What Breastfeeding Guarantees
This post originally ran August 2, 2015.
Breastfeeding isn’t a contest you can win.
My twins are starting kindergarten this year. There isn’t a class for breastfed babies and one for formula-fed babies. In fact, unless the teacher comes right out and asks on the first day (Hi there! What’s your name? Did you breastfeed?), there is no way to know which kids were fed what for the first months or years of their lives. And does it matter?
Breastfeeding your baby doesn’t guarantee you anything, really, except the satisfaction of having breastfed your baby. Breastfed babies can still have mothers who fail to meet their needs in other ways. Breastfeeding isn’t a contest you can win. Breastfed babies aren’t guaranteed their status as genius prom kings with great hair. Breastfed babies can get sick. They can fail in school. They can be awkward and unhappy – and are no better than any other child.
So, why breastfeed? Because it is a magical thing. Because it’s an entirely unique relationship between you and your child – one that can’t be matched in any other way. Because looking at your growing child, and thinking to yourself, “I’m doing that! I’m keeping another human alive!” is an amazing feeling. Because you want to.
And because you can.
I know – some women can’t. But the prevailing reason for that – the main issue at the root of breastfeeding issues – is that there isn’t enough support.
Sometimes it comes down to not finding a good fit with a lactation consultant (or not even having access to one). Sometimes it is due to a husband or mother or friend who voices disgust or opposition to “whipping it out,” wasting time on nursing. Sometimes work or medications or traumas or other issues stand in the way. And in all honesty, sometimes the worst damage comes from the most well-meaning people, who laud breastfeeding as the BEST and the MOST IMPORTANT at the expense of recognizing those mothers who wished to, wanted to, dreamed of nursing their babies – but for whatever reason – are struggling and feeling all alone because it hasn’t worked for them. Those are the mothers who need support the most. They need to be told the how and the why, and the “it’s okay to cry, let’s try again.” And instead, they’re told that they failed – that they quit, they missed out, they aren’t dedicated or good enough, like it’s some kind of contest. Will those mothers want to try again?
Breastfeeding my children was life changing. I discovered a strength, and a power, and a courage that I didn’t know I was capable of during my journey.
I fought for it.
Many tears were shed. And in the end, every sleepless night, every complaint, every moment I just wanted to quit and get my body back … they were all worth it. When I look at the trajectory of my life, the scope and focus of my time with my children, every moment I spent feeding them from my own body – from my own soul – was worth it. But I couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for my husband. My mother. My ability to find the information and, more importantly, the support that I needed.
So – to the breastfeeding mothers out there – I ask that you consider the focus of World Breastfeeding Week, and become part of someone’s circle of support. Whether it is complimenting a stranger in public for her dedication to nursing – even in view of judgmental eyes – or offering a listening ear and helpful resources to a pregnant friend, you can be someone’s support.
And for those of you that are scared or nervous or convinced that it won’t work for you – look for your support. It may be hard to find, but it’s out there. It’s in the lactation services through your hospital or birthing center. It’s there in the free meetings at your local library or WIC office. It’s there in the mothers visiting online forums to offer advice, encouragement, a place to vent and to share your own story. It’s here, at EverydayFamily.
Did you find the support you needed to breastfeed successfully?