I am an aspiring doula and midwife, and though at this point I have no idea when I will be able to make those dreams come true, I am doing what I can to start making it happen.
So this week I started in on the required reading that is part of the certification from DONA International - the first step in a long (and hopefully awesome) journey.
The first book I picked up is Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, by Nancy Mohrbacher & Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Boy do I wish I had read this book when I was pregnant!
As you may know, I don’t breastfeed. And while I own that decision and believe I was and am doing the best I can do for my daughter, I do wish it had worked better for me. In the light of perspective – that whole hindsight is 20/20 thing – I’ve come to realize some of the mistakes I made in my attempts.
And the reason I’m writing this is not to point fingers or justify or any of those defensive/offensive take a stand reasons, but to continue to reflect on what I’ve done, what I can do better, and how I might be able to help someone who is experiencing anything similar.
So here goes…
1. I did not take the time to rest and focus as much as I should have.
By way of explanation…every day, throughout the entirety of my pregnancy, up until the day I gave birth – I threw up. I was so, so sick. I could hardly eat anything, I didn’t want to do anything, I constantly felt nauseous, and the opening act of every morning was puking.
So when the Bean finally got here, I felt GREAT. After 10 months of feeling absolutely wretched, I finally felt like a normal human being again, and it was really hard for me to just chill, sit still and relax - I wanted to be doing stuff just because I could!
I didn’t go crazy or anything, but I think I was a lot more active than I should have been during that time.
Next time around, I plan to stay in bed (as much as possible) for about a week. I’ve seen this recommendation from comments on breastfeeding blogs and sites and I think it is absolutely brilliant. What a huge de-stressor to give yourself that time right in the beginning - to know that that’s the plan – that you don’t have to do anything else. I feel more relaxed just thinking about it!
2. I underestimated the importance of skin on skin.
I did have the opportunity for skin on skin bonding with the Bean almost directly after her birth (she was taken for a few minutes to be checked out due to a meconium issue), but we had that blissful hour together and she breastfed and it was wonderful.
But after that first time, I didn’t really take the opportunity to have skin on skin that often when I was feeding her – I was afraid that she didn’t like being naked (because she seemed pretty darn unhappy whenever her clothes came off!) and I didn’t realize how much putting her against my own skin would solve that issue. So while I was often shirtless (in my house and it was easier and cooler in the middle of summer ) she was wearing clothes.
I’ve since then learned that a baby will eat when she is most comfortable, and one of the ways she is most comfortable is skin to skin with mum (and even though I bottle feed, I do now take the opportunity to give this to the Bean very often, as does her daddy).
I know – this is basic knowledge. And I did research breastfeeding – but I also thought it would be a lot easier than it was and got a little overly confident, so some of the basic things like this passed me by.
So that week in bed I’m planning? It’s gonna be skin on skin baby.
3. I had very high anxiety about not having milk.
Now that I’m thinking about this, I really don’t know where this came from. I don’t recall reading many specific instances about mothers unable to produce milk. I don’t believe it is actually all that common at all. But I was really freaked out that I wouldn’t have milk…I had this persistent worry that it was a strong possibility.
And I really believe this affected my whole mindset in general – I was focusing on fear rather than focusing on my ability.
Next time, obviously, I will know that I will have milk because I was able to produce milk – but just in case you have this worry yourself, it is highly unlikely that you will not have milk, so don’t let it scare you like it did me!
4. The fear of the expectations and judgments of others – and myself.
As I wrote in my previous post about why I don’t breastfeed, I had no question that I would breastfeed, and I very severely judged those who didn’t or had given up (this was before I ever tried it myself, of course). Boy did I have a rude awakening!
And when it started getting more and more difficult, the strain of all that judgment and expectation, both from myself and others, was really screwing with me. I already felt like I had failed before I had even begun, and I couldn’t come out from under the weight of that failure.
The next chance I have to try breastfeeding, I am not going to allow this fear to factor in at all. I recently read a great blog post of why fear is not a good motivation to homeschool, and I really think it works the same here – with fear as my motivation, I was setting myself up to fail, and I did.
So this is getting really long, and I still have 4 more mistakes I want to share!!
I think this will be another post tomorrow, but just wanted to add a few more thoughts before signing off.
I understand and believe that breast is best for mother and baby. But I think that there are very valid situations and circumstances that cause mothers to turn to formula, and I cannot condemn that. It is easy to dismiss a woman as lazy or non-maternal, but the reality is most women are doing the very best they can for their children – and I think we all need to start ascribing better motives to people than we do.
Many women who feed their babies with formula may not view it as a mistake, and I am OK with that, too. I don’t even know that I feel it was a mistake for me – in my situation, at that time, with my knowledge then, it may well have been a mistake for me to continue breastfeeding – I didn’t know how to seek help, and I may have gotten to the point of harming my child.
Today, she is happy and healthy. She never stops smiling. In almost every other area of parenting you could call my style attachment (not that the label is that important).
And mistakes are inevitable. If I was perfect with breastfeeding I would have screwed up somewhere else – that’s just how we do.
But I see value in reflection, and trying to do better. I, personally, see value in breastfeeding, and it is something I would like to achieve. But if I try again and fail (though I ardently hope not to), I can’t call myself the worst mother in the world – only am imperfect one who is trying along with the rest to care for her baby the best way she can.
My main hope is that this will help me next time, and maybe someone else who is going through a similar struggle – whether it be someone who is reading this blog, or someone I am assisting as a doula or a midwife.
What do you wish you had known about breastfeeding? What was the most difficult part of it for you?