From the moment I latched my first bundle of joy to this very moment as I nurse my third child, my breastfeeding journey has been a rollercoaster, to say the least. World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month are intended to shine a light on the huge benefit that “liquid gold” can have on the health of both mommy and baby, and there is no doubt that breastfeeding offers unparalleled health and brain-building benefits to your little angel.
However, there is only a dim light shed on the endeavors nursing mothers encounter throughout the process. Breastfeeding is a struggle — like when you say the struggle is real, it’s the realest real you can get! On top of the tears, pain, sleepless nights, and adjusting to the notion that we should be comfortable feeding our babies at any time, anywhere, we have to deal with the pressures of conversations about how long we nursed, if we supplemented, and the unwarranted how-to-feed-your-baby advice.
I’ve found the most encouraging moments of breastfeeding to be the raw conversations with other mothers about their struggles, reiterating that the smiling photo of the mom nursing doesn’t depict the nursing journey with full honesty. Yes, breastfeeding is a special bonding moment, and yes, it’s a wonderful feeling to give your babies the nutrition your body has created specifically for them. However, can we talk about the things people don’t want to post pictures of? The normal breastfeeding moments that all mothers have in common? The struggles you overcame are the words a new mother, or a mother who is on the verge of giving up needs to hear. The strongest action you can take towards encouraging women to continue their breastfeeding journey is to let them know they are not alone in their struggles.
Snapchat and Instagram don’t have a filter for the engorgement, the moment your milk comes in postpartum, and you look and feel like you just left the hospital with an extra painful breast augmentation. There is no sugar scrub or ointment preparation to help your nipples withstand the tenderness of a newborn latch, or the niplash from an older baby who decides they have suddenly had enough. There is a frustration that you can’t escape in the beginning because no matter how hard you try to explain your struggle to your partner, they will never fully understand your restlessness, and the breast milk-soaked shirts from the slightest baby cry. Pumping any time you are away from the baby is strenuous because you are constantly worried about the ounces and whether or not you are producing enough and while the normalized breastfeeding moment is empowering, there may be times when you don’t want to feed your baby fully exposed in a group of strangers.
To the breastfeeding mother who is struggling, you are not alone. There is a tribe of other mothers who understand, and here is a collection of encouragement from local Jacksonville moms who are on this rollercoaster with you!
“Breastfeeding is freaking hard, from the infections, to the back pain, to the sore boobies, it has been physically and mentally exhausting, but if women have done this since the beginning of time, I know I can rock this challenge!”
“The thing that kept me going when I wanted to quit was that I knew if I sacrificed my body for one year, I could build an immune system that would help my son for the rest of his life.”
“The first couple of weeks, I was in a lot of pain. I wanted to quit, then that passed, but I fell into a depression having a tiny human attached to me at all times. I made it through the first month, and that feeling passed. Now I’m obsessed with breastfeeding.”
“The hardest part about nursing is that it opens you up to a lot of criticism. It’s just like unwanted parenting advice. Some people think it’s gross, some people have a strict 12-month timeline and think any longer is strange. Some people look at me like I am a crazy woman when I nurse in public. I have just learned to ignore it all and have confidence that I know what is best for my baby!”
“Trust that your body will produce. The more you relax, the better your flow and supply. Just like birth! It’s all in the mindset. You tell yourself and believe in yourself that you can do this, and you WILL do this. Don’t doubt your mama instincts. Trust your body, trust your baby.”
“Don’t give up, the first three weeks are the hardest, but so worth it!”
“Moms need to feel proud no matter how far they make it. Even if it’s a short time, they still did it. I had a lot of guilt not being able to for a long time and that’s not how it should be —six weeks or six months, you should be proud!”