Yes, I was trying to get your attention.
But I’ve been dealing with a dilemma lately, and I’ve found the title of this post to be the answer.
This is my dilemma: When I talk to new and expectant moms about breastfeeding, should I give them the down and dirty about possible challenges or focus on how moms and babies were meant to be together? The hormones that run through our bodies from the day we conceive are intricately linked to the way we bond with our babies after they are born. To me, there is nothing more natural than nursing a baby. I want to tell every expectant mom how natural and carefree it is. I want to tell every new mom dealing with exhaustion and frustration that if they could only have a crystal ball, they would see that breastfeeding may sometimes be the only thing that brings them peace.
But I know that breastfeeding is not this easy for many moms and it’s important to discuss the challenges and prepare moms for the fact that breastfeeding a newborn (or an infant or a toddler) might not be all sunshine and roses. I would never want a mom to feel like her body failed her if she had trouble nursing her baby or if her baby couldn’t latch on. I wouldn’t want a mom to feel discouraged because doing what’s natural didn’t work for her.
But sometimes I wonder if going over all of the possible challenges before they even happen sets moms up to expect them. Before their babies are born, should expectant moms learn about how nipple shields can protect sore nipples and help babies latch on, or that some women experience oversupply or a forceful letdown? When you experience nipple soreness in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, is your mind going to turn to the nipple shield? When your baby squirms and fusses at the breast, are you going to wonder if it has to do with your supply? Many new moms get sore nipples when they start nursing, and the pain goes away. Lots of babies have periods when they squirm at the breast, and it often doesn’t have anything to do with mom’s milk.
If you didn’t have any information before you started breastfeeding, would you sit with your hollering baby and feel frustrated and exhausted, or would you sit with your hollering baby and know that it would work out because there was no other option?
I always say it’s important to be prepared when it comes to birth, breastfeeding, and parenting, but how much information is too much? It’s not about the quantity of the information; it’s about the quality. It’s about normalizing the breastfeeding relationship with the understanding that nothing in life is completely perfect right away. Don’t just take a breastfeeding class—surround yourself with breastfeeding women. Watch, listen, and take it all in.
At a La Leche League meeting, you may hear women talk about nipple shields, breast pumps, nursing strikes, and low supply. But you’ll also hear those same women talk about how nursing helped them get over postpartum depression or how nursing is one of their favorite parts of the day. At a birth circle, you may see a mother of two alternating between nursing her toddler and nursing her newborn, looking a little overwrought at moments but giving a relaxed smile as her children lay quietly in her lap, as though it is the simplest thing in the world. At a breastfeeding café, you may see a mom try to put her 6-month-old to her breast, let out a sigh when the baby wriggles, yells, and fails to latch, and calmly burp the baby, bounce him on her knee for a few minutes, and nonchalantly offer the other breast, all the while holding a conversation with the other women in the group.
Being prepared for breastfeeding includes seeing the challenges in action and watching women overcome them before your very eyes. Breastfeeding is natural. But so are the challenges. And if you don’t watch real women get through real challenges, the negatives may outweigh the positives, at least in your mind.