There is no shortage of advice out there for new moms. While I was pregnant, I received a unique piece of advice from every mom I talked to. One of my favorites was to not let anyone tell you how to be a mom. You get to decide what you feel is right for your baby.
This is a lesson I’m still learning. One of my biggest examples has been with breastfeeding. When you are in the position to choose how to feed a baby, you realize quickly that there is an abundance of opinions and complexity of emotions surrounding the subject.
The Natural Mom Vision
Breastfeeding – the most natural, basic function of being a mom, right? Before having a baby, I thought so. I figured it would just work out naturally for me, despite mom friends’ varied stories of their own lactation drama. Fast forward to my first night being a new mom, and let the milk drama begin.
Prior to bringing Claire into the world, I focused on exactly one aspect of being a mom: the bringing her into the world part. During my second trimester, my doctor told me to find a pediatrician and also recommended the best lactation consultant in the area. I put off thoughts of both pediatrician and lactation until it felt uncomfortably late to be thinking about such things.
My first meeting with my lactation consultant, Lori, was sometime during my third trimester. Lori provided me a wealth of information on the subject, but I simply nodded and went with it when she told me that babies eat about 8 times a day. The up-all-night reality of feeding, changing, and soothing a newborn was a foreign concept that I couldn’t absorb until it set in the first night of her life.
Nor could I even begin to understand the realities and frustrations of breastfeeding, not to mention the guilt of not getting it. But I was reassured by the fact that Lori made house calls, and planned on calling on her expertise if things didn’t work out perfectly once the baby arrived.
New Mom Reality
After our less than ideal stint in the postpartum department at the hospital, we were relieved to be released back into our natural surroundings, best lactation consultant in town at the ready within hours of our return home. After a consultation with the expert, I was able to breastfeed during the first 5 weeks.
It wasn’t always perfect, but I stuck it out because I knew it was the best thing for Claire, and I wanted to be a good breastfeeding mom. I didn’t want to be a failure at something so natural.
But it wasn’t the dream I had imagined, nor the one portrayed by Rachel on Friends. After a few screaming baby not being able to eat moments, on top of countless middle of the night milk everywhere moments, Michael and I finally looked at each other and agreed to give up on it. I would still make modernized milk, but accepted the fact that the romance of being a breastfeeding mom, effortlessly feeding my perfectly content baby in restaurants, airports, and parks, was not going to happen for me.
New Mom Turning Point
As the weeks went on, I felt happy and empowered by my decision to do the right thing for our family. We had a happier, less frustrated baby, and a mom and dad who felt less crazy with significantly less around-the-clock screaming.
Slowly My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow, which I loved, made it’s way up to the top shelf of my closet. My pump became more of a staple to my baby feeding routine. I started to relax about the need to supplement with formula every once in a while if there wasn’t enough milk to go around.
But I still had other breastfeeding gear that I didn’t really get to take out for a spin, like my breastfeeding cover-ups and new bras specifically designed to feed my baby. I hung onto the gear for the next baby, but still held onto the thought that maybe we could make it work with Claire.
After a few conversations about breastfeeding and exposure to a few effortless breastfeeding moms of older babies, I started to really wonder if I had made the right choice. Maybe I gave up too quickly and there was still hope for me and Claire now that she was getting a bit older? I decided to give it one last ditch effort. I called Lori to come back one more time, thinking that if anyone could help us, it would be her.
My Breastfeeding Closure
Lori expertly assessed our situation and was able to finally give me the peace of mind I thought I had developed at 5 weeks. She offered us one more option to try, no judgement, and the reassurance that as a mom, I got to choose what was best for my baby. At the end of our consultation, I knew what I already knew but needed to be reminded of: I had already made the right choice for us.
We didn’t need to try one more breastfeeding prop, or put ourselves through the uncertainty of trying a few more things to get it right so I could proudly be a breastfeeding mom. We had already found our new, happy normal. I’m a happier mom, and Claire is a happier baby.
Before being in the position of figuring out breastfeeding, I will admit that I had my own opinions about how other moms chose to feed their babies. It’s hard not to weigh in on what others are doing in relation to us. To compare our unique experiences with theirs.
But I have to remember a yoga lesson from years ago:
stay on your own yoga mat
This is the perfect metaphor for life. We get to choose how to experience our own lives. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, or what they might think about what we are choosing. We are empowered to choose what is best for ourselves, and if we have tiny people in our care, them, until they become empowered to do their own lives.
I am happy to have come to my own conclusion about how to best feed this baby. For the moment, we are working on staying on our own yoga mat.