Imagine walking through on a city sidewalk in late autumn.
Rain falls. You had thought the weather would feel warmer, but water hardens on the leaves at your feet. Cold covers your toes, and it spreads weakening the speed of your pace.
You reach the end of the sidewalk where it meets a street, and there are no more street lights. Do you walk into the darkness alone? You know the way home.
A sound, like the slow tap of a cane on concrete, follows you. Someone’s with you even if it is not the kind of company you wish to keep.
Deep breath. Now, I – your friend – am here with you.
Breastfeeding can be like the above scenario for some mothers. It is hard. It drives us to insanity. It saps energy while a big bag of judgement is thrown at those who make that choice.
Breastfeeding, both my experience and what other women know to be true, expands beyond one post. I have taken a few important things from the personal essay I’ve been writing called, Breast Fed, and other areas. Whether you’re a mom or know someone, here are a few items to keep in mind.
- It takes the Heart
Some new mothers’ personalities change with a new baby. Breastfeeding is a choice. If a woman chooses to use formula, that is her right, and she should be supported. What happens when a mother breastfeeds affects her mind, body and heart. Emotions – whether associated with PPD or concerns about relationships, chores, work or weight loss – completely twist a woman’s heart.
I know I cried after certain break ups, but nothing broke my heart like the day in September 2010 when my son would not feed at my breast. I must have cried for two hours. He kept crying, and he would not latch.
I felt like a failure. I also felt guilty because, as a health enthusiast, I had not lost baby weight anywhere near what I had hoped. Did I use his lack of latching as an excuse to stop? That is what makes breastfeeding complicated and emotional because what a mother feels is not one dimensional. Sometimes she cannot explain it, but she feels the pain deep down.
I blamed myself for my two month old son’s disinterest in latching. He wanted a bottle. That single event has haunted me longer than any other event in my life, even though my husband and I have dealt with some traumatic events.
In the middle of everyone’s howling and suggestions was the loss of something unspoken – almost like a death – because I, as a mother, had failed to breastfeed my son. ~ from Breastfed
In research I’ve done from a social worker journal, most women quit breastfeeding before six months because of a lack of support. This lack of support may come from family, friends, or work. Moms experience many emotions, and may not be able to express the right words.
Worse than the experience of a broken heart, emotions connected to breastfeeding felt like returning home to a reorganized house. The person coming home did not know where anything was located. ~ from Breast Fed
I received exceptional support from my professors and employer, so that I could pump for my baby.
But all it takes is one negative experience during a highly emotional time to make a mother question everything. At first, I was keeping my experiences to myself. I began my essay and did a little reading.
Then it happened.
Short version: My daughter was baptized. It was time to breastfed/ pump, but my daughter wasn’t hungry. A family member was going away for a long time, and I knew I might not get to talk to this person if I went into hiding. I also had to pump at that hour to keep from getting an infection I had suffered called, Mastitis. I pumped with a cover over me in my backyard. Another source close to me became upset, and this person vocalized her disapproval. She said, “It would not be allowed at my house.” Then, a few minutes later after my husband stood up for me, she left.
Before I wrote about this or any instance, I needed time to think about what support means to a breastfeeding mom.
At heart, it means you might not understand everything about the subject, but don’t be afraid to ask questions about something that should not be considered connected with sex. It should be in support of that which gives life. It may be something as simple as holding her hand while she cries because sometimes she just needs to cry. Understand that even months after birth laundry and dishes may not be done exactly when you want them.
Most of all show love as she is providing nourishment for life.
By Rebecca T. Dickinson