Yes, I said I wouldn't post anything else until after my son's birthday, but I read an article this morning that inspired me to write about my own experience. You can read Why I'm Glad Someone Told Me To Stop Breastfeeding In Public here.
I have always been pretty modest. Other than low cut t-shirts, I've always been uncomfortable with changing in the locker rooms before gym or even just being in the same room as one of my friends while we changed. For some reason, I never thought that would affect my ability to breastfeed my child, until the time came to do it.
It started while we were IN the hospital. Although I never had anyone tell me to stop breastfeeding, I was SO self conscious about showing ANY part of my body, and it started us out on a path to failure. I'm sorry, I know the nurses and staff in the hospital are only there to help you and to make you feel comfortable, but they actually did the opposite for me. Someone was walking into my room every hour...they would knock and announce themselves but not really give you time to acknowledge them or to answer whether it was okay to come in...and it was more than just the nurses and doctors. It was also the maintenance staff, professionals who worked in the building to talk to you about paperwork and birth certificates, etc. Between them and constant visiting family, it's not the ideal environment to be setting a foundation for nursing for a new mom. Each time someone came in, it interrupted our already frustrating, exhausting nursing sessions.
When we got home, my breast pump would become my best friend. Instead of attempting to nurse in public or at family gatherings (I knew being as uncomfortable as I was around family, there was no way I was going to do it in a restaurant), I supplemented with formula or previously pumped breast milk in a bottle and then I would pump as soon as I was able to. I also was pressured into allowing family to feed him, which then I would pump first and then put it in a bottle for them to feed it to him. And then my supply began to drop off. I went from being able to pump an additional 8-12 oz after our first morning feeding to only one nursing session per day before I got so frustrated that it was starting to hinder how I felt about being a mother. So I stopped.
I could have stuck it out and "tried" harder, but with every unsuccessful thing I tried, it only brought me down farther and stressed me out more. So I sacrificed something that I so desperately wanted to be able to do for my son to save my relationship with him. I didn't want to look back at the first few months with him and think about frustration, but wanted to cherish every moment with him, which I couldn't do while being so stressed out. I somewhat successfully nursed for two months before my supply dropped and spent a month trying everything I read or heard to increase it.
I guess in sharing this about me, I hope to prevent someone else from experiencing this. It was very heartbreaking for me when I stopped because I felt like I couldn't even provide my child with the basics. So this is my advice if you are planning to breastfeed for a significant amount of time:
- Before you have your baby, research your rights as a mother to breastfeed in public just in case anyone ever does ask you to stop or move.
- Become comfortable with the idea that it IS okay to nurse in public, regardless of what anyone thinks or says. However, you may want to wait to go out in public until you and baby have become a little more comfortable with the latch on and let down process, because if you're nervous, it's only going to make that process more difficult.
- Take advantage of the lactation consultant in the hospital, EVEN if you aren't having any issues during your stay. Ask them about the most common issues they deal with and what they suggest if they don't already give you a packet answering those FAQs. When you're home, you can give them a call or you can contact your local La Leche League.
- IF YOU OR ANYONE YOU KNOW THINKS YOU HAVE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. Now that I can look back, I am VERY sure that I had PPD, but I never talked to anyone about it and I was miserable.
- You DO NOT have to let anyone, family or not, feed your baby. Don't feel pressured. I do recommend letting dad bottle feed a couple of times during the first week to bond, although that's not the only way he can bond with baby.
- If you aren't able to successfully nurse, don't feel like a bad mother. Sometimes circumstances are just out of our control.
- As long as you are there for your child, you are a great mother. No matter whether you breastfeed or formula-feed. That has nothing to do with it. :)