When I visit new Mums and babies in their homes to help with breastfeeding, there is a reoccurring theme that I can’t ignore any more.
Almost all of them struggle to trust that their bodies are able to nourish their babies. It’s hardly surprising really. The early weeks with a newborn can be a shock. They are filled with questions. Am I doing this right? Is my baby ok? Is she getting enough milk? Why is this so much harder than I thought it would be? It’s an overwhelming time. Becoming a mother or father for the first time, or even the 2nd or 3rd, means huge shifts in who we are and what we do. Suddenly there is little we can control and how the household is run (or not) is dictated by a teeny tiny super human.
So yes, I completely understand why doubt creeps in. We want to parent the right way. The best way! But have you ever stopped to consider that the events and stories that we have experienced since the very start of our own lives, affect how we see and feel about ourselves in this moment?
Whether we were breastfed ourselves or whether we had siblings, cousins, nieces or nephews that were breastfed, shapes our our views from a young age. If we were lucky enough to see babies being fed in this way growing up then it might feel very normal to us. But if we didn’t see breastfeeding, that too can alter our perception on infant feeding, breasts and what they are for.
The media impacts on us too. How often do we see babies being fed at the breast on TV shows, movies, adverts? What seems to be the international symbol for baby feeding? Why a bottle of course. On top of this we are told constantly that our bodies are not perfect, that they need improving or changing in some way. And I’m not just talking about the airbrushing in magazines or super skinny models selling us our clothes. Every single body or beauty product has been sold to us on the assumption that we feel there is something wrong with our bodies. Think about it…….
And then there’s the views of others. Now this is a really big factor. Whether our partner, friends and family support our choice to breastfeed or not can really impact on our experience. Sometimes just the smallest comment can send us into a spiral of self doubt. Is he getting enough? Isn’t she feeding too often?? I don’t think your milk is enough for him. And from professionals sometimes too. How about this one…..”You can’t go home with your baby until she is breastfeeding properly” – Oh, no pressure then!
So I’m on a mission. Supporting Mothers and their families at home, explaining how their bodies work and how to know if there is a problem or not. Helping them to connect and tune into their body and baby. After all, women are made to breastfeed and babies are born to do it.
But more importantly I think we should be sharing this information with families before their baby arrives, We should be showing them how to relax. How to recognise their own feelings and emotions surrounding infant feeding and how to deal with them so that they don’t get in the way of the early weeks with their new baby. How to get the most from health professionals by knowing what to ask and when.
I’ve put together local sessions here in Kent to help Parents-to-be. Click here for details.
There’s also an online version of the course which is at a low introductory price at the moment. It’s suitable for new parents as well as pregnant families. Click here.
And finally I continue to offer face to face and online support to families who are finding feeding their baby a struggle. Details here
What I have learnt on this journey is that these body issues and self doubts can be fixed. With the right tools Mothers can start to believe in their bodies and enjoy the whole experience more. Even for those who are having very complex breastfeeding problems, who’s bodies are struggling to nourish their baby – believing in what they are able to do at that time helps enormously. The gift of a little bit of self-care and self-love can work wonders.