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So many things fill the mind of a pregnant woman… anticipation, uncertainty, joy, worries, dreams, and fears. But some things are not on our radar at all and they come as a surprise when that little bundle is thrust into our care.
Take breastfeeding, for example. What could be more natural than nourishing your child from your God-designed body? As it turns out, something so innate is not always easy.
It was my desire to breastfeed my daughter; I had some vague knowledge about the potential issues I could face, but no real concept of how that would play out. My reality included the perfect storm of a couple of issues, which resulted in eight painful first weeks.
Here are five things I learned about breastfeeding and wish I would have known before I started:
1. It can be difficult.
There are various reasons for this to be the case, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t come naturally. I needed several visits from a lactation consultant while in the hospital and also required additional visits after being discharged.
My daughter’s jaundice required frequent feedings and we had to include supplemental feedings with formula. We tried all sorts of contraptions with syringes and tiny tubes to simulating nursing that were stressful at the time, but laughable now.
2. It can be painful.
Of course there are the typical reasons for discomfort like engorgement, improper latch, thrush or mastitis.
Because of our problems with jaundice, the lactation consultant didn’t catch the fact that my daughter was tongue tied, which was causing her to learn inappropriate techniques that were painful. She had to be retrained and even after we got it figured it out, it took a few weeks for things to go smoothly.
3. You may not love every minute of it.
Breastfeeding is one of the first of many sacrifices you are now called to give. Our bodies are not our own anymore and that takes some adjustment. Don’t feel guilty if you feel the sacrifice a little more acutely at times.
Acknowledge the struggle and then be quick to reframe it in light of the gift. Be thankful for the quality bonding time with the precious life that now depends on you for survival.
4. Pumping may feel unnatural, like it’s stripping you of your womanhood and your dignity.
Pumping is awkward, but when my husband and I were able to find the comedy in it, it helped to lighten the mood. Remember, everything is just for a season.
5. You’re not a failure if you have a low supply and have to supplement with formula or use formula exclusively.
The struggle with not being able to provide sufficiently for your child from your own body is real and there is definitely grieving involved.
But it needs to be said that there is no shame when our bodies don’t do what we think they should. We need only look around and see our broken world full of broken bodies to know that not everything works as it was designed.
Thankfully, we live in an age were formula is fortifying and healthy, and our babies will be no worse off for having to rely on it. You are still providing for your child.
I want to offer encouragement as you navigate the things that are harder than expected and the times that you are completely taken off guard. Don’t be afraid of those times and try not to be overwhelmed either. The struggles will fade in your memory and you will be left with precious reflections and lessons learned through perseverance.
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