Do you want to breastfeed?Oct 27, 2021
This is actually an important question that probably doesn't get unpacked enough for expectant parents.
We all know those quick, off hand questions that come from our hospital booking-in appointments or from our midwife or obstetrician or even from friends and family- "Are you going to breastfeed?".
Just a quick question with often very little time dedicated to its answer.
The most common answer I have ever heard for this question is "well yes, if I can".
"If I can".
I think it's really important to unpack this a bit.
For most of us, we dearly want to breastfeed- for all the reasons we already know:
- Health benefits for bub- reduced risk of ear infections & gastrointestinal infections, reduced risk of diabetes, asthma, eczema and SIDS.
- Health benefits for mum- reduced risk of breast or ovarian cancer, reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, reduced post partum bleeding and recent research suggesting a relationship between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of post partum depression.
- Reasons other than the milk itself- like having a quick and easy way to soothe and connect with our baby.
- Simply because it's something we feel we just should be able to do.
But this article isn't about those things. Most people know them all, they're plastered up everywhere and a lot of the time, knowing those things doesn't actually make it easier to breastfeed.
In fact, it can often make the guilt we feel if it doesn't go according to plan, even worse.
So what is this article about?
It's about helping you to decide if breastfeeding is what you want to do by unpacking those three words we mentioned earlier: If I can.
So, let's unpack it:
Breastfeeding, while a biological process, doesn't always come naturally.
To break it down, lactation- or making milk- is a physiological process that will occur regardless of your intentions to feed or not, breastfeeding itself is a learned skill.
So our bodies will make milk, simply because we have given birth, but the ability to then keep making milk after that initial hormonal drive from the birth goes away (usually 5-6 weeks after birth), depends on us getting breastfeeding right.
Breastfeeding, is actually about
- learning how you and your baby fit together as people- not just physically, but your personalities too.
- finding a breastfeeding position that is comfortable for your body and muscles.
- finding a position that is comfortable for your baby.
- practicing latching and de-latching your baby to make it not only comfortable but also preventing damage to your sensitive nipple skin.
- getting used to the idea of feeding in public and feeling comfortable with that process.
- working through the mind barriers that we all have around bodies, breasts and the vulnerability of this new process for both you and your baby.
- learning a new skill- which is never actually 'easy' and always takes time.
So, as you can see, there is a lot going on there alone! And getting support, whether it is from an IBCLC after your birth. Or, as you can probably guess from the fact that I have dedicated most of my professional life to educating parents on what to expect from breastfeeding before their baby arrives- finding a trusted source of information and education NOW, while you are still pregnant, is just so important.
When your expectations more closely match the reality of breastfeeding and you're all set with some information, tools and support to get breastfeeding off the ground- you're much more likely to get the breastfeeding success you're looking for.
So, what else is there to think about?
Well, we've also got this...
As humans, we are often deeply fearful of failure.
Now, tone doesn't always convey easily over the written word, so bear with me here...
But, generally speaking we are used to always doing our best and for the most part, not having any moments of our life that feel like spectacular failures for all of the world to see. So what happens when we have a baby and all of a sudden our body is put up on the stage, in the spotlight, and everyone can see if it's doing its 'job' of feeding our baby?
Well, there is a sh*tload of pressure on us, that's what!
So naturally, most of us have this deeply ingrained fear of failing at something we actually do want to do, but we try to remain unattached to in order to protect ourselves from this potential let down. Herein lie the root of those words: "If I can".
The problem with this is that this also often means that we carry this double edged sword of being inwardly attached to something and it being really important to us, but outwardly try to remain unattached to the same thing. That's exhausting and simply sapping energy that could be used else where (like learning to breastfeed!).
Fear of failure is a terrible, guilt driven motivator for learning any new skill and part of helping you to prepare for breastfeeding that I address in my course is helping you to work through this exact thing.
So as you can see, that simple question of "are you going to breastfeed?" is actually not so simple after all! There are a lot of emotions to unpack while at the same time, a lot of information and skills to learn. But I do love doing this work, because my job isn't to make you breastfeed to a certain point in time... It is to help you to feel empowered to breastfeed to what ever goal YOU set for yourself and then when you are ready, to wean your baby on your terms- NOT because you had no other choice.
To get my FREE Mindful Breastfeeding Toolkit click here.
And to learn more about my Mindful Breastfeeding Course, designed to help you to feel confident, calm and ready to take on this new skill when your baby arrives- click here.
Want to learn more about how my courses can help you to feel confident and empowered in the fourth trimester and beyond?
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