Breastfeeding Mamas, Take Care of Yourself

Image by hugabub under Creative Commons License

I’ll start out by ‘outing’ myself: I’m very pro-breastfeeding. I believe breast is best, I love the idea of normalizing breastfeeding, I love educating myself on all things breastfeeding and I’ll talk your ear off about it if given the chance. It’s something I’m so passionate about. All things considered, I’ve had a relatively easy breastfeeding experience. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had my share of issues, but nothing that I’ve been unable to overcome.

I have a two-year-old and a six-month-old. My two-year-old is not-quite-weaned, though she’s gone weeks without nursing at a time and my six-month-old still nurses every one and a half to two hours, day and night.

I talked to a friend of mine last week who admitted to me that she had felt a little uncomfortable when I invited her a few months back to attend a breastfeeding group. She’s had her share of breastfeeding issues. With her first, it was drilled into her mind that breast is best and she was made to feel she had no other options. She also had little help from people knowledgeable about breastfeeding. She nursed her little boy every hour, day and night, and she struggled with an oversupply and an under-supply. She couldn’t get anywhere near her baby without him screaming to be brought to her breast. She wasn’t sleeping because she was up all night feeding and comforting her son. She didn’t feel she had any option other than breastfeeding and everyone she spoke to about it encouraged her to simply keep on keeping on.

After six months, she hadn’t had enough sleep and couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of her son. She was so unhappy. As a result, she hated breastfeeding.

One day, she passed out. That was her turning point— she realized she had burned out. It took a physical incident to make her admit to herself that something had to change. She slowly weaned her son off breast milk and onto formula. It changed her life, she said. She became happy. Now armed with knowledge of what her body could handle, she was able to happily breastfeed her second baby for four months.

Yes, mamas, breast is best. But I’m also a very firm believer that a happy mama has a happy baby. A happy baby and a happy mama generally produce a happy family. If you are miserable for any reason, recognize that something has to change. If that change is to stop breastfeeding or to alter your breastfeeding relationship, that’s okay.

Read that last line again: IT’S OKAY.

Doing what is best for your baby isn’t only about your baby— it’s also about doing what is best for yourself. Often in our society, mothers are encouraged to put their family first always, sometimes even at the risk of their own health and sanity. It takes a strong woman to stand up and do what is best for herself.

Formula is an incredible science that was not available to mothers not very long ago. Formula is not poison. Drill that into your mind: Formula is not poison. Breast milk IS best for your growing child. But formula is still healthy and still amazing.

It does not make you a bad mama to recognize when you need to make a change in your life. You should certainly not feel guilty for having stopped breastfeeding your child after any amount of time. Every single drop of breast milk is beneficial to your baby, whether you’re able to breastfeed for one day, or one year, or four years.

It made me so sad to know that my friend had felt embarrassed about not having breastfed longer than six months. She should be proud of herself instead of embarrassed. It makes me sad thinking about other mamas who feel similarly, mamas who guilt themselves and feel like terrible mothers, who in reality are making the best choice for their bodies, their lives, their families.

Educating women about breastfeeding is the key, in my opinion. Having lactation consultants available for those who need it is key. Normalizing breastfeeding is key. Many women simply don’t know better. And when you know better, you do better.

After all, a mama who makes the best choices for their family is a good mama. A great mama. You are a great mama. Get help when you need help. Make a change when you need a change. Remember that it’s okay to think about what is best for you. And remember that you’re a great mama.

3 Responses to Breastfeeding Mamas, Take Care of Yourself

  1. I LOVE this article. Great job!!!!
    I BFed my first until he was 5 months and go back and forth on the feeling of guilt and feeling fine about it ALL the time. Other people will say something and it just triggers a feeling in my gut but I KNOW I did what was best for me and for our family at the time. He ate formula until he was a year and is a thriving healthy 2.5 year old now.
    I am currently BFing our second baby and she is 6 months and BFing is going great. I have no plans to stop at any point. I just like knowing there ARE two options and if you don’t BF your baby will still be just fine.
    Thanks for this.

  2. Pingback: 10 Ways to Help Increase Your Milk Supply Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

  3. I do pro-breastfeeding! I have second one now, 3 months old. My first one was breastfed for 27 months. I educate myself with lots of information and observation how to breastfeed really well. So happy that my baby is really content and happy. Sleep really good because I watch my diet really well. Also I am so blessed that my breastmilk is so thick and full of fat.

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