As a lactation professional, it's my job to help women breastfeed their babies. I go to their homes soon after their baby is born and teach them how to get these tiny humans to breastfeed. I help with the latch, engorged breasts and a host of other challenges that accompany nursing a newborn.
Most of the time it's all they need to get on the right track, but sometimes it's not. Sometimes mothers really hate nursing their babies and desperately want to stop. They want to stop but they feel this drive deep within to suffer and continue because that's what they are supposed to do. Isn't that what a good mother does?
The truth is, for many of us, our fantasy of what breastfeeding will be like is drastically different from the reality. Sometimes mothers are able to work through the challenges and continue on to have that beautiful nursing experience that they've dreamt of and sometimes not. When it's not working and other issues pop up, like a postpartum mood disorder, mothers are faced with some very difficult choices. They are told that medication is necessary and that is not an option for them, nor is giving up. So, what do they do?
What's important to know is that there are many options out there. They need to be informed of their options and by a professional. Mothers need permission from someone who is passionate about breastfeeding to change what they are doing. Sometimes this is a matter of life and death for a woman and so she must be informed. Breastfeeding is not all or nothing. A mother who wants her baby to have breastmilk only, has the option of donor milk. There are many human milk banks across the country that offer this choice to mothers.
Formula is another option for mothers and it is ok to choose that. It was invented because sometimes it's the only option for a mother. Mothers choose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and each one is ok. A woman has the right to decide what she wants to do with her breasts. True, there will be people who will be insensitive and judgmental and there is nothing any of us can do to stop that. It's our job and sometimes a mental health necessity to tune it out and to feel confident in our choice. If we can't then we need to get some support from a professional who can help us.
I liked this piece about the reality of breastfeeding. The author is honest and brave in revealing that it is often very difficult in the beginning and that pregnant mothers should be given a more realistic picture of breastfeeding a newborn.