Erh shhhh...erh shhhh..erh shhhh...er. Ah, the joyous sound of a breast pump. It's 4 am and the rhythmic sounds of this milk-sucking machine seem to be mocking me for the third time that night. Pumping sucks. Let's be real. Breastfeeding is hard. Providing breastmilk for my babies is one of the hardest (most rewarding) things I've ever done.
Breastfeeding is one of the most physiologically normal, and natural things to exist. But, that doesn't mean it's always easy. In fact, most first time moms struggle most during the first two weeks of breastfeeding with feeling insecure, being uncertain of milk supply, wondering if their baby is being fed enough, and finding the balance between being an independent person, and this baby's milk machine 24/7.
"Breastfeeding is one of the most physiologically normal, and natural things to exist. But, that doesn't mean it's always easy."
In fact, breastfeeding and milk-making are so amazing that every year, we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month during August.
World Breastfeeding Week: August 1st- 7th
Native Breastfeeding Week: August 11th- 17th
Black Breastfeeding Week: August 25th-31st
Pretty great- right?
Every year, parents everywhere begin this celebration by sharing photos of their little nurslings, their pumped breastmilk neatly stacked in rows in their freezers, their success stories, struggles, and for some... passive-aggressive judgment and condescension. The "Breast Is Best " rhetoric has gone from a statement of the scientific findings and basic understanding of breastmilk vs formula composition to mom-shaming and belittling parents for doing anything other than exclusive breastfeeding for anywhere up to a year.
Now, while I do believe that breastmilk is the optimal food for a baby, and don't think there are many who would argue, I also believe that sometimes babies can't be given breastmilk for various reasons and can become healthy, intelligent, functioning members of society. *Spoiler alert. I was never given a single drop of breastmilk*
The "Breast Is Best" rhetoric has gone from a statement of the scientific findings and basic understanding of breastmilk vs formula composition to mom-shaming and belittling parents for doing anything other than exclusive breastfeeding for anywhere up to a year.
Now to be clear, I fully believe that parents should celebrate their breastfeeding and milk-making victories. In fact, I fully encourage it! PLEASE! Share your success stories. The world needs to hear all of the amazing parts of breastfeeding, and not just the horror stories some love to tell. Post those pictures! Tell us about how you overcame low-supply with power pumping and countless appointments with your Lactation Consultant. BREASTFEEDING. IS. LOVE. It is SACRIFICE. It is BEAUTIFUL and CHALLENGING.
But somewhere, in the midst of celebrating such a wonderful process, a devious devil named comparison creeps in. Moms everywhere post their success stories with pride, their nursing photos with admiration, and their freezer stashes with determination. But wait..." her stash is so much bigger than mine!" "I thought 3 months of nursing was a success, but I had no idea that Carla nursed for 6!" "Maybe I should have continued." "Am I selfish for not pumping longer?"
Enter... The Breastfeeding Comparison Trap.
Listen. I am here to tell you that no amount of comparing your journey to another's will ever make you 1) Make more milk, 2) Feel better about yourself, or 3) Change a single damn thing about how healthy your baby is, and/or how great of a parent you are. GUESS WHAT? Formula-feeding moms are great too! Your one week of milk-making is an entire seven days of determination, and nutrition for your baby. Your two years of nursing does not mean you are a lazy parent whose child won't ever be independent. It's just...your journey. Completely unique and special to you.
But wait..." her stash is so much bigger than mine!" "I thought 3 months of nursing was a success, but I had no idea that Carla nursed for 6!" "Maybe I should have continued." "Am I selfish for not pumping longer?"
So look, as we kick off this year of celebrating breastfeeding, milk-making mothers everywhere, please be kind to yourself. Remember that you are enough! If you know someone who has breastfed, pumped, donated milk, bottle-fed, or combination fed, please congratulate them! Let them know how amazing they are. If that's you, go indulge yourself in your favorite nursing snack and be proud of yourself.
To the mothers who didn't breastfeed- I see you. To the mothers who made a difficult decision to stop breastfeeding for any reason at all and struggle with society, or self- inflicted guilt about that choice- you are strong. You are capable of doing hard things. To mothers everywhere, you are enough.
Happy National Breastfeeding Month to all of the milk-makers out there. Share your stories with us! Share your photos. Tag @theomahababynest and use hashtags #theomahababynest #worldbreastfeedingweek so that we can celebrate with you! Keep on nursin' on!
For information on local and professional breastfeeding support click here:
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