This is my cute, little first-born.
Well, OK, he’s not so little at a whopping 8.5 years old (how the heck did that happen?). His babyhood might be long gone, but the memories of all the challenges we faced – real and imagined – are far from forgotten.
Of all the things I wish I could change about that first year, breastfeeding is at the top of the list. After a lot of pain and frustration with breastfeeding, I threw in the towel at 8 weeks and decided to pump exclusively for him.
Looking back, I made some rookie mistakes that might have helped us avoid all the tears (his and mine). I’m not alone. Around two-thirds of moms who plan to breastfeed don’t reach their own breastfeeding goals. Why? If I were a betting gal, I would wager they fell into many of the same “booby traps” as I did.
Here’s hoping you learn something from my mistakes!
- I didn’t prepare! I was *incredibly* prepared for the birth – took classes, took tours of the hospital, read books, talked to friends… I figured breastfeeding would take care of itself. Wrong. Ugh. Smacking my head.
- I didn’t talk to my health care providers about breastfeeding. The doctors and midwives I met before the birth said nothing about breastfeeding, and I never thought to bring it up. I didn’t even know if there were lactation consultants on staff at the hospital, let alone how often they worked and what their credentials were!
- I didn’t stand up for myself. After the birth, a nurse came into my room to assess his eating. She said I had “flat nipples” and gave me a nipple shield. I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to say or ask or do. And then she left. I had no idea how often he should be eating, what feeding cues to look for, or how to know if he was getting enough. I should have asked for (aka demanded) another visit from her before I left the hospital and gotten all my questions answered.
- I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. At home, baby was very sleepy and not soiling his diapers (signs that he wasn’t getting enough). I don’t know what got into me, but I was determined to make things work… without help. In my mind, I was supposed to know what to do and asking for help would be like admitting failure. I know now that’s just crazy talk.
- I didn’t stand up for myself (again). Eventually, the pain got so bad, my husband made me visit the hospital lactation office. They looked at the latch and checked his milk transfer and said things looked good. Things were not good. I was still in terrible pain… every. single. time. he. nursed. I should have realized that not all lactation professionals are created equally, and if these ladies couldn’t provide the right help, I needed to look elsewhere for answers.
- I didn’t seek out emotional support. I not only needed technical support for breastfeeding, I needed to know that what I was going through emotionally was normal. Yes, hubby listened patiently to my tearful complaints, but I needed other moms to talk to. In real life. There was a breastfeeding support group not far from my house and I never went. Shyness? Shame? Ignorance? All of the above. Smacking my head again.
- I didn’t know that things could get better. I thought that I’d be in pain forever if I kept nursing. Little did I know that good latches can be learned over time, with the right support and a lot of patience.
This story at least has a happy ending: I ended up with a great kid who got a lot of breastmilk in his first year of life. His younger brother benefitted from all my early mistakes – none of which were repeated, by the way, and he breastfed successfully for a long time.
Are you planning to breastfeed? Check out our awesome post, chock full of great resources for a successful beginning!
Author’s Note: As we all think about the mistakes we’ve made (and we’ve all made them), let’s remember to distinguish between where we “failed” and where we were failed by others. Our health care providers are not properly trained to support breastfeeding and our institutions are not set up for breastfeeding success. We are being failed, and we cannot accept that as the norm for our mothers and babies. So, in short, let’s all give ourselves a hug, learn from our experiences and make Chicago the most breastfeeding-friendly area in the country! Rock on.