August is Breastfeeding awareness month. As a home birth midwife more than 90% of my clients desire to breastfeed but in spite of that desire still have some issues with continuing to exclusively breastfeed their babies beyond 6 months of age. I would like to give you some encouragement and tips on how to make breastfeeding successful.
First, imagine yourself sitting in the forest pregnant and awaiting the soon to be expected arrival of your newborn. As you sit and meditate on how she may look, what he may feel like when you hold him also think about what you’ve left behind. In the forest you’ve left behind society’s hangups about breasts and breastfeeding. There are no commercials on a television that portray an image that your breasts are only good as sex objects. In the forest you know that breasts are a functional part of your being that will provide the exact nourishment that your newborn baby will soon need and want. You’ve left behind your own hangups about your breasts. They’re not too big or too small or too crooked or too anything. They’re just right to feed the new little baby who can’t wait to partake of the nourishment they will provide her. You’ve left behind anyone who tells you that you can’t breastfeed here or there or anywhere because it’s embarrassing to THEM. You’ve left their hangups with THEM. You are free! Free to do what you instinctively will know to do.
Second, relax! There’s no pressure. You’re still in the forest with just you and your baby communing with nature. You’ve been there long enough through your labor process to have seen all types of other mammals nurse their babies. They have been there to support you through your labor and have shown you the way. And many if not all your ancestors before you have nursed their babies and therefore you instinctively know where your baby’s mouth needs to go on your body to give him/her milk. Your baby on the other hand instinctively knows that when something is put in or near her mouth that it’s time to suck. He instinctively knows that suckling will provide nourishment both emotionally and physically. You both have these instincts built into your DNA. Don’t think about it. Just relax!
Third, breastfeeding will hurt. But only for the first 10 seconds of baby’s latch. For many, having this information up front dispels any expectations of breastfeeding being solely this wonderful pleasant event that bonds you and your baby. It does do that. But it also hurts. For some new moms breastfeeding is difficult because it hurts. It is my hope that most other difficulties have fallen to the wayside because you’ve followed the first two steps and that knowing that you will feel a pull on your nipple that may be painful will allow you to anticipate the worst so that the real thing is not so bad.
Third, and this is only if baby hasn’t latched as a result of following the first three steps, look to the animals (support people) to help show you the way. Call them to your spot in the forest! There are many positions you can try, little techniques you can do to help you and your baby get and keep a good latch. As cliché as this sounds, it is like riding a bike. Once you’ve done it you don’t forget. And there is some trial and error. But don’t get discouraged. Stay firm in your commitment to nurse and relax into the process. When you first get on that bike there’s the fear of falling and hurting yourself. Many of us who know how to ride a bike had to overcome that fear. And while we may have had some falls even after we knew how to ride they were just little bumps no big deal. So it is with breastfeeding. Overcome your fear of failing and while you may have some bumps along the way it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. I encourage you to stay committed and lean on the people who you know will support you and remind you that YOU CAN BREASTFEED YOUR BABY!
If and when you’re ready to come out of the forest there are many books and DVD’s you have access to that can also assist you. As well as organizations that are local or with local chapters. Check out my resources page for more info.