Yes, You Can Breastfeed {And What We Mean When We Say Breastfeeding is Hard}

Yes, You Can Breastfeed {And What We Mean When We Say Breastfeeding is Hard}

I'll never forget being pregnant for the first time and my mom asking if I was going to nurse. It was a straightforward and simple question. There was no emotion or implication of her preference behind it — a matter as uncharged as whether or not I had registered for the diaper genie. My answer was, just as simply "well of course. I mean if I can, and it works out."

She looked back at me puzzled. "What do you mean? If you can?" "Of course you can." I went on to explain how all I had ever heard about, despite growing up with my mom breastfeeding my younger siblings, were tales of struggle and low milk supply. Which are the most common reasons women cite for switching to artificial milk. The conversation wasn't drawn out or emotionally charged but neatly wrapped up with the message that I absolutely would be able to breastfeed if I wanted to.

Looking back now, as I am contemplating weaning my 20-month-old, having been breastfeeding or pumping, for the past, almost seven years, straight, I will say that was one of the most impactful breastfeeding conversations I have ever had. There were times as a new mother experiencing newborn cluster feeding for the first time, or returning to the workforce full time and pumping in broom closets or on the toilet in a bathroom stall, that I thought, "This isn't working. I don't have enough milk. My breasts are failing me". Then again as a THIRD-time mom, as my milk transitioned later than ever postpartum, and we struggled to latch due to displaced jaw alignment as a result of a fast and furious delivery. I remember sitting topless on the couch, skin to skin the only thing I could successfully do to calm my baby, and thinking, "It's not working this time. I am not sure I'll be able to nurse this baby."

And each time that self-doubt crept in I would remember my mom’s comment, and how appalled she was that I would think I couldn’t breastfeed. Because, of course, I could. In those moments, I called on that confidence she instilled me and moved forward, and nursed my babies. Because, of course, I could.

4 Days Postpartum, this little guy had his first “milk drunk”. In the event that your milk transitions later than expected rest assured baby probably isn’t starving. Colostrum AKA liquid gold is nutrient dense, and full of protective antibodies.

4 Days Postpartum, this little guy had his first “milk drunk”. In the event that your milk transitions later than expected rest assured baby probably isn’t starving. Colostrum AKA liquid gold is nutrient dense, and full of protective antibodies.

The truth is, breastfeeding can be hard. It can be hard much like learning to ride a bike can be hard, or how marriage can be hard. However, it’s not all hard. Some parts are harder than others. It takes time and dedication and practice, but you CAN do it. The fact is the number of women who truly can’t breastfeed is far smaller than we make the inability to breastfeed to be. We are so caught up in being truthful about the unique challenges associated with breastfeeding that we are doing moms a disservice. Furthermore, moms are led to believe that most women really, really, want to continue breastfeeding, but are forced to stop due to their bodies failing them when that’s not always the reality.

Perhaps, if we created a culture where it was safe for a woman to say, “you know, it just wasn’t for me.” Or “I was happier not breastfeeding,” then new or expecting moms would not have the seeds of self-doubt planted. What if when a new mom comments, as I did, “sure I’ll try if I can" If we build her up and assure her, that of course, she can! As a society, we’re undermining women and their breastfeeding journey before they are even pregnant.

It often comes in the form of well-meaning advice. I remember being told, on several occasions that I should still keep some formula on hand, “just in case.” Nevermind that we live in a world of 24-hour stores and Amazon same day delivery - if I needed artificial milk I could get some in a snap. Well-meaning enough, it’s a confidence killer. What if someone met you at the DMV, when you were about to take your final driver’s examination, and parked your bike right next to the car you were to be driving. They patted you on the back and wished you well on your assessment, and then told you that they brought your bike so you could get home. You know, just in case it didn’t work out for you. Would you go into your driver’s test confidant?! Heck no! Breastfeeding is no different. What if, as a society, we were more honest, really honest. Maybe just once we could be supportive, and tell her it can be hard, but there’s also help, and of course, she can.

So. New momma reading this. The cat is out of the bag – breastfeeding can be hard sometimes. It’s especially hard because good, unadulterated, evidence-based advice is few and far between. It can be hard because it’s new, and you’re tired, and it’s full of pressure because no one can do it but you. It can be hard because our culture has messed up your brain about your breasts. It can be hard because it requires patience and time. It can be hard because in most cases, there’s not a lot of support – which can be lonely. And mostly, it can be hard because motherhood can be - hella hard.

But if you’re reading this and you are up to the challenge. If you know in your gut, that yes, you want to breastfeed. I am here to tell you, of course, you can!

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