get a break.
3. Your sex life will change. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that some of the things my husband wants to do with my boobs don’t seem right when I think about the fact that in an hour or two my precious little girl will be sucking on those very same boobs. So, hubby loses out. It helps to remind him that his baby is getting the best nutrition in the world AND he never has to take a turn for night feedings :)
4. Your regular old shirts will make you look like a floozy. Once your baby is born, your boobs will probably inflate at least a cup size or two. Many women love this extra boost, but you must keep in mind that the cute little v-neck you used to wear to family functions or business meetings now makes you look like you’re ready to jump on stage at the local strip club. This is an easy problem to fix - buy some new tops. But it’s something that women should know about ahead of time, rather than making this realization on the way out the door to Grandpa Ted’s 90th birthday party.
5. Formula is not poison. I have several friends who tried their absolute hardest to nurse their babies, but for one reason or another they couldn't do it and had no choice but to put their babies on formula. While I think it’s awesome how much information is out there on the benefits of breastfeeding, and I am an extremely proud nursing mama, my heart aches for those who hang their heads in shame while walking down the formula aisle at the store. The concept of “breast is best” has been so engrained in our minds that when a mother can’t breastfeed she feels like her child is getting second rate care. Everybody wants to give their children the absolute best that life has to offer, so accepting the switch to formula can be very hard. Keep this in mind before you judge a fellow mom for mixing up a formula bottle. She may not have a choice in the matter and she is not shopping for a can of soda to feed to her little one. Formula is second best but it’s still a very good source of nutrition for babies and should not be looked down upon.
Alrighty, enough from me. As you can see, I have a lot to say. If you like to read my ramblings or if you’re looking for some helpful breastfeeding info, please check out my blog Mama’s Got Milk. I’d love to see you all over there. Happy Breastfeeding Week to those of you who are currently nursing, have nursed in the past, plan to nurse in the future or tried and could not nurse. Every single one of you is a rockstar!