This week is World Breastfeeding Week so of course, I’ve got boobs on the brain. Boobs and baby animals.
Did y’all follow the story about the baby giraffe at the Maryland Zoo? Little baby Julius. He was born on June 15th to a first-time giraffe mama. Julius struggled to nurse effectively so the zookeepers had to supplement his diet intravenously with total parenteral nutrition, basically formula. Unfortunately, he was also born without enough antibodies to effectively fight off disease, so little Julius ended up leaving this world for the Serengeti in the sky only a month later.
This story got me thinking about breastfeeding. How we talk about how natural it is and assume it should be easy and instinctual once your baby is born. But here was an example of a “wild” animal who struggled to figure out the whole nursing thing.
A month after my son was born, he started to get really fussy when he ate and wouldn’t stay latched. Every feeding was a struggle and since I was feeding him around the clock, it got old very quickly. I felt incompetent, like I was a bad mom for not being able to adequately meet my son’s most basic needs. After 3-4 days, I was unbelievably frustrated, so I made an appointment with a lactation consultant at my birth center. It turned out that my milk let-down was so strong that my son was choking on my milk when he tried to nurse. As the consultant described it, it was like a firehose hitting him in the mouth. She helped me practice different positions and magically my son ate calmly for the first time in days.
Going to see a lactation consultant was one of the best things I did for myself in the first few months of motherhood. It was validating and gave me a much-needed boost of confidence. I wasn’t stupid for not knowing how to do this! Now, it’s not like everything went completely smoothly from then on out. However, when I did hit bumps in the road later on, I felt better prepared. When my supply took a dip after I went back to work, I was frustrated but knew that if I couldn’t work through it on my own, I had back-up waiting for me. Someone who wasn’t going to let me fail.
Breastfeeding takes an emotional and physical toll on moms. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy breastfeeding and am proud that my son and I are at 10 months and still going strong. But I’d be peddling a lie if I said that every minute is magical. Some moments are so sweet that I think my heart is going to burst, like when he falls asleep at my breast. At the same time, other moments are irritating or painful, like when my son got his first two teeth! I think the best thing we can do for each other as moms is to be honest about our experiences. That way new moms who come after us don’t feel stupid or guilty when they can’t seem to get it right or don’t feel a magical surge of joy every time their baby latches. Keeping a baby alive with your boobs is hard work and there is no shame in asking for or needing help.
Here’s a quick round-up of breastfeeding resources for moms in the Triangle area:
- La Leche League of the Triangle Area
- Triangle Breastfeeding Alliance
- Lactation Consultants
- Birth Centers with Lactation Consultants