Dramatic title and all!
There is so much circulating information available about breastfeeding. How to breastfeed, how to maintain and increase supply, how to make enough milk, encourage baby to breastfeed, how to become an exclusive breastfeeder etc etc... and every now and then there's a thoroughly circulated media frenzy when a celebrity posts something that either undermines the importance of breastmilk or steps up to speak out for those who did not breastfeed and the validity of their choice. And all of it has certain effects on people- Im sure. There are so many reasons that breastfeeding can be undermined and breastmilk is lost for one person or another- not being initiated properly, suffering medical separation, breast physiology, baby prematurity etc etc- (the list really is incredibly long) and Yes! I agree- those things are Hugely influential when it comes to why a breastfeeding relationship was ended or did not advance past a few weeks- but in my experience; there's one really overall and pervasive frame of thinking that plagues our general society today that really undermines and 'destroys' an individual's Breastfeeding
All or Nothing Thinking
its the assumption that 'because I can't do this completely right now- I can't do it at all!'
All or nothing thinking has new moms believing before they give birth that they will be exclusively breastfeeding without too much of a hitch from the time baby is born and so when such a thing does not happen and they're forced to address a new reality of feeding their baby- it causes them to 'abandon' both their previous ideas of breastfeeding exclusively and naturally as well as: breastfeeding and breastmilk it self.
And this is so incredibly hard to undo.
I'd love it if we lived in a time when all new mothers received the perfect level of intervention during their deliveries and labor care and thereafter were exposed to highly skilled and empathetic breastfeeding specialists that gave them some great initiation advice and skills and sent them off on their way into breastfeeding communities where they would be surrounded by other breastfeeding women and supported by lactation groups as needed. But- no such luck. Instead we have tons of things that undermine breastfeeding- medical and hospital practices, unskilled lactation advice and a complete lack of community support available - and so; many women will not ( as a result of things she had done to her- that she wasn't even aware was going to do damage to her breastfeeding) reach their ideal of being exclusive breastfeeding moms. Its sad, and largely very unfair, but also- a fact.
How do we counter all this? well- here's how. By acknowledging that breastfeeding does not have to be an all or nothing thing. That often times there are things that happen- that we can't undo and can't rectify fully, and those do damage our breastfeeding realities. But that doesn't mean its the end. That doesn't mean we need to jump straight to- No breastfeeding, or 'nothing' at all. There are so many places between full exclusive breastfeeding (that takes place exclusively from the breast and into the baby via that breast)- and no breastfeeding or breastmilk at all.
There are so many places between- and most of us; exist in one of those places.
This is what I always ask my clients:
Is there ANY breastmilk ?
+attention on the Any
And if they say 'yes' (which they always do)- I do my little dance of happiness for them.
Because, to me- as long as there's some breastmilk- there's hope.
What it will take now- it some adjusting, some new goals, a ton of celebration and praise for their efforts and commitment so far- and a nice new reasonable and practical plan going forward. One that they get to chose and agree upon and we all get to support.
And yes- most of these moms won't be fully exclusively breastfeeding in the next coming months (or ever) and some of them will be pumping/ hand expressing and making use of alternate means for a while still- but the point is; the goal and the journey have changed but the product has not. breastmilk is still on offer and breastfeeding will still be taking place in some shape or form- and that is WONDERFUL!
Its not All or Nothing- it's very much in between
*Heres to all the pumping/ expressing, topping up, partial supplementing and 'doing all we can from the place we're at' families and carers. Its tough and I know that- Weldone and congratulations!