The first few weeks after the birth of a baby is an amazing time in a mother’s life. It is also exhausting and stressful. But just like with everything else in life, we all have very different experiences with our newborns. For example, bonding and feeling connected to baby do not happen instantaneously for all moms, for some it takes weeks. Moms also have varying levels of physical discomfort, fatigue, and anxiety all of which are impacted by baby’s temperament and family dynamics.
Breastfeeding is no different. Some breeze through the process with no issues while others struggle even with the support of lactation consultants, yucky teas, and fancy breast pumps. As a pediatrician, I’m a firm advocate for breastfeeding, but even I have to admit that we sometimes do a poor job of balancing breastfeeding advocacy against providing moms with personalized and realistic support. Breastfeeding friendly initiatives are not always “Mom” friendly. Some are so extreme that they leave new moms feeling bullied, alienated and inadequate during a time which is already very stressful.
The truth is that most moms have some challenges with breastfeeding. Breasts, just like babies’ mouths, come in all shapes and sizes. The problem is that sometimes the two don’t match up well. We try to accommodate this anatomic incompatibility as much as possible by doing things like using breast shields, trying different feeding positions, or treating the tiniest bit of tongue tie to create a better latch. But, despite all of the interventions, gimmicks, and advice out there, the most important thing a new mom needs to know is that everything is going to be okay. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. So, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding, supplementing or bottle feeding formula or expressed breast milk, you are still awesome because you brought this precious life into the world.
My advice to new or soon to be moms is, do your homework. Then, talk with your partner and your support system to let them know how they can best support your feeding plan. That may involve letting your partner feed baby when you feel overwhelmed or exhausted, and that’s okay. Dads, partners, and grandparents love to feed babies, and a rested momma is going to fare far better than an exhausted one. For others, that might mean giving the baby a pacifier sooner rather than later. Many moms choose to breast and bottle feed from day one, and that’s okay too.
Take it from me, a breastfed baby is great, but a fed baby is best. There are a ton of resources out there, but at the end of the day, YOU decide what right looks like for you and your family. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to babies. So remember to breathe, trust your intuition and enjoy the beauty of the journey.