This is a guest post by Olivia from This West Coast Mommy.
Sometimes it seems like we only hear about all the things that can go wrong with breastfeeding. I know I’ve read my fair share of breastfeeding horror stories about formula-pushing doctors, critical nurses, unsupportive families, bleeding nipples, low milk supply, and babies that scream and scream because they’re so hungry. While some women do have a really hard time, it’s important to remember this isn’t the norm. In fact, for many moms, things go fairly smoothly. I’m one of them!
My oldest daughter nursed for 34 months until she gently weaned on her own. My youngest is almost a year old, and we’re still going strong. I am blessed to have had easy, relatively problem-free nursing relationships with both my daughters. I had an oversupply the first few weeks, but block feeding quickly took care of that. I think I’ve had a blocked duct a couple of times, but gentle massage and focused nursing on that side quickly cleared it up.
Through a combination of personal choices, family support, and good fortune, I was able to avoid many of the cultural and institutional booby traps that get in the way of moms succeeding at breastfeeding. This is a story about the things that went right.
I had a natural childbirth that did not require any interventions or drugs, both of which are known to impact baby’s level of alertness and ability to latch right after birth. I had two wonderful midwives at the birth who made sure my baby was latched on and nursing well within 30 minutes of her delivery.
I had home visits with my midwife every day for the first 4 days and then every 2 days for the next week. She regularly checked in with me about how breastfeeding was going. She looked at baby’s latch, asked about my comfort, and assured me I was doing a great job every time she visited. She was on call 24 hours a day for any concerns I might have about baby or about breastfeeding.
In the first few weeks when it felt like all I did was nurse and I could barely make it off the couch before my baby wanted to eat again, my husband took on all the household responsibilities and pretty much waited on me hand and foot. Yes, my nipples were sore the first week, but lanolin helped a lot and the pain was never bad enough to think about calling it quits.
I had enough financial stability that I did not have to return to work right away. I live in Canada where I did not have to pay a penny out of pocket for midwifery services, my hospital admission, ultrasounds, blood work, or any of my medical care. Again because I live in Canada, I received 52 paid weeks of maternity and parental leave, and at the end of my leave I was guaranteed my job back.
I wish that every mom’s experience could be as positive and supportive as mine was, but I know that isn’t the reality for many women. If all we hear or read about are horror stories though, I worry they might discourage a new mom from even trying to breastfeed. I mean, if all you have to look forward to is bleeding nipples, why would you even try?
I suspect that moms who experience easy, routine breastfeeding are less likely to join forums, seek out online breastfeeding communities, or share their stories. They may not see their success as a story at all! And that’s why I’m describing my experience, even though from my perspective, there’s not much to tell.
What do you think? Is it important to have access to stories about breastfeeding success as well as stories about breastfeeding challenges?
Olivia is a wife, mommy to two little girls, social worker, and blogger. You can find her at This West Coast Mommy where she blogs about her family, natural parenting, paleo-friendly recipes, and life on the Canadian West Coast.