By Nichelle Haynes, DO
Deep breath...breastfeeding. What kind of emotions does this bring up for you? For me it means sleepless nights, pain and sometimes sweetest moments.
This can be a difficult topic for a lot of moms and truth be told, we have a big problem with breast feeding. There is a lot of pressure in our “breast is best” society to exclusively breastfeed. While I completely agree breastmilk is wonderful and magical and there is something unique about having the opportunity to breast feed, there is absolutely a problem with breastfeeding. What problem am I talking about? It can be difficult.
It is really, really difficult for so many reasons.
More specifically, the problem with breastfeeding is no one talks about how difficult it can be.
While breastfeeding can be this beautiful, lovely experience, it can also be painful, exhausting, emotional and guilt-ridden. As doctors and as moms we don’t normalize how tough it is. We focus on the health benefits, the bond you feel with your baby and how beautiful it is. When a mom has the completely normal experience of struggling with her breastfeeding journey she feels like she is doing something wrong. NO! That is absolutely not the case. I’m here to tell you the tough parts of breastfeeding are almost universally encountered.
As a doctor and a mom I thought breastfeeding would be great. It would come naturally, I would be able to overcome any difficulties. I was determined to provide breast milk exclusively until my baby could handle solids. This just wasn’t possible for us for a lot of reasons. I let my preconceived notions about breastfeeding cloud my judgement for what was right for my child.
If we are open about how difficult breastfeeding is, the internal dialogue can change from “How do all these other moms do this? I must be doing this wrong. Am I a failure? Why is this hard for me and not for her?” to “Yes this is hard, I should seek help for this problem. Every mom has these difficulties, I can do this because my friend overcame these problems too!”
If we change the dialogue, more women can feel empowered to make a choice which is right for them.
Today, if you’re a mom who has breastfed her babies, I encourage you to be open with others about what was difficult about breastfeeding for you. Encourage other moms to seek non-judgemental help when they’re struggling. If we all do this, we can all make the choice which is right for us without fear. I hope by sharing my story encouraged you to do what you feel is best. Don’t let this “breast is best” idea get in the way of seeking help or making whatever choice is right for you.
As your doctors, we are here to support you in whatever decision you make.