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Breastfeeding Blog Hop: Overcoming Obstacles

Hi, friends! This post is my contribution to Week 6 of the Breastfeeding Blog Hop, hosted by Life With Levi(@LifeWithLevi.) This week’s topic is Obstacles. When you’re done reading, please visit the rest of the blogs on the link list and share the BF love! I can’t host the linky myself for technical reasons, but you can find it, along with the instructions for the hop, by clicking on the button here:

Overcoming Obstacles

Is breastfeeding easy, or is it hard?

I often feel like I contradict myself when discussing the topic of breastfeeding. On one hand, I feel like it’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world. Your body is made for it, it doesn’t require any mixing, heating, measuring or sterilizing. You don’t even have to get out of bed at night to nurse if you don’t want to. It’s the biological norm, custom formulated for your baby, always available, and free!

On the other hand, breastfeeding has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced.  No matter how dedicated you are, it can be hard.

But how is that possible if it’s so easy?

Because as a breastfeeding mom, everywhere you turn you will find an obstacle in your way.

My obstacles? I had headaches for months that made it so I couldn’t even hold my baby, and then I had to return to work 65 miles away, which made for long days of pumping on the job. At 15 months, my son still doesn’t sleep through the night, and I’m always exhausted. I don’t know any other breastfeeding moms, so I get questioned (challenged) a LOT and had few places to turn for help until I sought them out.

Common obstacles to breastfeeding are many, including:

  • Interventions during birth that delay the initial breastfeeding experience, making it harder to initiate…
  • A myriad of health issues and physical differences (mom or baby) that can cause difficulties without the specific knowledge of how to accommodate or fix them
  • Sneaky formula samples or propaganda featuring charts on transitioning your baby to formula as though it were just the normal, expected thing to do…
  • Well-meaning but misinformed peers telling you that you can try to breastfeed, but it most likely won’t work (because it “didn’t work” for them) so you should have a backup plan…
  • Workplaces that are not supportive of breastfeeding or do not allow working moms the time and space to pump as needed…
  • A cultural perception of breastfeeding as “weird” or “inappropriate,”  which can cause women to not want to breastfeed, or cause them to feel self-conscious, ashamed, or even fearful of confrontation when they have to feed their babies away from home…
  • That friend or family member who wants you to hide away – even at home – and constantly tells you that it’s time to stop nursing now for one reason or another…

I could go on all day. Obstacles and “booby traps” are around every corner, but I think that trying to take on each one individually would require more time than any of us busy moms have.

In thinking about the topic of “obstacles,” I am reminded of the obstacle courses I used to play on as a child. Even at that age, I knew that an obstacle was something to dodge, climb or hurdle so I could reach my goal of finishing the course. So, my advice after 15 months of nursing is to put your effort into tackling the biggest obstacle of all: self-doubt.

How?

Read books. Research online. Learn, learn, learn. Anticipate common problems, and find out what to do before they arise. Talk to other nursing moms. Find a support system that you can call on at 3am. Get to know your local LLL. Save a Lactation Consultant’s number in your phone. If you are told to supplement or stop nursing, seek another opinion. And then seek another one. When those things sound enticing to you because you are sore, tired and frustrated, ask for help. When you are told that nursing will be hard, know that you are up to the challenge. When you need to nurse in public, ignore those who gawk and know that there is an entire community of moms – generations of moms – standing beside you. Be firm with your employer that time to pump is necessary and non-negotiable, then negotiate how to make it work. Be proud of your milestones. When you are told that you can’t for any reason, know that you CAN, and don’t let anyone plant that seed of self-doubt.

Because once you empower yourself and overcome the obstacle of self-doubt, none of the other ones will have the power to trip you up quite as much.

Jump those hurdles, mamas! Yay boobies! :D

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(note: I fully recognize that there are some rare issues that make breastfeeding impossible, and the intent of this post is not to discount those issues. I am a firm believer, however, that the vast majority of negative or unsuccessful breastfeeding experiences could be remedied with proper support and education.)

What obstacles have you faced in your breastfeeding journey?

Did you overcome them? How?

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