There is no measurable agreed upon definition of “breastfeeding success.”
Whether or not you feel “successful” at breastfeeding may depend on the goal you set for yourself.
Set an unrealistic breastfeeding goal and you may be setting yourself up to feel like a failure at breastfeeding.
Set a goal without an intention to guide it and you may find yourself feeling like a failure at mothering, even with a well-fed, healthy baby in your arms.
Intention: how you strive to live each day, right here right now within the confines of your reality. We can always achieve our intention. It is what matters most.
Goal: where you are headed; something you are seeking to achieve in the future. Sometimes we achieve our goals, sometimes we fall short. And that’s ok, because it isn’t what matters most.
Your goal may be to breastfeed your child.
Your intention is to nourish your child.
With this intention in place, now create a realistic breastfeeding goal.
Any goal needs to have the following components:
- It needs to be realistic. Don’t set the goal “I will exclusively nurse at the breast.” There are plenty of things you won’t know about your particular breastfeeding situation until your baby is born and you are in the thick of breastfeeding. You may surprise yourself, for example, with your need or desire to use tools to help you breastfeed.
- A goal should be set in the positive. Don’t set the goal “I won’t use formula.” Not only is this potentially unrealistic (if you baby medically needs formula), but it is also a negative statement. Frame your thinking about breastfeeding in the positive to use as inspiration when you’re feeling unsure or worn down.
- It must be centered in self. Don’t set the goal “my baby will breastfeed” because you can’t control your baby’s behavior; you can only control your own.
- It needs to be achievable within a realistic time frame: Don’t set the goal “I will breastfeed for one year” because that is a really long time to wait to figure out if you hit your goal.
Your breastfeeding goal may be:
I will do my best to provide my baby with as much breastmilk as I can for the first two weeks of her life. If I cannot provide her with 100% breastmilk, I will work hard to protect my milk supply while I call upon my support network to help make breastfeeding work.”
Setting a realistic breastfeeding goal helps you to let go of what you think you should be doing and gives yourself permission to connect to the parent you are becoming for this particular, unique child.
Now that you have an intention and a realistic goal, there are two more steps.
Focus (aka “The Plan”)
Give your goal lots of attention, allowing your intention to be your guide.
Once you set your realistic breastfeeding goal, work hard to make it happen. Learn as much as you can during pregnancy and determine where to get help after the baby is born. Seek that help if you are having problems when your baby arrives. Go to support group; take a class to get yourself ready to go back to work.
You’ll need to work persistently and consistently toward your breastfeeding goal, always using your intention as your guide.
This is a really important and really hard one.
I need you to pay attention to me now because everyone forgets this step and it is certainly the most important and most difficult step.
Letting go means that after you set your realistic goal, you must release control of the outcome. You will continue to carry with you your intention, however.
Letting go of control means acknowledging that what will be will be–that you don’t have control over how your breastfeeding experience will turn out. Nobody does.
Some women don’t make enough milk. Some babies never latch onto the breast. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, no matter how dedicated your attention is to your goal, it just doesn’t work the way we want it to.
There is an element of breastfeeding that is meant to be difficult for reasons nobody can yet understand. There is a lesson in the pain; we just can’t always understand it when we are suffering. Letting go will enable you to see this “failure” as potential for growth.
You will be a stronger mother for having set the goal to breastfeed, no matter the outcome.
You are a good mother for having the intention to always care for and nourish your child.