As a breastfeeding mother, I’ve had my fair share of inappropriate comments, questions and unsolicited advice.
Sometimes I’ve been dumbfounded. Rarely I’ve been mad. But occasionally, you get a piece of advice right when you need it.
To be honest, my first pregnancy was a surprise. I was still dealing with the shock of it all when in my second trimester, a friend asked the question: “Are you going to breastfeed?”
Now, some people might be downright offended from the start. Not me. I’m not that easily offended.
“Good question,” I said.
Being pregnant herself, she offered up everything she had recently learned about breastfeeding and was adamant she was going to do it. Learning the nutritional benefits for baby was really all I needed to know. I, too, became adamant that I wanted to breastfeed.
However, some things are easier said than done.
When my oldest was born I was excited and nervous to nurse her. Like trying anything for the first time, I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. I had read the “What to Expect” book, which is apparently required reading in the Crash Course On Keeping A Human Alive. The book was good, but for me, it took personal experience to learn the value of lanolin cream. Once I managed to deal with the soreness, I realized that nursing was one of the most miraculous gifts I could give my daughter. Sitting in the white wooden glider that my mother gave me at my baby shower and rocking and nursing her was one of my favorite pastimes. It felt so natural.
Then, I went on a week-long vacation without my baby and afterwards found it difficult to produce what she needed. From that point on, I mostly fed her formula with the occasional breastmilk supplement. I felt so guilty for not being able to fully provide for her. I felt guilty when I had to offer her formula in public.
I felt guilty when a well-intentioned individual said, “Well, there are things you can do to increase your supply. Have you tried herbal tea?”
I was left speechless. Had I given up too easily? Should I have purchased a breast pump? Where was the guide book on how to handle the emotional roller-coaster that’s called “Parenting: The Thrills And Guilt For Doing It Wrong.”
The second time around my training wheels were off.
Nursing my second child was great. I learned a lot from that first experience, which led to less anxiety, though I wasn’t entirely confident. I bought a cover-up with damask print and nursed my newborn baby in the Italian, summer heat under a layer of cloth for the convenience of others. Living in a country where air conditioning was a luxury not found in most homes, we had no reprieve from the heat. At least the Base Exchange had air conditioning, and I didn’t have to cover up. I hid in dressing rooms and rarely nursed in public as to avoid confrontation.
I was determined to nurse for the entire first year.
Then, my third child came along. Immediately followed by my fourth. They were three minutes apart to be exact.
I knew nursing twins would be a new challenge. I went to the base library and checked out every book it had on twins. When they were born, I would be ready for anything.
Cue the “Crying I’m Laughing So Hard” emoji.
Baby #3 was deemed my “good-eater” by the lactation consultant, and I was told that she would keep my milk supply in demand.
Baby #4… my unplanned, born-feet first baby boy! He landed us a three-day, two-night stay in the hospital the day after we were sent home due to jaundice. We had a rocky start and he was unwilling to latch, which made me feel like a total failure as a nursing mom. I jokingly say that he’s been my troublemaker from the start.
Do twins ever realize one of them was unplanned?
Never had I needed assistance from a lactation consultant more until this kid. We weren’t really sure why he didn’t want to latch on, he just had a mind of his own. After having visited the consultant a couple of times, my new best friend at the hospital tried this weird contraption on me. She strapped a pouch of expressed milk onto my shoulder. It was connected to a very thin, flexible tube, which was then taped to the nipple. It released supplemental milk as the baby fed and stimulated my milk supply. I found it cumbersome, but it gave me hope.
I used the nursing system for a while. I would have tried anything to give them the nutrition they needed. I even managed to nurse them both at the same time regularly in the early afternoon. Generally though, I would breastfeed my daughter and give my son a bottle of expressed milk. I would nurse and then two hours later pump. Then two hours later I would nurse and then two hours later pump again. It was exhausting.
Through my experiences nursing four very different kids, I learned a few valuable lessons.
- EVERY baby is different. Because of this, try to stay flexible in your approach and expectations in feeding them, which I know is easier said than done.
- On that note, get a breast pump. Even if you think you’re going to exclusively breastfeed without ever pumping; even if you think you’re not going to breastfeed at all. With Tricare insurance now, the process is so easy and the breast pump is at no cost.
- The Breastfeeding Shop is our favorite breast pump provider, and it just so happens to be a Tricare preferred provider. So many of our team have used this company and have loved the experience.The Breastfeeding Shop makes ordering the pump extremely easy — you can even send a photo of your prescription and it can be done all online. The company also sends various accessories like extra tubing and breast milk bags when the pump arrives AND six months later. It’s such a nice encouraging package to get in the mail.
- My breast pump was an amazing machine. I am not. Through my experiences, I learned that what I needed most was a good nights sleep and a giant cheeseburger. Like most moms do, I worried that it would be difficult to shed the extra baby weight, so I tried to stay active and limit my diet. Don’t. Just don’t.
- If you’re a nursing mom, a steady flow of calories is essential. So is a nap. Don’t feel guilty for that.
- Take advice from wherever you can get it, whether that’s from a friend, a book, a magazine, a health care provider … or even a blog post. It truly takes a village to raise a child.
- If you don’t like the advice you’re getting, forget it. Be selective, but be open and take in what you can. I’m so thankful that friend asked me years ago if I was going to breastfeed. I could’ve gotten annoyed or shut her out, but I’m so glad I didn’t! Never turn down good advice by being too stubborn to listen.
- If you catch a whiff of sage advice, it will be worth it.