Dear 'I can't breastfeed' mom
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Im so glad you're here.
I don't know you're exact experiences or challenges and I have no idea what kind of pregnancy, birth and first days you may have had, but I can guess to a few things that may have found you googling all manner of breastfeeding topics at 2 am while you cried tears along with your baby, and eventually wound you down an internet rabbit hole of symptoms, questions and diagnosable disorders.
Maybe you're exhausted, confused, frustrated, stressed, strung out and sad - and maybe breastfeeding has become more of a hopeless impossibility then the natural instinctual act you had initially assumed it would be for you.
Im so sorry, and I hope you know that you are completely valid and completely understandable.
To this day I have never met a single breastfeeding women that told me that breastfeeding came completely naturally to her.
To gather you into our little club of breastfeeding moms right now I want you to know that breastfeeding was hard, challenging, emotional and all encompassing for all of us- only the degrees of difficulty and individual challenges differ in detail, but the overall struggle and self doubt; that's the same for us all. The difference in the outcome, between those that continue and those that don't, is merely in the 'what happened next' part. The part following the first days and weeks of hardship and difficulties, so many tears, so many questions and such obscene levels of self doubt- the part following the first thoughts of 'maybe I can't do this?' And that's the now- the right now part. The part when 'what if I quit?'- can either turn into the 'no I won't' or the 'I can't do this.'
Right now you've stumbled upon this page and wow am I so glad you're here- because right now is the time we can make all the difference.
How about we start with your mind?
Firstly I want to make you feel validated - because everything you have experienced, are going through and have thought of, is all: real and reasonable! And, comes as a result of an extremely difficult time.
You HAVE been through so much and your concerns are very valid.
As a new mom you always want to know that your baby is doing ok.
You want to be sure you're feeding enough, producing enough and giving baby everything that he/she needs to thrive- and, with each tear, each scream, each uncomfortable feeding session :your mind again floods with questions about all of these things- latch, milk flow, production, position, enough milk? etc etc
and, all of these things are important- So YES: your concerns and your emotions are valid.
But- now I want to give you a very simple gift; it's the list of pervasive conditions that will prevent a woman (any woman) from breastfeeding in any capacity, at all (backed by tons of research, medical studies and global health studies)- ready?
here's the list:
2) Excessive Drug and Alcohol usage
3) Whilst ingesting Iodine medication as as result of exposure to radiation
and there it is.
(And to be entirely honest- HIV+ as a contraindication for breastfeeding isn't even a global policy, many countries do recommend breastfeeding with ARV treatment for HIV+ mothers. In the US, under the CDC- its a no.
And, breastfeeding women who are exposed to huge boughts of radiation may resume breastfeeding 2 weeks after their iodine medication is complete)
If you want to read on pls do : https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Serious-Illnesses-and-Breastfeeding.aspx
So, now that you know that being unable to breastfeed entirely is not a category you fit into, you can start to put your mind at east that if you are finding this process extremely difficult, if baby isn't thriving and if you are not feeling like this is going as it should and that something might be wrong then guess what? You're right again- there probably is something wrong.
And if so- that means there's something to do, something to sort out and something that can be helped in order to set you on a better path: and that's FANTASTIC
Heres another one for you: every single breastfeeding mother I know who has continued past the initial first months has received some form of specialist help or group support.
What that means, is that - breastfeeding requires learning and support , and an environment of good information and good practices.
In other words: breastfeeding mothers need their teachers.
Before we became modernized and isolated in our little nuclear homes of 2 plus baby- we lived in tribes and groups and in those groups women shared the natural practices of female physiological growth and challenges together- including birthing practices, breastfeeding and sleeping practices; so women giving birth to babies were immediately surrounded by other breastfeeding mothers and the tribes grandmothers and aunts who all rallied around each other to support, nurture and teach their ways.
It was learning and growing through support and experience and within an environment of shared acceptance.
Today- our tribes are lost and the new mothers feel their loss greatly. If without a close experience and supportive woman to teach, care and support a new mom and her breastfeeding, it's an impossibly hard task for an amateur to take on. Its no wonder the further we modernized and moved away from our family homes and tribes- the worse the breastfeeding rates got.
So- now you know you can (even if you're not sure how just yet), and Im sure you already know the just of: why- because its so so so important and so incredibly influential in your childs life now and throughout his/her life span, so the next part, the RIGHT NOW part is: the how.
And to that I say- good news. There are lots of people around who can help you and the right people will be able to change the path of your breast-feeding journey significantly and for the ( much much much) better. There are those amongst us who full the gaps that the move away from tribes have left with our unique levels of knowledge, experience and respect for the art of breastfeeding. Find a good one!
IBCLC, LC, CBS, LaLeche League Group etc etc-
get real life referrals from success stories you know, read reviews and make sure you find yourself a good one- a good breastfeeding specialist makes a world of difference (just as a bad one can do equal damage)
Your breastfeeding journey may need some adjustments and may need some alteration of goals and mindset- maybe you're not going to be a full breastfeeder, maybe you're going to have a different process and maybe it's going to look a lot different to what you first intended but all of this is part of the process- we've all had to adjust and evolve.
But the important thing is to go ahead and jump right in- do what you need to, learn what you need to and adapt as you must. You will never regret this.
Lastly I want to mention one fundamental thing that you can continue to control during this process and that is: your mind. The Mind Of The Mama is a truly important aspect of your mothering future and today is the day that you can begin to take real hold of your life through your choice to control how you chose to see challenges and hardships going foreword. Mums need calm minds, peaceful minds. strong and resolved minds. Minds that tell us- yes this is hard, yes I can do this, Yes it is worth it!
For some moms reaching that state of mind-'control' comes about by finding out what really bring peace and resolve to their unique mind. For some of us- its the strength of resilience knowing the facts and the science behind parenting and mothering gives us. Knowing the science behind why breastfeeding matters, what breastmilk is and does and how our behaviors and practices shape the psychological and emotional foundations of our children's personalities and sense of self. For others its the sense of self pride and strength offered by the act of enduring hardships and difficulties for the good of our children despite the sacrifices and pains we must endure to do so.
Whatever it is that can keep your mind strong, resilient, calm and resolved- now is the time to find it, fuel it and embrace it.
Eliud Kipchoge- the only man in history to ever run a marathon in under 2 hours, says "Control your mind, or it will control you." And how amazingly right he is.
There's no place for doubt here.
You got this.