I think the way breastfeeding is spoken about in this country has to change.
When you are a new or expecting mom, you are bombarded with all sorts of messages about breastfeeding:
Breast is best
It’s beautiful and natural.
Your body was made to do it.
It shouldn’t hurt.
You will love it.
It’s the best way to bond with your baby.
There are beatific images of gorgeous chubby babies nursing from the breasts of lovely, rested-looking moms.
The problem with these messages is that they leave no room for error. There is absolutely no preparation for how difficult breastfeeding is. So when women encounter their first breastfeeding stumbling block, the majority of them are under-equipped to deal with it. Why? Ironically, I think it’s because of the positive breastfeeding messages. When a fragile new mom is awake at three a.m., struggling through thrush or an improper latch or poor milk supply, the reasons that every woman should breastfeed start to sound like taunts.
My body was made to do this.
I should love this.
Breast is best.
We’re told how easy breastfeeding should be, and when it’s not, we start to feel like failures.
There’s something wrong with me.
Why can’t I do this?
This is supposed to be easy.
It’s not easy for many women, but we are quiet when we run up against problems. We feel ashamed that we can’t succeed at what is supposed to be natural. We quietly consider quitting. And if we finally get the courage to speak about a thrashed nipple or a supplemental bottle, it’s in a whisper. It’s only then that we discover there are others struggling, and that we aren’t alone.
Breastfeeding is so so hard. I honestly never expected it to be so difficult.
I think that more breastfeeding literature should acknowledge up-front that it’s hard. If we truly want women to be fully informed about breastfeeding, possible obstacles should not be relegated to the back pages of informational packets. Might this “scare” some women off of trying? Maybe. But more importantly, I think speaking honestly about it would empower more moms to continue to breastfeed because they’d know these difficulties were possible and not their fault. I think it’s better that women go into new motherhood completely knowledgeable of their options so they can make informed decisions before the fog of pain and sleepless nights force their hands.
No woman should feel like a failure because she struggles with something that has a high degree of difficulty. We don’t have to hide the realities of breastfeeding to promote it – new moms deserve better than that. Moms are smart enough to make the best decisions for their unique situations. Let’s do our best to inform, then support.