Reflections and encouragement for those choosing to breastfeed

As my children grow like weeds right before my eyes, I often reflect on their newborn stages, which has been my favorite stage thus far. From the baby cuddles, foul diapers and even the lack of sleep, I loved it all despite the emotional toll it takes to be the primary provider and source of nourishment for a little one. While it may not be in every woman’s plan, breastfeeding was a goal for me, especially after my first son when I struggled with maintaining enough milk supply. I thought the process would go more smoothly with my second child since I was a Labor and Delivery nurse and had nursed my first child. Needless to say, it did not. In fact, I reflect on my first day being home from the hospital after my youngest son was born and the scene is as vivid today as it was three years ago.

I remember sitting straight up on the couch with my arms propped on pillows (because that was the only comfortable position I could muster after having a C-section) and my eyes were filled with tears. As he was all cuddled and content, I remember whispering to myself “What did I just do?” as the pain from engorgement set in. It felt my chest was going to explode as I needed to express breast milk. While I can find humor in the moment now, I reflect on the despair I felt and the overwhelming feeling of “How am I going to get through this?” In an effort to help another strong woman get through a moment of feeling insecure, overwhelmed, or however you may be feeling, this is my best advice on how to continue pushing through the roller coaster of breastfeeding.

It’s OK to feel how you feel!

Every woman reaches a point where she feels she has reached a maximum of what she is able to deal and cope with. However, I’d beg to differ and say that we as women are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. It’s perfectly OK to feel imperfect and have moments of weakness. The thing is, we can’t stay in this place. At some point, you must pick yourself up, adjust your crown and remember who you are, which is a QUEEN! If you are having difficulty with breastfeeding, remember that that is all it has to be: a moment. Things will get better!

Educate yourself.

Breastfeeding is an adventure. There will be many twists and turns that you must mentally prepare yourself for. You’re not always going to want to wake up several times in the middle of the night to feed your baby. Bottles and pump pieces don’t clean themselves. Also, figuring out a plan as to how long you are wanting to breastfeed and how that may look when you return to work is very important. You can tackle these hurdles better if you have a better understanding of what’s to come. Also, understanding the many benefits of breastfeeding can be an additional source of motivation when you need it the most.

Understand that past experiences don’t dictate future experiences.

Just as they say every pregnancy may be different, every breastfeeding experience may be different as well. Difficulty in the past does not mean that you will always have difficulty with breastfeeding. Just as a muscle gets stronger as it’s worked, breastfeeding can get easier as you get accustomed to it. Don’t let isolated bad experiences hinder your progress and your goals.

Doing your best is all you can do and that is more than enough!

At times, we as women get down on ourselves when we fall short of our goals. However, I want to encourage you and let you know that if you’ve given your all, there’s no reason to feel disappointed. Regarding breastfeeding, any amount of breastmilk your baby receives is better than none. I remember feeling inadequate after I wasn’t able to breastfeed my son as long as I wanted to, but I had to learn to understand that our children will soar and be great whether they are breastfed for one month or twelve.

Know that you are not alone: It takes a village.

Please understand that you never have to take this journey alone. Speaking with other women who have gone through similar experiences can be very empowering. Also, throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period, there are many resources available in the community to help with breastfeeding issues. From lactation services to support groups, know that a village is available for any help you may be needing.

As we celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week, keep in mind the infamous words of the legendary Whitney Houston: “I’m every woman, it’s all in me. Anything you want done baby; I’ll do it naturally.” Naturally, you are beautiful, you are great and you are equipped to do it all, momma!

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Taryn Ray

Taryn Ray is both a labor and delivery nurse as well as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). She graduated from UofL and has been with UofL Hospital for seven years. She is also an assistant professor at Spalding University's School of Nursing.

All posts by Taryn Ray
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