What Breastfeeding Guarantees

what breastfeeding guarantees
Image via Sara McTigue

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?

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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.

I struggled.

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? 

What do you think?

What Breastfeeding Guarantees

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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6 comments

  1. I really appreciate this article. I have two beautiful daughters with a very severe delayed food allergy condition called FPIES. I tried everything in my power to nurse them even as far as a water only total elimination diet. But unfortunately my milk was still making them severely, life-threateningly ill. There is one very expensive prescription formula that they can tolerate that keeps them alive. When I look for support I get the opposite. Judgement and shaming. Told I am POISONING them with formula, I didnt try hard enough, I should have just kept pushing through because the formula would always make them sicker then my milk did (what part of they were DYING do people not comprehend). It drove me to the point of Post Partum PTSD. I had to go to counseling for several months and be medicated just to even see a breastfeeding mother or a breast is best poster without breaking down. People judge me and have never walked in in my shoes. If I am ever blessed with another child I will not nurse again. Partially due to the high risk involved due to the severity of the other two girls reactions but also because thanks in large part to the lack of support I cannot mentally or emotionally handle it again. I cannot handle feeling like I failed again. You were exactly right that all this pressure and shaming does NOT encourage mothers to try again with future children. It does the exact opposite.

  2. Profile photo of Jackie Jackie says:

    I struggled and fought to nurse my first born. 6 weeks into the ordeal (because it was an ordeal) I was nursing him in the early morning hours, just enough day light coming into our room for me to see that he had blood on his face and there was blood on my breast. I quickly sat him up horrified at what I was seeing and he vomited pure blood everywhere! Turns out he ruptured a capillary in my nipple and nursed blood! I just wasn’t willing to take that risk of it happening again. After the paid, the tears, the stinging of the shower I had to give up! I felt both relieved and betrayed by my own body! He is a happy thriving little guy and I wouldn’t do anything different. I will say that for the 2nd child due in a month, I will not be nursing and I have a number of judgments laid upon me when I say I am not going to nurse and that is fine by me! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!

  3. Profile photo of AspenXIzzard AspenXIzzard says:

    Love this article. Unfortunately with my daughter I only breastfed the first 2 months. I started working at 4 weeks after me c- section and didn’t even get a lunch break none the less a breast feeding break, so sadly my milk dried up. Fortunately just a little over a year later I am in a much different situation and am determined to breast feed.

    • Profile photo of Sara McTigue, CLCEditor Sara McTigue, CLC says:

      It’s a huge challenge to nurse and pump and do all you have to do with a newborn and a job – so consider your 2 months as an accomplishment and a great experience to prepare you for the next challenge! It’s great you are looking forward to trying again.

  4. Profile photo of Kelli Wade Kelli Wade says:

    do you have coupons so I can save money buying breast pump

  5. Profile photo of Julia Julia says:

    Thank you for this article, I agree with every word and I wish there were more published like this one. I am a first-time mom to a 7 month old little girl, and she is happy, healthy and the best thing that ever happened to me. I have not been able to breastfeed her exclusively, however, which was my goal, and it has caused me a lot of guilt and disappointment. I completely agree that the key is information and support, and I see a disconnect between the massive campaign to encourage women to breastfeed, and the lack of real support to make that a reality. In my experience, my gynecologist and pediatrician “support” breastfeeding, but they did not have any answers for me when I encountered problems. My obgyn asked me if I was ready to give up, the nurse practitioner told me breastfeeding is natural and to not stress about it, and my pediatrician told me just to top my baby off with formula. I did go to an LC, thank God, but it was quite expensive and I still left not understanding how to wean off formula. In the hospital when my daughter was born, not one nurse showed me how to do a proper latch and each one had different advice and little patience. The LCs there talked to me, but neither helped me with latch, different holds, keeping the baby awake, skin-to-skin, etc. And in general, women face an enormous challenge to breastfeed beyond a few weeks if they work full time, especially if they work for minimum wage or have more than one job. I hope that one day we as a society do what is really needed to support women so that they can breastfeed successfully.

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