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All the Breastfeeding Feels

Cowritten by Katie Madden RN, IBCLC and Elizabeth Napolin, LPCMH

Every mother, heck, everyone needs to read this one. Give it to your partner too.

Oftentimes, you feel a lot of feels when you are a new parent.  You feel a lot more feels a lot more deeply.   I think it has to do with the fact that your heart grew an entirely new section.  It’s bigger, so it hurts more.

But wait, before we proceed, we need to clarify something.  There are feelings, and then there are feelings with coating of judgment slathered on. Sometimes it is a thin coat, sometimes it is a heaping pile, but feelings with judgment have an extra stink to them.

Another way to think of it is the facts trigger a reasonable feeling, then you wrap up it in an irrational feeling.

What causes the irrational feeling? Usually it is a “story” you tell yourself. (Story, as in, not true.)

Ok, follow me here:

Something happens: The Facts.

You feel something: The Rational Feeling

You tell yourself a story: The Stink


Something happens– The Facts

My baby isn’t latching.  I try (insert x,y,z) but half the time he ends up freaking out and becomes harder and harder to get him to latch.  Then we are both sitting there crying.

What your brain does with the facts story depends on a lot of things, i.e. how much sleep you’ve had, how you were raised, how connected/disconnected you feel from others, etc.  

You feel something– The Rational Feeling

“I feel frustrated/disappointed my baby isn’t latching.” 

Totally reasonable. It can be very frustrating and disappointing when your baby won’t latch.

Sometimes your brains start to fight you. This is especially true in parenting because the intensity of your feelings are so big and so deep.

So, we know the ‘facts’. Here’s what our brains might do with those facts….

You tell yourself a story–  The Stink 

  1. The “something’s wrong with me” story

My baby isn’t latching.  I’m not doing it right.  Something’s wrong with me.  They taught me how to do this at the hospital.  I’m probably doing it wrong. I suck.  Then we’re both sitting there crying.  I’m so bad at this.  I really don’t want to be a bad mom.  I’m already showing I’m a bad mom. How stupid to cry about it. I’m so stupid.

  1. The “I’m in danger/my baby’s in danger” story

My baby isn’t latching.  This is really bad.  He’s not going to gain weight.  I’m starving my baby. I tried everything they taught me at the hospital/lactation consultant/10 internet blogs I read. I can’t trust that other people can help.  I’m all alone in this.  Then we’re both sitting there crying.  It is not cool to be crying right now.  I can’t let my partner see me cry. They will think I can’t take care of the baby.

  1. The “I’m powerless/out of control” story

My baby isn’t latching.  I’m totally helpless.  Everything is out of control.  I tried everything they taught me at the hospital/lactation consultant/10 internet blogs I read.  I can’t trust myself to do this.  Then we’re both sitting there crying. I can’t handle this.  I’m out of control.

These stories lead to ‘feelings wrapped in stink’.  This process is so automatic that a lot of times we accept these thoughts and the feelings that come with them without even questioning their validity.

When you notice you are overwhelmed/embarrassed/sad/anxious, see if it’s possible to slow down and be curious with yourself if one of these ‘stories’ are showing up for you. Curious, not critical.

Notice, how often do you hear these stories?

Then, if the irrational feeling comes along right behind the story, be curious about that too. “Hmm, I wonder why this thought comes back again and again.”

Once you gain awareness of the ‘stink’, see what it feels like to offer some compassion and care for that feeling, just as you would do for a best friend or your child.  This will look and feel much different than fighting the ‘stink’ with more ‘stink’ i.e. Feeling out of control is stupid (that’s stink on top of stink).

Try something different– The Compassion Story

My baby isn’t latching.  Of course it makes sense to be feeling frustrated and disappointed.  This is really hard.  I will try (insert x,y,z) but half the time he ends up freaking out and becomes harder and harder to get him to latch.  It is so tough when the baby is freaking out.  We’re both new at this right now. Then we are both sitting there crying.  It makes sense to be crying right now – we’re both exhausted and I care about my baby so of course I’m upset when he’s upset.  

**Tone of voice is key when offering compassion to yourself or someone else. Do you ‘sound’ kind in your head?**

Take Action:

  1. Notice the story you’re telling yourself.
  2. Slow down by taking a few deep breaths.
  3. Identify the feeling you have within that story.
  4. Offer some compassion to yourself.– Write some affirmations down when you are calm or ask a friend for affirmations (maybe they have already sent you an encouraging text?) that you can refer to when you are feeling upset.

You are a good mama. I know this because you are trying to so hard. You deserve the same love and kindness you give your child. Take good care of you, mama.

Sometimes these feelings and stories get really scary and really out of control.   Postpartum depression, now called Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) can occur anytime throughout pregnancy through the first year postpartum.

If you are worried you or someone you love is suffering with PMADs, please know you are not alone and you are not to blame. Help is available and you will get better.

Call your OB and tell her you need help.

Read more about Breastfeeding & PMADs.

Visit Postpartum.net to find support near you.


Image credit: Angie Gray