In the year 2017, there is still a pervasive message that breastfeeding is natural and easy. “Babies were born to breastfeed!” they say. Well, babies are also supposed to be conceived naturally and be born through a cervix. We all can agree that that isn’t always the case. We have accepted that fertility sometimes needs help. We have accepted that birth sometimes needs help. We have certainly agreed that using tools to get pregnant and tools to deliver a baby is a well accepted way to do things.
But, breastfeeding–now that you need to do perfectly. And if you don’t–well, that is a personal shortcoming or failure. After all, breast is best, right? So if you can’t or don’t breastfeed, you are less than best. And you are definitely giving your baby less than best.
I don’t agree with this, of course. I have seen more than a hundred breastfeeding mothers a month for the past eight years. I can’t put my finger on exactly where women are getting the message that in order to be a good mother one must not only breastfeed, but breastfeed perfectly, but the message is out there, and it is being adopted by new mothers and it is hurting them. It is hurting babies. It is hurting new families.
In 2017, it has become Insanity Max Breastfeeding. As a well-respected and skilled lactation consultant in my community, I am here to say that I don’t like it. I don’t like what it is doing to mothers and I don’t like what it is doing to babies.
I suppose what I am about to say could easily be construed as “anti-breastfeeding,” but that’s okay. I have dedicated the past ten years of my life and my career to this work and I think I am the last person who could be accused of being anti-breastfeeding.
Anyway, I am not pro-breastfeeding. I am pro-mother and pro-baby. Breastfeeding sometimes is the best thing for mom and baby… and sometimes it is not. If a mom and baby are working toward breastfeeding success, I am there to help make it work and I am really good at it. When breastfeeding is not the best choice for mom and baby, I help women pick up the pieces of the devastation and fall out of the “breast is best” mentality. Most lactation consultants do not help women when breastfeeding is no longer working.
Insanity Max: Push as hard as you can for as long as you can until you can’t do it anymore. If you push yourself full out every time, you will get results.
I have adopted this from the Beach Body program. It is no way meant to knock the program. I think a sane person could get great results from the program. But, I am not a sane person (and hurt myself doing the Insanity program) and I lovingly say that most new mothers (especially millennial mothers) are not sane people. They are over achieving, perfectionist, dedicated doers. Many of us have egos that are bigger than our intuitions.
If you tell me to do it, I will do it. If you tell me to do it for my baby, I will do it at all costs.
So, what if I propose something completely different?
What if instead of Insanity Max breastfeeding, we encourage Balanced Breastfeeding?
- Listening to your body
- Not taking breastfeeding to the extreme
- Accepting your body’s limitations
- Being willing to take a few steps back before moving forward
- Accepting what is
- Acknowledging that you must meet this little baby where he is
- Understanding that breastfeeding is not what makes a good mother a good mother.
Consider the notion that maybe it isn’t that you can’t, but rather that you shouldn’t.
But let’s set all of this insanity behind and start accepting that just like fertility and birth, breastfeeding doesn’t have to be perfect.
Your little baby is perfect and needs a happy, healthy, sane mother.
Photo credits: All photos in this blog were taken by the fabulous Angie Gray of Angie Gray Photography.