Build A Breastfeeding Support System: My Letter to Moms Hoping to Breastfeed
Dear New Mom or Mom-to-Be,
So, you want to breastfeed? First, congratulations on making this decision. As if motherhood isn’t hard enough to adjust to, you’ve also decided to take on the daunting task of breastfeeding. Perhaps, if you are like I was, you also plan to commit to pumping once you return to work. Good for you!
I bet you’re thinking of all the benefits of nursing. Things like the fact that it may save you money, it helps build your baby’s immune system, it may even reduce the risk of SIDS according to some studies. And, it’s natural, so it will be easy right?
Wait a minute…back up. I feel obligated to tell you that just because it’s natural, that doesn’t always equate to easy. Breastfeeding is hard. I mean really hard. Especially for first time moms. But, I also must tell you that it won’t always be hard. In fact, it may soon become one of the easiest parts of parenting.
Some moms make the decision to “try” breastfeeding – if it works great, if it doesn’t, oh well. I hate to break it to you, but trying isn’t going to cut it in most cases. An article in Time indicates about half of women stop breastfeeding after a few weeks, a third of those even before they leave the hospital. If you really want to breastfeed, make your commitment known before your baby is born, organize a breastfeeding support system and be prepared for all the emotions that come with simply living with a baby.
A close friend of mine, currently nursing her 10 month old, reflects that sometimes it can really be frustrating that you are the only one who can feed the baby. And there are definitely nights she would much rather sleep and let someone else give the baby a bottle, but overall, to be able to bond with your baby through breastfeeding is a feeling and experience like no other. Something most nursing moms will cherish forever. Even at 10 months there will be hiccups. In her case, we’re currently participating in a competition together that requires us to eat Paleo. As a result of switching to a Paleo diet, she’s experiencing a negative side effect – a decrease in her milk supply. With this brings on the concern that her daughter isn’t getting enough to drink.
This friend of mine is a 7th grade teacher. She’s made it through the removal of her appendix shortly after her daughter was born and countless hours pumping in the nurse’s office at the middle school. Yet, the decrease in supply is definitely emotionally taxing. The last thing you want to do is have your own choices impact a child’s ability to get the nutrients she needs. Regarding her recent breastfeeding struggle, a co-teacher asked her: “You’ve come so far, why don’t you just quit?” Her response may surprise you: “I’ve come so far, why would I ever quit?”
As she recapped the story to me, my immediate response was the same. Why would you ever quit at this point? You’re two months away before your daughter can drink milk and your feedings have decreased. This is the home stretch. Probably the most enjoyable time as you have to pump less (maybe even soon able to eliminate it), yet those feedings are still forcing you to sit down and enjoy your baby while she’s still a baby. And so this is another time when having a breastfeeding support system becomes so important. With some encouragement from family and friends around her, her supply was back up in a few days and she’s back to enjoying that home stretch.
This mom and pediatrician has a vision for how to fix the Top 4 Reasons Moms Stop Breastfeeding but there’s probably only one you can control today and that’s support. Take a moment to read the blog Support Leads to Breastfeeding Success. Make sure you tell people your plans and ask them to encourage you to stick to it. As determined as I was to make breastfeeding work, I can honestly tell you that if it weren’t for a well-timed letter from a cherished friend and the constant support and encouragement from my husband, I would have never made it as far as I did. I bet my friend with the 10 month old would say the same thing.
– Mary, Organized Mom